Democracy and ODM-K: Does the party represent change?

ODM-Kenya (ODM-K) has recently endorsed its key party structures and in doing so it has used the same old ideas, mistakes it accuses the current government of making.

Specifically on the spot is the composition of the party’s election board, which was dominated by key public figures with a questionable past.

Being a key organ of the party, ODM-K appeared to be playing right into their criticism over public appointments.

“The party has been criticizing the incumbent government of appointing retirees to run affairs, but now they have gone a step further and not only appointed one of their own retirees at the very top but also some people who have been implicated in corruption,” Patrice Tirembenga a political science consultant in Nairobi said in an interview in her Nairobi office.

Board Chairman Justice Richard Otieno Kwach was among the judges who suffered from the radical surgery on the judiciary in 2003 and unlike his colleagues he opted to retire and continue enjoying his perks perhaps wanting to retain dignity rather than face disciplinary panels.

Kwach may however argue that the purge has since run into credibility crisis, with all the magistrates and judges who chose to face their accusers in the panel emerging victorious. Only it is not lost to observers that it is rare that the government wins any legal contest and there is much to worry about the expertise and the motivation to represent it.

While presenting his report to the then Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ringera had said, “This is credible and well founded evidence, on a range of offences ranging from direct corruption and abuse of office, to want of integrity, unethical conduct and judicial misbehaviour.”

“I have serious problems with Ringera. What investigations does he claim to have conducted on this matter before the so called radical surgery on the judiciary was done, everyone is winning their cases, he should also be questioned on his claims that what he presented was credible investigation,” Tom Maliti a Kenyan Journalist working with the Associated Press observed.

Maliti, who has covered all the tribunals of the suspended judges, further said that all those who had contested the decision by the state had emerged winners because the evidence presented to the panels, “was largely insignificant and basically wanting.”

On the appointment of Kwach to ODM-K’s board, Maliti argues, “there was very tight evidence on the case of Kwach including and alleged video of him in action receiving a bribe; it beats sense why any political party would want him to drive its democracy.”

He added, “That is not all the man himself foresaw a situation where he would lose the case and chose the softer landing that of resignation as a Court of Appeal judge, yet ODM-K that is promising change of government and administration has it as their top man, that is an issue, they will find hard to live with.”

The other curious members of the board currently under scrutiny is Frank Kwinga who served as the principal immigration officer in the late 90s, before being sacked in a reshuffle for his role in the deportation of wanted Turkey fugitive Abdullah Ocalan.

Despite constant briefs from the intelligence about the entry of the fugitive in the country he was among public officials who were in the forefront to deny his presence even as intelligence leaks indicated that he was involved in his entry.

Further during his reign, the immigration department especially in the issuance of passports constantly ranked among the highest most corrupt institutions in the country.

“Kwinga represented everything that was wrong with immigration systems in the country, in fact during his tenure all the major problems we are now trying to fix were invented,” Susan Achieng a former registration officer now serving as a systems consultant for the immigration department confided.

Achieng explained that, “Kwinga introduced a system where his word was law and systems were second. As a result re-establishing order is more difficult to a staff that he had already made them to believe in a certain mode of operations, but the Kwinga effect is eroding.”

At the electoral commission of Kenya, Kwinga is not remembered for any siginificant contribution.

Kwinga who is now ODM-K Nomination Board vice chairman was in fact viewed within ECK quarters as a retired president Moi man and was largely criticized ahead of the euphoric 2002 elections for organizing a trip for the entire ECK officials to state house to meet the then outgoing president Daniel Moi.

Another questionable inclusion is S.K. Thande who is also the chairperson of the Langata Constituency Development Fund.

Tirembenga, a political scientist posed, “If such appointments are on the basis of who is my friend then it does appear that the management of affairs by ODM-K will also be on who is who when it comes to public appointments and not who qualifies. If merit takes second place in appointments within the parts that have no significant monetary returns, what then can you expect when power is handed to ODM-K? The status quo will simply continue.”

Little is known of the activities of Dr. Wilberforce Wanyanga, a pharmacist, former MP Massir Maalim Arte, Dr Peter Gichohi himself a reproductive health consultant, Joshua Biwott a businessman and Zahra Shee Mohammed, a former Karen councilor.

However their associations with the big five presidential aspirants played a key role in their appointments. To underline the ever-simmering rivalries between Langata MP Raila Odinga and his Mwingi North counterpart Kalonzo Musyoka their preferences took the lion share of the slots in the nomination board.

In fact, composition of the election board appeared to reflect domination by interests of the ODM-K’s two main protagonists in the presidential race, Odinga and Musyoka.

Kalonzo’s allies to the board are: Kwinga and Arte, Raila’s are Kwach, Thande and Shee, Biwott and Kuluo are said to be in Ruto’s camp, Gichohi is a close confidant of Uhuru Kenyatta while Dr. Wanyanga is associated with Mudavadi.

ODM-K’s challenge is to prove that it lives within itself what it demands of the state and that it will present an alternative government. So far the party scores low going by the appointment of the election board and observers interviewed were unanimous that “the party shows no signs of representing change.”

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