Updated Sunday, May 12th 2013 a 12:31 GMT +3
By Oscar Obonyo
Nairobi, Kenya: Despite former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s spirited campaign in the last elections, The Standard On Sunday has reliably established that several factors conspired to sink his ambition to become Kenya’s fourth president.
Reflecting on the campaigns, some allies of the former PM confided in
us about an election victory that was within reach but which the team
bungled. Although most senior party officials insisted Raila won and his
victory was “stolen” and the rigging validated by the Supreme Court,
some who were at the nerve-centre of the CORD campaigns have for the
first time admitted some flaws, which systematically weakened their
Through multiple interviews, we established competing
interests, internal wrangles, overconfidence, suspicion, turf wars and
lack of a coherent command structure and understaffing played a major
role in chipping away at the commanding lead Raila had at the end of
Some pointed out that Raila lacked the ruthlessness of a
politician out to succeed. “Some party bigwigs were messing up the
campaigns and the former Premier knew it but failed to crack the whip,
probably for fear of hurting anyone at a critical time when he needed
everyone on board,” said a close confidant of the former PM who did not
wish to be named.
“He was looking into the interests of other politicians and forgot his goal of winning the presidency,” he said.
Time and resources
insiders also feel Raila spent too much time and resources trying to
woo Central Province even when it was clear his support had dropped over
time from 15 to 6 per cent. They say Raila went out of his way to
portray himself as a national figure at the expense of consolidating his
lead in areas where CORD had support.
Disjointed operations in the run up to the actual day of voting did not help advance Raila’s third bid for the top seat.
As late as 3pm on March 3, a couple of hours to the polls, CORD had
not identified poll agents in Central Kenya. Raila’s officials did not
dispatch agents to the region — the backyard of President Uhuru Kenyatta
— a factor some fear might have given room to illegal top-up of votes.
Some of Raila’s supporters are now wondering whether the error was by
design or by default, raising suspicion within the secretariat.
had no agents in many parts of the country – particularly in Jubilee
strongholds. Even in the CORD friendly zones, various candidates used
their own resources to mobilise and pay agents. (Hassan) Joho did in
Mombasa, Mutula (Kilonzo) and David Musila in Ukambani, as well as Sally
(Kosgey) did in parts of Rift valley,” adds a national party official.
exchanges between Mr Eliud Owalo, the head of the ODM presidential
secretariat and the party’s head of political affairs at the secretariat
Ngunjiri Wambugu in the run-up to the elections give a pointer to turf
wars, breakdown in communication and disagreements over disbursement of
campaign funds and an overstretched team at the ODM secretariat.
In one email, Wambugu accuses Owalo of malice over his queries on the
mode of disbursing campaign funds. He also raises the issue of
understaffing. “We have people working very weird hours, and literally
stretching themselves very hard to just keep all these organised chaos
focused enough to be effective without literally breaking down,” he
He adds: “With four days to go to the elections and all
the work on our hands, I don’t think I can cope with power plays and
Other campaign officials concede the biggest mistake they made was to
walk into the campaign as winners. They were not persuaded to work
hard. “There were many busy bodies and professionals in the Raila
campaign, who made it impossible for practical thinking and execution of
The worst was their advice that Uhuru and Ruto were
international pariahs who would not be elected by Kenyans, hence our
relaxed approach,” says a senior official. Speaking to The Standard On
Sunday yesterday, Wambugu pointed out the emerging lobby groups — 87
including those in the countryside — impeded campaign coordination.
wanted to form a campaign baby. I want to think they were driven more
by financial gain and not the need to have our candidate at State
House,” says Wambugu. Among the main pro-Raila lobby groups, were
Friends of Raila (Fora), Vijana for Raila, Youth for Raila (Y-Fora), ODM
Reloaded, ODM Mashinani, Cord Effect and Integrated Lobbies (OIL).
I am sure our rivals infiltrated us, I am sure they also stole some of
our votes. But we created the environment for them to do this, through
our petty internal wars and inefficiency,” says Wambugu.
Elderkin, a veteran journalist who played an oversight role in the
Raila campaign, argues it was the job of the Independent Electoral and
Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and not Raila or CORD to prevent poll
“Raila’s team, just like any other campaign team acting
with integrity, has no authority or capability in preventing poll
rigging. When the party and candidate’s agents are evicted from polling
and tallying centres, and prevented from witnessing, questioning and
signing documents, there is little that can be done,” she observes.
“When this is followed by a Supreme Court
that acts in a highly questionable manner,” she adds, “the innocent
protester is left with very little. Let us not engage in a charade of
blaming the victim.”
Owalo, on his part
attributed the emerging fault lines to individuals who could have been
working with the rivals: “There seems to be a concerted effort to create
the impression something was a miss within the campaign that led to
Raila’s “loss’. Raila did not lose the elections. The vote was stolen.”
whether he was high-handed on expenditure, Owalo says his professional
background and training dictates he demands adherence to good corporate
The ODM election Board Chairman Franklin Bett insisted that CORD won
the elections but would have done better if they had conducted joint
nominations particularly in Nairobi where it enjoyed huge support.
do not see why we would not have won all seats in Nairobi, partly it is
because most of our parties fielded candidates in the constituencies
and wards thereby sharing votes that would easily have gone to one
person,” he said.
A CORD nominated Senator said the message was not sharp, coherent and
consistent, each group were selling different messages that confused the