ODM party rebels date with disciplinary committee

President William Ruto with a section of ODM leaders at State House on February 7, 2023.

Photo credit: Courtesy

The eight rebel ODM MPs summoned by the party's disciplinary committee are expected to appear before the panel on Monday July 24 and Tuesday, July 25 to defend themselves after the committee agreed to their requests to postpone the hearings that were due last week due to concerns over the choice of venue and anti-government protests.

ODM disciplinary committee chairperson Prof Ben Sihanya wrote to the MPs, acknowledging their concerns but insisting that due to the strict 30-day timeline, the hearings could not be postponed to August as they had requested.

"We wish to remind you that the Disciplinary Committee is guided by the Disciplinary Committee (Practice and Procedure) Rules, 2022 and in particular Rule 19 (3) in the discharge of its mandate."

It states: "All proceedings before the Committee in respect of a particular complaint shall be heard and determined not later than thirty days after the Committee has received the decision to charge from the National Chairman."

"Please note that the Disciplinary Committee received the decision to charge from the National Chairperson on July 3, 2023 and due to the strict timelines provided for in the Act, we are constrained not to comply with your request," Prof Sihanya's letter reads in part. 

The disciplinary chairperson has, therefore, scheduled the hearings for two days – July 24 and 25 - for the eight MPs.

They include Nairobi Woman Rep Esther Passaris, who defied the party and her Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition to vote for the "punitive" Finance Bill 2023, Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda, MPs Paul Abuor (Rongo), Caroli Omondi (Suba South), Mark Nyamita (Uriri), Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem) and Felix Oduor aka Jalang'o (Lang'ata).

Ms Passaris, Mr Nyamita, Mr Omondi and Mr Odhiambo are expected to appear before the committee at different times on Monday July 24 while the rest will appear on Tuesday.

"Therefore, the ODM Disciplinary Committee in terms of Articles 75 and 76 of the ODM Constitution summons you to appear in person before the Committee on Monday 24 July 2023 at 9:30am for the hearing of the complaint against you at a venue to be communicated to you in due course within Nairobi City County," reads a letter addressed to one of the rebels and seen by the Nation.

It adds: "If you fail to appear, the ODM Disciplinary Committee will take appropriate action as provided for in the ODM party constitution without further reference to you."

Initially, the eight MPs were expected to appear before the committee at Chungwa House - the party's headquarters in Nairobi - to defend themselves against charges of associating with and supporting the policies of a rival political party and contradicting the party's position.

DP Gachagua hosts Azimio MPs

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua when he hosted the seven ‘rebel’ Azimio MPs.

Photo credit: Courtesy | DPPS

They also face charges of betraying the public trust reposed in them by party members, promoting the ideology, interests and policies of another political party and gross misconduct.

However, they expressed fears about the venue and last week's anti-government protests, forcing the disciplinary committee to bring the hearings forward by a week and agree to change the location of the hearings.

The hearings will now take place at the Emory Hotel in Nairobi.

ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna had laughed off fears of attacks on the party headquarters by the alleged rebels.

"How can you claim to be a member of ODM and be afraid to visit the party headquarters? Mr Sifuna asked.

According to Ms Passaris, she requested a virtual hearing on Tuesday 18 July, which the committee refused.

"I refer to your letter of Monday 10th July 2023 regarding the above and all its contents. I regret to inform you that I am currently out of the country having taken a one-month leave of absence with effect from Friday 30 June 2023 to attend to my family in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire and a conference in Athens, Greece, as evidenced by the documents attached hereto."

"In view of the fact that I am unable to attend the disciplinary committee hearing in person, I am willing to make myself available for a virtual hearing on Tuesday 18 July 2023 at 11:00am," Ms Passaris wrote to the ODM party on 14 July.

Prof Ojienda had protested the party's failure to serve him with the summons, saying he only heard about it in the media. "This failure to serve me with the summons is in flagrant contravention of Article 76 (4) and 76 (5) of the ODM constitution which compels the disciplinary committee to serve me with a notice of hearing and reasonable time to prepare my defence," Prof Ojienda wrote to the committee chairperson on Monday July 17.

He also said he had prior commitments, including the hearing of the murder case of former Migori governor Okoth Obado, and cited anti-government protests called by ODM leader Raila Odinga, noting that "purporting to hold a hearing on that day is against the party's directive".

Mr Odiwuor, for his part, has asked for the case to be adjourned until August, citing a week-long Kerra (Kenya Rural Roads Authority) training course he was due to attend in Mombasa.

He also said he had several other constituency functions lined up, including the disbursement of the last batch of bursaries.Mr Ochanda told the Nation that he was ready to appear before the committee.

"Yes, I will honour. It is imperative that I hear and defend myself against malicious allegations. I just need an assurance of my safety to be delivered to my wife and children before I go," Mr Ochanda told the Nation.

Migori Senator Eddy Oketch, who is the complainant in the case, wants the party to expel and recall the MPs for violating Section 14A (1) (e) of the Political Parties Act.It reads: A person who, while a member of a political party, (1) promotes the ideology, interests or policies of another political party shall be deemed to have resigned from the party.