|The push for a grand opposition Friday provoked heated exchanges during a meeting of top ODM leaders.
|Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba consult during the ODM parliamentary group meeting at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi on Friday. The party leaders were split on whether to allow a grand opposition in Parliament. Photo/MICHAEL MUTE
Prime Minister Raila Odinga had in the morning rallied a majority of MPs at the talks to reject calls for the formation of an official opposition but later in the afternoon, Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba, who has been behind the push, demanded to be heard.
The party’s parliamentary group-cum-National Executive Council meeting, which was attended by about 40 MPs, was split on whether to support calls for an official opposition.
A majority of MPs present opposed the proposed grand opposition but the party could not agree on the matter. The leaders agreed to hold another parliamentary group meeting before the House recovenes next month to resolve the issue.
Political Parties Act
Mr Namwamba had earlier told the media that the Political Parties Act did not outlaw the formation of a grand opposition. He remained upbeat that the Bill he proposed on the formation of an opposition would be supported in Parliament.
On whether the Cabinet had vetoed it, the MP said ministers had no control over the affairs of the House.
Other sources said Mr Namwamba and a section of Rift Valley MPs pushing for the formation of the opposition coalition failed to convince their colleagues to support the idea. Besides Mr Namwamba, others fronting for an opposition are MPs Isaac Ruto, Julius Kones and Franklin Bett. But their push has been seen as divisive.
“MPs were of the view that the group was being used by outside forces to destroy ODM,” the source said. The group of legislators who have been pushing for the formation of a grand opposition promised to issue a major statement on Sunday. In the meeting, the first since the Grand Coalition Government was formed, the MPs also called for the release of youths arrested over post-election protests.
However, those found by the Waki commission to have committed crimes like murder, rape or destruction of property should be prosecuted, they said.
According to the MPs, the police should not investigate post-election violence because their conduct at the time should also be investigated.
Earlier, Mr Odinga had said that the grand coalition Government risked collapsing unless MPs worked as a team.
He warned MPs against pulling in different directions. He said the fact that ODM was part of the grand coalition should not negate or undermine the role that the party’s backbenchers play in Parliament.
“It is a great advantage for ODM backbenchers that some of their colleagues are in the front bench. As members of the same party, we expect communication to be smoother and answers to questions by backbenchers to be quicker and much more detailed because doing the contrary would compromise our service delivery to the people,” the PM said.
But Mr Namwamba, who arrived at Safari Park at 11.50am, half-an-hour after Mr Odinga, told journalists that he and his colleagues were determined to pursue the agenda to “its logical conclusion”.
Mr Odinga said he had always supported the strengthening of Parliament to act as a check on the Executive arm of Government.
“Parliament cannot play its watchdog role effectively if our backbenchers are not focused and vigilant. Backbenchers have an obligation to attend Parliament regularly, ask tough questions and demand service delivery to the people they represent,” he said.
He challenged party MPs to stand for a united, peaceful and prosperous Kenya, not one divided along class and sectarian lines.
On the calls for amnesty for those involved in crimes during the post-election violence, the PM reiterated his call for their release.
Over 1,200 people were killed in the wake of the chaos sparked by the disputed presidential election results.
Mr Odinga said that most of those in custody had been peacefully demonstrating against the “fraudulent Electoral Commission of Kenya declaration of presidential results”.
On Thursday, the Cabinet ruled out forgiveness for those involved in the violence despite arguments to the contrary by Mr Odinga and Agriculture minister William Ruto.
Ministers who opposed the amnesty call, including Justice minister Martha Karua, said the law must be followed in dealing with alleged offenders.
Mr Ruto had earlier said that suspects, mainly youths, had been kept in police custody for months without being taken to court.
Kenyan law requires that suspects be charged within 48 hours after being arrested or 14 days in case of capital offences like murder.
And Friday, Internal Security minister George Saitoti ordered the police to speed up investigations into the cases of crimes linked to the violence.
During the ODM talks, Mr Odinga said: “Consultations are ongoing at the highest level in Government over the issue”.
Divide the party
Party chairman Henry Kosgey said the meeting discussed among other issues how to find solutions to the issues that threatened to divide the party, the need to meet regularly to address such issues and the reforms that should be carried out at the national level.
Some MPs registered disappointment that key party decision were taken without consulting them. Among these were the nomination of councillors and MPs and the picking of House committee chairmen.
The meeting also resolved that the party should restructure its leadership and anchor it in law saying ad hoc structures like the Pentagon had outlived their purpose.