Azimio in fresh plan to tame rebel lawmakers

Senate Minority Whip Ledama Ole Kina and his deputy Edwin Sifuna address journalists at Parliament Buildings on April 20, 2023. Azimio is planning to de-whip rebel lawmakers from House committees. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition has hatched a fresh plan to tame rebellion in its ranks as the outfit moves to get rid of legislators who have shifted allegiance to the ruling Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

The move is part of a two-pronged strategy by the Raila Odinga-led coalition to deal with disloyal members. ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna yesterday said they will push for the bipartisan committee to come up with recommendations on how to make it easier for parties to expel an MP from a party within three months once they have publicly shifted their allegiance from the sponsoring party.

He said this will involve amending Section 14(2) of the Political Parties Act, which details the long process of expelling a party member who is deemed to have resigned. 

Mr Sifuna explained that although the section talks of five ways a party member can be deemed to have resigned, one of them being promoting the ideology, interests or policies of another political party, the process to expel such members is often tedious.

A political party is required to notify the member of its intention to remove his or her name from its list of members, then afford the member a fair opportunity to be heard in accordance with the internal party disputes resolution mechanism prescribed in the constitution of the party.

The party will then notify the Registrar of Political Parties in writing of the member’s removal and request the Registrar to remove that person’s name from its register of members. The Registrar can strike out the name or not.

“They are hiding behind this natural process and the fact that they know the process takes a long time,” said Mr Sifuna. He said that among the five issues for discussion by the committee from the Azimio side touches on fidelity to political parties and observance of multiparty democracy.

The coalition wants the committee to make far-reaching recommendations on measures to prevent interference with political parties. 

Mr Sifuna said once the bipartisan committee co-chaired by Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo and Tharaka MP George Murugara makes the recommendation on how to shorten the tedious disciplinary process, they will move to amend Section 14 of the Political Parties Act.

“Immediately you pronounce that you are going to work with a party different from the one which sponsored you, then there should be a by-election within three months without us being subjected to the long process when people have made their decision,” he said.

Mr Odinga has previously told the rebels to resign from their posts and seek a fresh mandate from the people. The ODM party leader said he wants the party to remain with only loyal foot soldiers who will help him in the fight to reclaim his “stolen” victory.

“Stop hiding in the name of looking for development and go to that party that has bought you. If you were in ODM then you are now working with Kenya Kwanza, then you should resign and come back to seek a fresh mandate,” he said.

Facing rebellion

Azimio is facing rebellion within its ranks, with several members openly supporting the ruling Kenya Kwanza. MPs Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem), Mark Nyamita (Uriri), Caroli Omondi (Suba South), Felix Odiwuor alias Jalang’o (Lang’ata), Paul Abuor (Rongo), and John Owino (Awendo) are some of ODM lawmakers who have publicly shown their support for Kenya Kwanza. At the same time, some 20 Jubilee MPs led by Eldas MP Adan Keynan and nominated MP Sabina Chege have also been working openly with the ruling alliance.

In the Senate, the renegades include Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo, her Garissa counterpart Abdul Haji, Lamu Senator Joseph Githuku and James Lomenen of Turkana, all from Jubilee. The four are joined by Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda of ODM.

Already, Azimio has begun de-whipping the rebels from Senate committees, with Minority Whip Ledama Olekina sending letters to Speaker Amason Kingi recalling them from the various House committees.

The Narok senator said that once Senate resumes next week on Tuesday after recess, he expects Mr Kingi to communicate the changes.

“I have sent the letters removing the rebel senators from the committees and replacing them with our loyal members,” said Mr Olekina. “We are on recess but once we resume, the speaker will communicate the changes. He has no role and therefore cannot do anything else. His hands are tied.”

Mr Olekina said that once a party member chooses to defect to another party, then there is no point in having them serve in committee positions meant for the party they have abandoned.

“My work as a whip is to whip you to making sure that you vote as per my coalition. So if you choose to vote against the coalition’s position then you have no reason staying in the committee. It is that simple,” he said.

His deputy, Mr Sifuna, confirmed that they have written letters to recall all the rebel senators from the committees, replacing them with those who will be loyal to Azimio's cause. He explained that they are now waiting for the minority leadership in the National Assembly to also do the same.

“The way we removed our former whip (Ms Dullo) because she could not whip us, we are going to remove our members that we cannot whip,” said Mr Sifuna.

“So long as we cannot whip you and you are in the minority side, whether you are in ODM, Jubilee or Wiper, we will de-whip you,” he added.

Enough numbers

He pointed out that his responsibility is to ensure that if a position is taken by the party, then they have enough numbers in the House to be able to execute that agenda.

“If I list you down as part of my delegation then when we get to the floor of the House you vote in a different way, that means you are being whipped by our opponents. If we cannot whip you, then you cannot represent us in anything, including the committees,” said Mr Sifuna.

The Nairobi senator explained that the Minority side holds leadership of two critical watchdog committees where their majority should be real and not imagined in order to strengthen the oversight role of Parliament.

“That majority should be real and not that you are there to represent the Minority side but when we go to vote, you are always voting with our opponents,” he said.