The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: ODM Loses Grip in Nyanza As Candidates Decamp to Smaller Parties

The dominance of ODM in Nyanza is under serious threat ahead of the March 4 elections. This is a result of numerous disputes that resulted in mass defections to other Cord-affiliated parties after the shambolic nomination process.

Unlike before when nominations in Nyanza determined who would win in the general election, this time round no one can tell with certainty who will emerge as a winner come March 4.

ODM leader Prime Minister Raila Odinga recently criss-crossed the region in a bid to convince the electorate to vote for him.

On Monday, Cord Effect Team, a lobby group campaigning for the PM went to Kisumu and told residents that they were only campaigning for the PM and were not interested in who becomes the MP or county representative so long as they were from the Cord-affiliated parties.

Ababu Namwamba led the team that comprised, John Kiarie, Mumbi Ng'aru, Nancy Abisai, Joyce Lei and Rosa Buyu. Siaya county is one of the areas where ODM governor aspirant Cornel Rasanga Amoth is expected to face stiff competition from William Oduol, who is running for the seat on a National Agenda Party of Kenya ticket.

Oduol, PM Raila's brother Oburu Oginga's challenger during the recent party primaries decamped to NAPK after they were both disqualified by ODM following a dispute as to who won the nomination. The party decided to hand the nomination certificate to Amoth.

Former Alego Usonga MP Sammy Weya who will be vying for the area's parliamentary seat on a NAPK ticket expressed optimism that they will carry the day after Amoth picked little known Bondo parliamentary seat loser Ouma Onyango as his running mate.

Onyango was Oburu's preferred candidate for the Bondo parliamentary seat but was trounced by Gideon Ochanda who had earlier declared interest for governor but later pulled out to run for Bondo MP.

"We have no problem with Raila Odinga's presidency. We will campaign for him but what we are calling for is respect for multi-party democracy. We must not put all our eggs in one basket. We must be ready to elect development-conscious and progressive leaders and desist from the culture of voting for people basing on the political parties they belong to," Weya said.

He called on the public to fully support the ODM candidates who won their nominations fairly.

"The people who must be rejected are those who were handed nomination certificates unfairly after being trounced. This is not the democracy the PM has been preaching. Before the sham primaries, the PM promised to work with whoever the people elected. He must now be ready to work with any candidate regardless of his or her political party after the elections," Weya said.

But Lands minister James Orengo is of a different opinion. He has warned that rival political parties have infiltrated ODM strong zones to scuttle Prime Minister Raila Odinga's presidential bid. Orengo asked voters to be wary of newly-formed parties especially in Nyanza purporting to support Raila yet they are "agents of doom".

Wary of Oduol's immense influence in Siaya county, Orengo said a Raila government requires trusted lieutenants not gullible leaders who will be swayed by money to betray its course. He asked voters in Siaya to elect a governor who will work in harmony with Raila's government in delivering services to wananchi.

Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang' is also expected to face stiff competition from PDP's Hilary Alila. Alila expressed optimism he will trounce the former Mbita MP on March 4.

"We want our people to elect development-conscious leaders and not mere party soloists who do not have the interest of their people at heart," Alila said.

It will also be tricky for Wilfred Machage of ODM who is said to have lost in the ODM primaries to former Migori county ODM chairman John Magaiwa in the senator's race. Machage will battle it out with independent candidate Oluoch Kanindo.

During the ODM primaries, majority of members of the Luo community voted for Magaiwa who hails from Kuria but the certificate was issued to Machage.

In Muhoroni constituency, outgoing MP Ayiecho Olweny is facing major hurdles in his bid to recapture the seat. Olweny will not have it easy after James Onyango Koyoo defected to Magara's Peoples' Democratic Party citing unfairness in the ODM primaries.

"The people of Muhoroni made the right choice by voting for me but it is unfortunate the ODM certificate was handed to Olweny. However, I am ready to give him a run for his money while campaigning for the PM," Koyoo said.

In Kisumu Central constituency, ODM's Ken Obura is facing stiff competition from businessman Abdulqadir Omar of Ford-Kenya. Omar decamped from ODM citing irregularities in the party primaries.

"I tried to step down for Obura but my supporters would hear none of it. I am now fully in the race after being cleared to run on a Ford-Kenya party ticket," Omar said.

Other constituencies where ODM will face competition include Gem, Alego Usonga, Nyando, Karachuonyo and Uriri. In Gem, Federal Party of Kenya's Elisha Odhiambo Akubah who was declared winner against former MP Jakoyo Midiwo in the ODM primaries but the nomination certificate given to his rival and Booker Omole of Social Democratic Party (SDP) have vowed to teach Midiwo a lesson.

In Alego Usonga, outgoing MP Edwin Yinda will battle it out with Wiper Democratic Party's (WDP) Omondi Mulwan. Former Nyando MP Fred Outa will also fight it out with Ford-Kenya's Jared Okello. Former Karachuonyo MP James Rege will fight it out with Wiper's Adipo Okuome who claims to have won the ODM primaries.

In Uriri constituency, former MP Ojwang' Omollo who defected to Ford Kenya after being denied the ODM certificate has promised a bruising battle against his opponent Enock Kobado. Former Kisumu Town West MP Olago Aluoch defected to Ford-Kenya after being trounced by Rosa Buyu.

Buyu beat Olago in a fair nomination contest. In 2007, Olago was declared winner in a shambolic nomination. This time round, Buyu's supporters have expressed confidence she will beat Olago.

Those who defected to other parties affiliated to Cord have accused ODM of being insincere to its partners by terming them projects in their campaigns. They are now seeking the intervention of their party bosses to ensure a level playing ground with their ODM competitors.

Pastor George Weda who is running for Kisumu senator on the Farmers Party ticket faulted calls by some aspirants for "six-piece" voting saying this will affect democracy in the region.

"The six-piece calls may lead to voter apathy that will also affect the PM's votes in the region hence it must be shunned," he said. Weda warned that if the PM comes out openly to campaign for his ODM candidates, it will lead to suspicion among Cord coalition partners that may threaten their unity.

"It is this kind of suspicion that can even lead to Cord breaking just like the Pentagon team of 2007," he added. Weda promised to give ODM candidate for the Kisumu senate seat Anyang' Nyong'o a run for his money.

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