In Kenya, Struggle for Parliament is Happening Now–Odinga’s Party Issues Warning (Sounds Like Cousin Obama)

UPDATE, 5 pm MDT: The election seems to be on NEXT Wednesday, June 18. The writing in some of these stories from the foreign press is sometimes difficult to follow. I happened to come across a story from The Daily Nation in Kenya, dated June 11, which says the ballots are safely “sleeping” in the voting districts while awaiting the election. So, from that, I gather that the election will be NEXT Wednesday! Sorry for the confusion! I’ll keep track of developments over the next week…and especially those “sleeping” ballots!

NOTE: The election DID happen on June 11. See later posts on the results. GRL)

Five seats in Parliament are up for grabs in Kenya’s by-elections being held today (Wednesday, June 11. As reported by Afrol News:

KENYA SET FOR CRUCIAL BY-ELECTIONS

afrol News, 10 June Kenyans will once again return to the polls on Wednesday to elect five members of parliament in what has been dubbed crucial by-elections.

The elections will allow the Grand Coalition partners – Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and Party of National Unity (PNU) – to battle control over parliament.

Bi-elections will also be held in 52 civic awards whose results had been challenged. The deadline for all political campaigns expired on Monday.

A dispute over Kenya’s presidential election results in December soon snowballed into “ethnic cleansing” that claimed several lives, including two elected MPs in Embakasi and Ainamoi, Melitus Were and David Too. Both MPs were shot dead at the height of the political violence.

Due to the violence that claimed over 1,000 lives and displaced tens of thousands, results of some constituencies could not be announced.

The upcoming elections have already taken tribal connotation, with some tribes rejecting nominated candidates in areas they considered their ancestral land. For instance, the nomination of ODM’s Jonathan Ngéno, who hailed from the Kipsigis community, had forced the Maasais to rally behind the PNU sponsored candidate, Gideon Konchella.

The ugly scenario is a complete deviation from Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s belief that “I want to see a Kenya where people are not judged on their tribal affiliations but on the content of their character.”

During a press briefing today, an Odinga supporter in the cabinet, William ole Ntimama, “differed with politicians from his Maasai community who have thrown their weight behind Mr Gideon Konchellah, the PNU candidate for the Kilgoris parliamentary seat.”

In the story published by The Daily Nation entitled Tread Carefully, PNU Warned, Ntimama also issued a warning:

ODM on Monday cautioned its coalition partner, PNU, to tread carefully on the policies that govern the National Accord.

“We are rather worried that our partners are straying on matters policy especially during campaign rallies, but we would like to stress that we are committed to make the Accord hold on our part because it brought peace to this country,” the Heritage and Culture minister told a press conference in his Kencom House offices.

Cabinet minister William ole Ntimama, who is one of the ODM founder members, said their partners should stop slighting Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Mr Ntimama, who was accompanied by ODM spokesman Salim Lone, said the party was in the coalition as an equal partner contrary to statements by some people in PNU, including Cabinet ministers.

“We are not wavering on the Accord of the coalition, but utterances by some PNU ministers seem aimed at derailing it before 2012,” he said.

He added: “This protocol thing about the Prime Minister and the Vice-President must be sorted out immediately. It is not a small thing,” he said.

There has been confusion in the past as to who should be senior in the pecking order between the PM and the VP.

“Raila has been quiet and tolerant for sometime now, but this should not be taken for granted,” Mr Ntimama said.“Presumably, ODM was the wife,” Mr Ntimama said, adding that it was astonishing that neither the Mr Kalonzo Musyoka nor Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who were at the rally, renounced the remarks.

Like his cousin, Raila and his supporters seem to have a thin skins when they are criticized or teased, and also have a quick response with threats. As for the rebellious ODM minister, one has to wonder what awaits him.

Meanwhile, one of the key issues in the elections involves granting amnesty to “youths” who committed violent acts after the elections in December 2007. As reported by The Daiy Nation on June 2 (Kenya: Amnesty Row Rages, archived at allAfrica.com), the “tolerant” Odinga has been pushing for amnesty and has been rebuffed:

Addressing the Madaraka Day celebrations, to mark 45 years of Kenya’s self-rule, the President was clear that perpetrators of post-election violence must face the law, taking the debate over calls for amnesty to another level.

Solve problem

The President spoke minutes after Prime Minister Raila Odinga had given hope that amnesty was being considered and that the matter would be sorted out in due course.

“We will solve the problem of the youths who were arrested,” Mr Odinga said.

The President, however, stamped his authority on the matter in his official speech and off the cuff explanations in Kiswahili saying “haitawezakana kuhurumia watu wa fitina na hawataweza kuenda mbali na uchochezi” (there will be no mercy for people thriving on malice and propaganda against fellow Kenyans).

The President said no suspect of the violence, which left more than 1,200 people killed and 350,000 displaced from their homes and work places, would be released.

“No normal person will encourage that,” said the Head of State.

The President went on to promise that once the Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence finishes its work in about 3 months, anyone who was innocent would be released. But he also stated that politically-instigated violence should not be tolerated:

The President told thousands of people who attended the celebrations that the recurrence of politically-instigated violence, before or after general elections “is a situation we must not tolerate in modern Kenya.”

“We should not spare them or those who recruit the gangs that cause mayhem,” the President said.

To refresh everyone’s memory, it was Odinga’s supporters who created the mayhem, which included burning 50 people who were inside a locked church.

Mr Odinga has been in the forefront in championing for the release of youths arrested, saying they were fighting for democracy.

Sunday, he said the post-election violence shook Kenya’s foundation, Kenyans fought and killed each and police shot people.

“That is why we sat down and solved the problem. We shook hands and formed a grand coalition government.

“We should now forget the past and focus on future. We should bury tribalism and all 42 tribes co-exist as one,” Mr Odinga said.

Of course, here in the United States, the Democratic Party’s “leader” can’t even call off supporters who want a female candidate to “iron their shirts.” And, here, members of the Black Caucus who supported Obama’s rival may be “punished” by facing challengers who sing the Obama tune. And, of course, Clinton supporters are supposed to “forget the past” and become enthusiastic Obamabots.

Odinga and Obama…cut from the same cloth…

For earlier posts on Odinga/Obama see:

April 9, 2008

Obama-Odinga 50-50 Split Demand Sounds Soooo Familiar

April 13, 2008

Lessons to be Learned: Odinga Yields in Kenya, Positions Himself for Next Election

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