DIVORCE OVERDUE

Why it is time for Coast to abandon ODM

When ODM senators supported the revenue formula, that move broke the camel’s back.

In Summary

• The Coast voted consistently for Raila, however, there comes a time when differences become so irreconcilable that divorce is considered a necessity.

• This week some Coast MPs talked tough against ODM, the most popular party at the Coast, and hinted at divorcing it, if push came to shove.

Senators led by Kilifi's Stewart Madzayo, at Parliament Buildings on July 7. They said they will oppose the revenue sharing formula, which is backed by ODM but which will hurt the Coast.
REBELLING: Senators led by Kilifi's Stewart Madzayo, at Parliament Buildings on July 7. They said they will oppose the revenue sharing formula, which is backed by ODM but which will hurt the Coast.
Image: EZEKIEL AMING'A

It is extremely difficult and painful to ask for a divorce since years of shared experience run deep in considering such a decision. 

However, there comes a time when differences become so irreconcilable that divorce is considered a necessity.

This week some Coast MPs talked tough against ODM, the most popular party at the Coast, and hinted at divorce if push came to shove.

Why are these leaders upset with ODM, the party most of them used to get elected to Parliament?

 

Well, the party leaders have neglected the region and the people.  In other words, punda amechoka. When some ODM senators voted to support the unpopular new formula on the county revenue allocation, that move broke the camel’s back.

This meant the Coast, among other marginalised counties, would lose billions of shilling in development funds. For these protesting MPs, ‘enough is enough’. In effect, ODM'support for this revenue sharing law threatens to end the power and glory of the party in the coastal region.

And this is not the first time the ODM leadership has behaved badly over the Coast. During the coalition government with Mwai Kibaki’s PNU, Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ODM wing literally did nothing for coastal communities, in particular the natives, who had overwhelmingly voted for him in the 2007 disputed elections.

There were no significant appointments in parliamentary  positions, parastatals, or even in the diplomatic service.  And even when ODM was handed the Lands docket under James Orengo, nothing tangible came out of this in solving the historical land injustices.  If anything, the squatter problem persisted.

Not giving up,  the Coast has continued to vote ODM. In the 2017 elections, for example, Kilifi county voted for  Raila and ODM without blinking.

Yet in the subsequent party leadership positions, the Coast was left out.

It even missed the East African Legislative Assembly position in Arusha that ODM handed to Oburu Odinga, Raila’s senior brother.

Even March 9, 2018, handshake benefits have not included the Coast. As dividends are accrued between ODM and Jubilee, recipients of the rewards are shared as if the Coast never voted for Raila.

It is in this context that some of our MPs are rebelling. In this rebellion, however, the key issue is the sustenance of devolution.

Taking development funds away from marginalised communities, such as those at the Coast, is another means of killing devolution, the basis for which we have continually voted.

 

ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna is right when he avers Raila has strong bonds with the Coast people.

But they are premised in successful devolution and they have not been executed meaningfully to the benefit of native coastal communities. 

ODM is presently behaving like the old Kanu and the Jubilee of today — practising politics of exclusion.

I have repeatedly stated in this paper that if the Coast has to be respected in national politics, it must own a party and seek a credible leader to push its agenda and interests. That party should work to join the unfolding coalition forces that are striving to govern this country.

As we move toward this objective, we should expect massive resistance from local and external conservative forces that have benefited from the status. 

But change is inevitable. As things stand now, the Coast must strive for change. As Elizabeth Shackle, a former US diplomat, observed, dissenting isn’t easy, but it’s an important part of growth and progress.

When one speaks out and asks questions, it gives others the courage to do the same. The protesting MPs should give the rest of us the courage to do the same.