HEADLINER'S PROFILE

Edwin Sifuna: ODM secretary general shooting from the hip

Sifuna has tried his hand in politics twice and failed in both

In Summary

• ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi's Kibisu Kabatesi says he lacks the “finesse character of being a public officer”.

• Veteran journalist David Makali described him as being unnecessarily abrasive and disrespectful of people whom he should defer to by dint of age, and professional seniority. 

ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna addressing the media at Orange House headquarters in Nairobi
ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna addressing the media at Orange House headquarters in Nairobi
Image: WILFRED NYANGARESI

ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna takes no prisoners whether at the Law Society of Kenya or in national politics. 

Sifuna has been accused of being abrasive and disrespectful. Twice he was accused of disrupting the Law Society of Kenya's AGM.

The first time was in 2015, when he led the Okoa-LSK group. At the time, he was also part of ODM’s legal team.

The group opposed the construction of the controversial international arbitration and convention centre for Sh1.2 billion in Nairobi’s South C Estate. They demanded an independent audit of the finances and affairs of the society from January 2010 to December 2014.

The second time was in January this year during a special general meeting at LSK headquarters in Nairobi.

Sifuna accused LSK president Nelson Havi of bending the law and procedures guiding the conduct of society’s special general meeting. He has been critical of Havi for much of his tenure.

Since being appointed ODM secretary general in February 2018, Sifuna has also caused storms in national politics, enthusiastically defending ODM and party leader Raila Odinga.

In September 2019, for instance, Sifuna said ODM would not take part in any discussion to front ANC boss Musalia Mudavadi as a presidential aspirant in the 2022 election.

“Talk of Mudavadi being a compromise candidate or safe pair of hands has always originated from ANC. It is and has remained his only claim to the presidency. He defines himself relative to others, not by what he would do for the country,” he said.

Mudavadi’s spokesperson Kibisu Kabatesi warned Sifuna against making “reckless remarks”.

“I advise him to tread carefully in matters where even political angels don't dare. He has no idea what the big boys are up to. Let him not bring political juvenile delinquency to the high table. He isn't invited," Kabatesi said.

Two months later in November at the height of Kibera by-elections — where ODM faced off with ANC — Sifuna fired another salvo at Mudavadi, telling him to desist from "unnecessary tirades" against Raila.

Kabatesi told the Star on Thursday that Sifuna lacks the “finesse of character of being a public officer”.

“He shows characteristics of a juvenile delinquent who has cannibalised the party from within. His use by date has arrived as he has served his purpose — to harass and abuse people from his own community,” Kabat­esi said.

David Makali said Sifuna is unnecessarily abrasive and disrespectful of people whom he should defer to by dint of age and professional seniority. 

Makali is a veteran editor and former candidate for the Bungoma Senate seat.

"Aggressive conduct is not the demeanour of lawyers but that is his stock in trade, which diminishes his otherwise brilliant mind. I foresee turbulence on his political timeline because the position he occupies does not require a strident and sharp tongue but accommodation and wisdom, which he exhibits acute deficiency," Makali added.

He added that his demeanour is "outrightly adversarial and polarising", even where it calls for sobriety.

"The media and political opponents have often been on the receiving end of his acerbic statements, making him the most antagonistic party official in town. If ODM drops him, as it surely will to embrace new allies, he might not find new suitors readily. But that's politics," Makali said.

Sifuna could not be reached for comment on Thursday on Makali's remarks about the secretary general's imminent sacking by ODM.  

The Star is reliably informed that a press statement attacking Nasa principals was likely the reason Sifuna could be let go.  

In the release, Sifuna told off Kalonzo Musyoka, Mudavadi and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula. He said, “We now have to contend with a band of pretenders to the throne, who think that the presidency is a potato you can slice in pieces and share out at a table”.

In December 2020, Sifuna was forced to apologise over insulting remarks he made against Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa during the Msambweni by-election campaigns.

The comments were deemed to promote sexual violence. He offered to undertake 50 hours of pro bono legal services to victims of gender-based violence in 2021.

Sifuna has tried his hand in politics twice and failed in both. In 2017, he lost the Kanduyi ODM ticket to John Makali. He shifted base and vied for Nairobi senator. He lost to Johnson Sakaja.

Sifuna has been described as a rebel, traits he may have inherited from his uncle, Lawrence Sifuna, who served as MP for Kanduyi and Bumula.

The senior Sifuna was among the 'Seven bearded sisters' alongside Abuya Abuya (Kitutu East), Onyango Midika (Nyando now Muhoroni), Mwashengu wa Mwachofi (Wundanyi), James Orengo, Chibule wa Tsuma (Kaloleni) and Koigi wa Wamwere (Nakuru North, now Subukia).