Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s latest attempt to expel five rebel lawmakers has once again cast a spotlight on the long and winding appeal mechanism that has in the past been exploited by members to remain in Parliament.
And some of the expelled ODM MPs yesterday exuded confidence of serving out their terms, citing past trends where parties have unsuccessfully expelled errant members.
ODM, as well as Jubilee and Amani National Congress, have in the past failed to occasion rebel lawmakers to lose their seats in Parliament.
Mr Odinga’s ODM is seeking to have MPs Elisha Odhiambo (Gem), Caroli Omondi (Suba South), Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Phelix Odiwuor (Lang’ata) and Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda expelled and struck out of the party’s membership roll.
But the move has just opened a circus of challenging the decision that could proceed to the Supreme Court.
“I can tell you I am still the MP, and I will serve until 2027. What ODM has done has just given us strength to continue serving our constituents who elected us,” Mr Odhiambo told the Nation. He also asked why the party was yet to discipline governors who have been holding meetings with President William Ruto.
A legal battle is already looming large between the rebel members and the outfit. Prof Ojienda and Associates yesterday wrote to ODM requesting to be furnished with details of the process that led to the expulsion of Senator Ojienda and Mr Odiwuor.
“We note that despite this being an extremely adverse decision against our client, you have not yet issued any communication to him in person with regard to his expulsion,” states the letter.
The law firm is demanding to be provided with resolutions of the ODM National Executive Committee (NEC) as well as recommendations against the two MPs by the party’s Disciplinary Committee.
“In light of the above, we are writing to request that you immediately issue us with …the recommendation by the ODM Disciplinary Tribunal to expel Prof Tom Ojienda…and all minutes of the meetings held by ODM National Executive Committee, Central Committee and the National Elections Board,” the letter states.
In February 2021, Jubilee expelled nominated senators Isaac Mwaura, Mary Seneta, Falhada Dekow Iman, Naomi Jillo Waqo, Victor Prengei and Millicent Omanga.
But the decision made by the faction led by then President Uhuru Kenyatta was met with legal court battles that saw the members continue to serve.
First, the six senators who were allied to then Deputy President William Ruto quickly proceeded to the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal (PPDT) that put a stay on their removal. The matter later moved to the High Court.
Similarly, previous attempts by ODM and ANC, formerly led by Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, suffered the same fate, pointing to a legal framework that makes its near impossible to kick out a member from a party.
Attempts by Mr Odinga in 2019 to kick out then Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa (now Public Service Cabinet Secretary) were thwarted by the PPDT. She served until the end of her term despite her decision to support President Ruto’s campaigns in the run up to the 2022 elections.
In 2017, ODM unsuccessfully expelled then governors Ukur Yatani (Marsabit), Salim Mvurya (Kwale), Deputy Governor Joash Maangi (Kisii), MPs Steven Kariuki (Mathare), Mpuru Aburi (Tigania East), Gideon Mung’aro (Kilifi North), Mustafa Iddi (Kilifi South), Cyprian Kubai (Igembe Central) and James Rege (Karachuonyo) for backing Mr Kenyatta’s re-election.
Other rebels that were targeted for expulsion in the run-up to the 2017 General Elections were Samuel Arama (Nakuru Town West), John Waluke (Sirisia), nominated MP Mwaura and Kwale County Woman Representative Zainabu Chidzuga.
In 2019, Mr Mudavadi’s attempt to kick out then ANC nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi (now Vihiga Senator) failed. The court ruled in his favour.
ODM chairman John Mbadi yesterday described the process of expulsion as long and cumbersome. He also blamed the justice system for making it difficult for parties to enforce discipline.
In the party’s 2017 bid to expel rebels, Mr Mbadi said, the party successfully expelled the MPs but the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) could not call for by-elections since the 2017 polls were a few months away.
“We have succeeded in some of our previous attempts. In the Mung’aro and team case, there were to be by-elections, but because of time constraints they survived. In Jumwa’s case, it was the disciplinary committee that failed,” Mr Mbadi explained.
The law bars IEBC from holding any by-election 90 days to the General Election.
“I don’t see any problem with the law because the Political Parties Act is explicit. It is our justice system that has issues that need to be fixed. What I also fault is that the process is too cumbersome,” said Mr Mbadi.
Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu, however, said the tedious process is meant to ensure fairness to both the political party and the errant members.
“It is a quasi-judicial process and has to fulfil the principle of our Constitution and the Political Parties Act,” said Ms Nderitu.
“The law cuts both ways. There must be fairness for the political parties and to the accused members,” she told Nation.
Mr Osotsi said he survived removal because the officials who instigated it were not bonafide members. He advised ODM rebels to seek reconciliation to avoid spending their time in the courts.