Mr Oduor Ong’wen, the dignified Executive Director, was roughed up by supporters of the party’s Nairobi-based Nominated Senator Elizabeth Ongoro at Orange House in a second day of violence in the opposition outfit.
Ms Ongoro, who is seeking the Ruaraka parliamentary seat, stormed the party offices to complain that she was being unfairly blocked from vying following violence between her supporters and those of her rival, incumbent Tom Kajwang’, last month.
The fracas came as Inspector-General of Office Joseph Boinnet and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) warned of severe consequences to those who perpetrate violence in the lead up to the August 8 General Election.
“I had travelled and, while I was away, I heard in the media that I had defected and my competitor Kajwang’ had been given a direct nomination certificate,” Ms Ongoro told the crowd, her eyes hidden behind wide, dark sunglasses. “I said I won’t comment…I had to come here to seek explanation from the party.”
At Orange House, the idea was simple: The crowd wanted the party officials that she called “mercenaries” to get her message real quick. So the legislator arrived with chanting women and yelling men to protest the alleged favouritism by the party towards Mr Kajwang’.
The target was identified. Mr Ong’wen — in office since March 2015 after replacing Mr Magerer Lang’at, who was also roughed up by another group of goons — was accused of skewing the nominations, favouring some candidates and dashing the ambitions of others. They forced their way through the gates, catching sentries off-guard.
ODM Executive Director Oduor Ong’wen (centre) is harassed by irate youths who stormed Orange House on April 5, 2017 to protest against direct nominations. They were escorting Nominated Senator Elizabeth Ongoro, who alleged bias against her. PHOTO | CORRESPONDENT | NATION MEDIA GROUP
“Where is Ong’wen? He is killing the party! He is not good!” they chanted.
As Mr Ong’wen attempted to put across his point, the yelling intensified, drowning his voice. And the shoving hands got a piece of his clothes.
It took riot police to quell the commotion. They fired twice in the air to scare away the mob. After matters cooled down, Ms Ongoro went into the office with party officials and the doors were locked. Her supporters kept vigil in small groups in the compound.
Though the party explained that there had been no direct nomination in Ruaraka, Ms Ongoro claimed she had been sidelined.
“As members of Orange party, who love the party from the heart and recognise our party leader Raila Amollo Odinga, we will not tolerate political mercenaries sitting here at headquarters and placing themselves near our party leader to mislead and fight others for no reason,” declared Ms Ongoro.
The party, in its bid to curb violent incidents, had barred her from running for Ruaraka. Last month, two people died after rival supporters clashed.
“I was attacked viciously in my function, where there were women, some of them pregnant,” Ms Ongoro recalled. “I almost lost my life.
“I chose not to hide. I decided to bring the case here.
“Those threats have been consistent since September last year. I have been patiently waiting for the person I love to take action.”
Wednesday’s incident comes only two days after chaos broke out at another ODM function in Migori town, forcing Deputy Party Leader Ali Hassan Joho and several others to flee when supporters of Governor Okoth Obado disrupted a rally they had organised.
The rally was to be presided over by Mr Joho, who is the Mombasa governor, and Senators James Orengo (Siaya) and Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu), as well as Suna East Member of Parliament Junet Mohamed and his Mbita colleague Millie Odhiambo, among others.
It is this incident that led the IEBC’s warning over political violence.
Jubilee Party has also been rocked by violence involving, among others, Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko, Governors Mwangi wa Iria (Murang’a) and Joseph Ndathi (Kirinyaga), as well as Nakuru Town East MP David Gikaria.
On Wednesday, IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati warned the parties and aspirants that it will strictly enforce the Electoral Code of Conduct.
“The commission has noted with concern the increasing reports of violence in various parts of the country,” said Mr Chebukati. “We wish to inform all political parties and candidates that the commission will not tolerate any form of violence during political rallies and other political engagements.”
Mr Boinnet, who had met senior security officers from across the country over their readiness for the August elections, revealed that officers have been deployed to beef up security ahead of next week’s party primaries. He warned police bodyguards assigned to politicians during election campaigns against arbitrary use of firearms.
See the video below