IS ODM REFORMING?

How ODM ensured peaceful nomination in Kibra

All materials had police escort and officers remained on guard.

In Summary

• Expectations were that the nomination would be marred with violence and controversies as in the past

•The exercise was held a few months after a report cited bungled primaries as ODM's biggest undoing.

ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna, party leader Raila Odinga and Makadara MP George Aladwa in Kibra on Sunday, August 25, 2019 during nomination
ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna, party leader Raila Odinga and Makadara MP George Aladwa in Kibra on Sunday, August 25, 2019 during nomination
Image: COURTESY

ODM nomination in Kibra last Saturday was unbelievably peaceful, a significant shift from the tradition, where such polls have been marred with chaos and violence.

So peaceful was the exercise that secretary general Edwin Sifuna even alleged that some of his friends from leading media houses were unhappy with the party because the nomination did not provide anticipated headlines.

Notably, the nomination was held barley four months after an internal report cited bungled nominations as being key to the party’s diminishing fortunes.

 
 
 

The National Elections Board, the secretariat, the aspirants and the constituents of Kibra were all key to the success of last Saturday's primary.

But what did the party do this time round? That has been the question many are asking.

In the report released in May, ODM Secretariat, the National Executive Committee and the NEB were all accused of being behind bungled primaries.

The consequence, the report stated, was mass walkouts of supporters and aspirants.

The report was categorical that primaries have been the party's biggest undoing and are almost always thought to lack credibility and do not meet the standard of being free, fair and democratic.

NEB chairperson Judith Pareno, perhaps borrowing from recommendations of the report, said the first step was to ensure all interested and qualified aspirants were given the opportunity to participate.

Pareno, in an exclusive interview with the Star, noted that all aspirants were treated equally and none was favoured, their past relationships with the party leadership notwithstanding.

 
 
 

“Other factors that resulted in shambolic nominations in the past were lack of enough police officers to guard ballot papers, lateness in delivery of voting materials, inadequate ballots and little or no civic education to aspirants and their supporters,” she said.

On the D-Day, delivery of voting materials to all the 180 polling stations started at 3am and in less than two hours, everything was at the right place.

All materials had police escort and officers remained on guard at their designated areas.

“When the first voters started to stream in at the various polling stations, they were surprised to find out that we had been waiting for them for over an hour,” Pareno said.

Polling stations remained open until 6pm, even in areas where it was clear no one would vote in the evening. Officers again accompanied all ballot boxes to the tallying centre.

In the runner up to the nomination, the NEB held regular meetings with the aspirants and educated them on the party’s code of conduct.

Aspirants were taken through what is expected of them and their supporters and were duly informed about the consequences of breaking the rules.

“We were very clear with the aspirants that those who would engage in violence would be disqualified automatically. We asked them to pass that message to their supporters,” Pareno added.

Sifuna said many people did not expect ODM and its supporters to conduct themselves in a proper manner.

It all boiled down to preparation. The NEB, led by Pareno, the staff at Orange house and the candidates themselves and even the people of Kibra were very critical in ensuring a peaceful process.
ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna

Sifuna, however, noted that bungled nominations are not only associated with ODM since other parties have also fallen victims to shambolic primaries.

He said staff overseeing the nomination worked hard to address the challenges that emerged as the exercise proceeded.

“Some voters would say their names were not on the voter register but it would emerge that they were in the wrong polling station. With their ID numbers, we would inform them they were in the wrong place and tell them where to go to vote,” he explained.

Sifuna further noted that the party printed ballots days to the poll and ensured they were enough for all polling stations. “We printed 100, 000 ballot papers. I would rather we had ballot papers remaining than being told there were some polling stations that were not supplied with enough papers,” he said.

Going forward, Pareno said, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission should allow parties to stagger their nominations as a way of ensuring they are free and fair.

“I raised the issue in 2017 but it was not allowed. Parties do not have the capacity to conduct nominations in all corners of the country in one day. We should be given a few days so that we can conduct the exercise county by county because we may not have the manpower and resources,” she suggested.

She further explained that police officers may not be able to provide adequate security if the exercise is conducted all at once.

Political analyst and lawyer Ambrose Weda said ODM had to be congratulated for holding peaceful nomination.

“When a bad child does something good, it is a good reason to congratulate him or her,” Weda said.

He reiterated that the exercise was fairly credible, something very new to the ODM fraternity. “It was not their way of life because we have been used to noise, lies and violence from them. We hope it will grow,” he added.

Java Bigambo, a governance expert, said the ODM nomination, having been peaceful, gave fresh air to democracy in the country. “ODM did a tremendous job. What remains to be seen is how the IEBC will conduct the by-election come November 7,” he said.

He expressed hope that IEBC will oversee the election in a manner that will not bring out electoral injustices.

The ODM report had also said NEC, NEB and the Secretariat headed by executive director Oduor Ong’wen have been deliberately staging chaotic and violent elections to ensure their preferred aspirants are nominated.

ODM had 100 MPs in 2007, 78 in 2013 and 58 after the 2017 General election.

The party lost the Ugenya and Wajir West by-elections in April, reducing its numbers to 56.