January 24, ODM's National Executive Council recommended the expulsion of eight members after an extraordinary meeting in Nairobi.
The most prominent legislators in the list included Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa and her Msambweni counterpart Suleiman Dori.
The extraordinary meeting had been convened to give the affected members a chance to defend themselves.
After appearing before the committee, Jumwa addressed the press and thanked party leader Raila Odinga for giving her and her colleagues the opportunity to defend themselves.
She said a lot of things had happened, but under the spirit of the handshake, there was nothing too terrible not to be forgiven.
“Ni kitu gani ambacho hivi sasa kitakuwa na ugumu wa kusameheka kama mengi ilisameheka? Kuna wale watu waliumia, kuna watu waliuwawa, kuna watu walichapisha Raila na yote yalisahemeka.”
This loosely translates to, “What can be so bad not to be forgiven at this time? There are people who got hurt, other died, others swore-in Raila and all this has been forgiven.”
Jumwa found herself on the wrong side of her party, ODM, after openly supporting Deputy President William Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid. She, however, defended the move, saying the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and her party leader Raila Odinga had been assumed to give members permission to associate with the ruling party, Jubilee.
In any case, Jumwa apologised for her misstep.
That did not appear to be enough because the decision to expel her along with other members was maintained.
The decision puts Jumwa and her counterparts in the unpleasant position of possibly having to seek re-election.
But isn’t there a better way of handling the situation? Does ODM really have to kick Jumwa out over a mistake that she has asked forgiveness for?
Let’s not forget that Jumwa was one of the strongest campaigners for Raila in the run up to the 2017 election, and to treat her mistake as unforgivable is not what her party leader stands for. Raila is a perfect example of a person who has mastered the art of being a peacemaker. He is able to set aside differences with perceived enemies for the greater good — unity.
There are many theories as to why Raila has been a successful politician.
Some posit he has strong, unyielding support outside his backyard — he can go to the negotiating table with at least three vote blocs behind him: Coast, Western and his own Nyanza region.
Other leaders from his Nasa fold are thought to be able to only secure votes from their backyard. Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula mostly have a backing in their Western region, while Kalonzo Musyoka has a following in his Eastern backyard.
Even then, the leaders face wrangles from leaders who want to declare themselves the kingpin. In Ukambani, Kalonzo has faced opposition from governors in the region who seem to have teamed up to counter his dominance. In Western, it is not clear who speaks for the Mulembe nation, with each leader convinced they are the kingpin.
There is another theory that Raila is a good political maneuverer and schemer and while that might be true, there is a bigger reason that has made him surmount several challenges during his life in politics - his capacity for reconciliation.
Raila has fallen out with many politicians, but reconciled with them for the greater good.
RAILA AND MOI
Raila’s expertise as a peacemaker first came to the fore in the 1997, when he supported President Daniel Moi and his party, Kanu. This was despite slightly over a decade earlier being detained without trial for close to six years. This was after he was accused of being among those behind the attempted coup in 1982.
Raila joined Moi’s Cabinet as Energy minister in 2001, and his party NDP was absorbed into Kanu the following year, with him becoming secretary general.
There was, however, another fall out between Moi and Raila after the former urged Kanu to support
for the presidency, killing Odinga’s hopes of getting the ticket.
Raila, along with other Kanu members, abandoned Kanu and formed the Liberal Democratic Party, which joined a coalition of several parties, the National Alliance of Kenya, to form Narc
under the leadership of Kibaki. The coalition went on to win the 2002 election.
In recent times, Raila has appeared to reconcile with Moi, and he visited him at his Kabarak home last year.
RAILA AND KIBAKI
Another time Raila’s genius for reconciliation has come to the fore is with Kibaki. Soon after Narc won the 2002 election, cracks started to emerge, with Raila’s LDP accusing Kibaki of backtracking on a pre-election agreement that promised to share power equitably between LDP and NAK.
The rift grew in 2003 following differences over the constitutional review, particularly on the issue of creation of a strong Prime Minister position, which Kibaki and his supporters backtracked on. This led to the Orange and Banana divide on the draft constitution, with Raila’s campaign against it carrying the day.
Shortly after, Kibaki dismissed his entire Cabinet and reconstituted it without Raila. The division widened and NARC finally collapsed.
In the lead up to the 2007 election, Raila and Kibaki formed new parties - ODM and PNU. The aftermath of the 2007 election was a sad time in Kenya’s history with post-election violence after Raila rejected the controversial results which were hurriedly announced.
The peacemaker in Raila was brought to the fore when he and Kibaki agreed to set aside their differences for the good of the country.
The two signed a peace accord in 2008.
Raila and Kibaki then got a divided Parliament to understand that the country was bigger than individuals and MPs unanimously approved the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill, 2008, which gave way for the Grand Coalition.
RAILA AND UHURU KENYATTA
Raila’s most recent show of his peacemaker expertise was on
when he and President Uhuru Kenyatta shocked Kenya by emerging from a closed-door meeting and having the now famous handshake.
This, just slightly a month after Raila was sworn-in as the People’s President after rejecting the results of the repeat 2017 election.
Before the handshake, it appeared the country was headed for a split, with talk of secession rising. There was a call for the creation of People’s Assemblies to counter County Assemblies and Kenyans were buying into the idea.
Then came the handshake, and thereafter, there has been a show of unity between Uhuru and Raila.
If Raila has been able to forgive people who have committed what appear to be much bigger ‘sins’ against him, how hard can it be to make amends with Jumwa, Dori and other ODM members who have erred in much smaller ways?
Jumwa and Dori are much smaller politicians when compared with Uhuru, Kibaki and Moi. However, the MPs are important to their voters.
Is it really worth it kicking them out and conducting fresh elections or might it be better to take the magnanimous view and forgive them and start a new journey?
The writer is theInterim Secretary General
Umoja Summit Party of Kenya