There are plans for Kenya’s Jubilee coalition to merge into a single Jubilee Party. This would be a heavy blow for the main opposition party CORD which is plagued by in-fighting and an exodus of party members.
Kenya’s general elections are set for August 8, 2017. With little more than a year to go, the election mood is already sweeping through the country as a strategic political realignment takes place.
The opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) – a member of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) – both led by the former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, has been facing a major shake-up as key party officials step down.
This has been described as a Jubilee-orchestrated plan. In an interview with DW, Brian Singoro Wanyama, a political analyst said, “The allegations stem from the fact that the Jubilee alliance party have made it a motive to try and woo people from other parties for the merger that wants one joint vehicle for the 2017 elections.”
Over the last couple of weeks, several parliamentarians have decamped from ODM. The exit of Paul Otuoma as the party’s vice chairman was quickly followed by the resignation of Ababu Namwamba as ODM’s secretary general. Although Namwamba has not submitted his formal resignation, he insists that his departure is as clear as day. In a press conference after meeting with the German ambassador Jutta Frasch, Mr. Namwamba likened himself to a genie who cannot go back into his bottle. He accused party boss Raila Odinga of “betraying” him.
Jubilee’s role in the exodus
The ruling Jubilee coalition has been accused of buying members of opposition parties. But Macharia Gaitho, a columnist based in Nairobi, says that the political migration is not new. In a recent column, he wrote, “The former president of Kenya, Mr Daniel Toroitch Arap Moi, was fond of wooing members of the opposition.” He illustrates this with the example of John Keen, who, he says, was poached by the then leader of the opposition, Mwai Kibaki.
Political analysts suspect this is the same tactic that the Jubilee coalition is now adopting. The plan to dissolve and merge the various parties that make up the coalition is opening up opportunities for politicians who are looking for a new political home. The new party is expected to bring together leaders from all tribes in Kenya. Leaders from the Jubilee affiliate parties are currently negotiating who will hold leadership positions on the executive committee.
The future of the opposition
Against this background, the ODM National Executive Committee (NEC) held a locked-door meeting on Thursday. According to analyst Wanyama, the meeting was to assess the damage caused by Ababu Namwamba’s resignation.
Namwamba has yet to reveal which party he will join, or whether he intends to form a new one. He has been vocal in criticizing Raila Odinga, saying he undermined leading members of the party. He has also accused Odinga of neglecting the people of western Kenya. As he welcomed Mr. Odinga to his constituency of Budalangi recently, he said, “He’s coming too late. The last time he came to Budalangi was nine years ago when he came to look for kuras (votes) in 2007. In 2013 he didn’t come but I made sure he got the kuras nonetheless.”
The game of political musical chairs continues and it is not yet clear on which seat and in which party many people will end up. But it is undeniable that the political shift in Kenya has begun in earnest as the country prepares for the next general election.