Confusion over Raila running mate interviews

Raila Odinga

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya presidential flagbearer Raila Odinga.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

Planned interviews for individuals said to be possible running mates for presidential hopeful Raila Odinga have been marred by confusion as details of the process remain scanty with only 12 days to the deadline imposed by the electoral commission.

As of Tuesday May 3 evening, it was still not clear where the interviews would be conducted and the number of people that have applied.

Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua, a member of the selection panel, told the Nation that they had not held any meeting to set up the modalities and ground rules for the interviews.

“I don’t know whether people are applying or not. I’m also not aware of the venue where the meeting will be conducted. I think we will assemble in town then be taken to the venue,” Mr Wambua said.

“You know this is a new thing. It has never been done before. Let’s wait and see.”

Ms Elizabeth Meyo, the secretary of the running mate selection panel, remained guarded Tuesday on individuals who will appear before the team today, further fuelling confusion on the process that allies of Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka has consistently criticised.

Ms Meyo told the Nation that the methodology for the interviews remains at the discretion of the seven-member team.

Asked whether the team will be guided by the popularity of the candidates or their region’s vote basket, Ms Meyo said the main qualification will “obviously be a Kenyan of high standing and credibility”.

Allies of Mr Musyoka have argued that none of the politicians touted as possible running mates for Mr Odinga can bring as many votes as he delivered to Mr Odinga in the 2013 and 2017 elections.

Mr Musyoka, Narc Kenya’s Martha Karua, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui and his Mombasa counterpart Hassan Joho are some of the people seen as possible nominees.

Ms Meyo said the panel will today provide the names of those listed to appear before it.

“The biggest qualification for running mate will obviously be a Kenyan of high standing and credibility who will both deliver for Kenyans and help the President achieve his manifesto items. The rest will be secondary,” said Ms Meyo.

She said the panel will determine the methodology and the order of appearance of the candidates for the slot.

“The length of time (for the interviews) will be determined by the panel's own decisions and methods of operation, which are not public,” she added.

Another member of the panel, Noah Wekesa, said the team will have its first meeting today to agree on the mode of operations as well as to pick a chairperson.

He suggested that interviews for the candidates are likely to kick off after the first formal meeting.

The team was initially set to hold the inaugural meeting last week but it was postponed due to the long holiday and state burial of former President Mwai Kibaki.

“We are having our first meeting to discuss our mandate. It will be our first meeting. Nobody should tell you we are going to have a heavy agenda. We still don't even know who the chair will be,” Dr Wekesa said.

The interviews will kick off amid protests from members of the Wiper party who want Mr Musyoka not to appear before the panel, saying members of the team are not his equals and that Mr Odinga should personally take charge of the process.

Through its deputy chairman Victor Ogeto, Wiper said the panel is not anchored in any law and now wants Mr Wambua, the Kitui senator, to resign from it.

“How do you interview the creator of an idea? Who should interview who? This initiative of the panel is not anchored in any election Act or any law,” Mr Ogeto said.

“This exercise is an excuse for the Presidential candidate or ill advisers to find reason to pass blame, sanitise ulterior actions or for the panel individuals to take credit for any eventuality. This is unacceptable to us as a party to get one of the NEC members to participate in a process we have not authorized.”

Kitui Central MP Makali Mulu said Mr Musyoka was Mr Odinga’s running mate for 10 years and had not faced a panel for any interviews.

“He was not subjected to any interviews in those 10 years, so it should be automatic,” Dr Mulu said.

The seven-member panel comprises Ms Meyo, Bishop Peter Njenga, retired Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth, Mr Wambua, Narc Kenya secretary-general Michael Orwa, Mr Wekesa, Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya organising secretary Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa and Ms Beatrice Askul Moe from Turkana County.

In a statement on Sunday, the panel said the criteria to follow in the interviews include fidelity to the Constitution, personal integrity in public and private life, objectivity and impartiality in decision-making and in ensuring that decisions are not influenced by nepotism, favouritism, other improper motives or corrupt practices.

The person must also show selfless service based solely on the public trust, demonstrated by honesty in the execution of public duties and the declaration of any personal interest that may conflict with public duties.

Presidential candidates have until May 16 to submit their names alongside those of their preferred running mates.

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