Five ODM presidential aspirants skip UK trip Story by DAVID MUGONYI Publication Date: 3/9/2007
The ODM presidential hopefuls’ bonding and fund-raising trip to London flopped last night after five of them pulled out.
Mr Uhuru KenyattaMr Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, Mr William Ruto, Mr Najib Balala and Nominated MP Julia Ojiambo withdrew from the trip only hours before they were scheduled to leave for the UK.
This leaves Lang’ata MP Raila Odinga as the only aspirant travelling to London this weekend for the meeting.
The Lang’ata MP said: “I will proceed with the programme because they were elaborate. Those that I can’t, I will reschedule.”
Others with him are Gachoka MP Joseph Nyaga and Kisumu Rural MP Anyang’ Nyong’o’.
Mr Nyaga said he was travelling to UK last night as he was a believer in the principle of inclusion.
“The fact that some of our colleagues are not going should not be misconstrued to mean a split in the ODM. We cannot disappoint these Kenyans (in UK) at the last minute as they have fully paid for the trip,” he said.
Mr Balala withdrew because he was unwell, although he had all documents ready.
Also withdrawing from the trip were MPs Mutula Kilonzo and Kenneth Marende. It was not known whether interim chairman Henry Kosgey was travelling.
In a Press statement, the four leaders said Kenyans had become suspicious of the trip, which was being seen as a begging mission.
However, Mr Ruto confirmed to the Nation that he had not obtained the visa to travel to the United Kingdom.
Mr Musyoka went public with the plans for the UK bonding trip last Friday.
Addressing a rally in Kakamega, the Mwingi North MP said: “ODM presidential hopefuls will travel to London in a week’s time to bond and do everything to agree on the best method of picking the flag-bearer without splitting the party.”
The announcement followed persistent disagreements between supporters of Mr Musyoka and Mr Odinga over control of the ODM-K national offices, with officially registered chairman Daniel Maanzo accusing Prof Nyong’o, who is the secretary-general, of undermining him.
Mr Odinga who spoke to the Nation while awaiting a flight to London from Florida, US, said he would go ahead with the programmes arranged by the ODM UK office.
However, he said, he will skip those that required all the aspirants.
He said he fully understood the content of the letter from his four colleagues and he will be contacting them once he arrives in London this morning on how to proceed.
Mr Ruto said he had been informed by a senior official at the British High Commission in Nairobi had that his application had come in late.
The official had given Mr Ruto two options: either to withdraw the application or wait much longer for a decision from London on whether he would get a nod to visit the country or not.
Mr Ruto is facing a criminal case involving land transactions.
However, the Head of Press and Public Affairs at the British High Commission Charley Wiliams said she would not comment on individual cases, adding that her Government had a policy on visas.
Ms Williams said UK’s immigration law touched on corruption and crime: “It is a well known fact that our immigration rules provide for the exclusion of individuals where there is evidence of involvement in corruption or criminal activity.”
The law, she added, indicated that the presence of such individuals in UK “would be against public good” in the UK.
Generally, people implicated in corruption cases are considered undesirable in the UK.
Another ODM-K presidential candidate Musalia Mudavadi had pulled out of the trip earlier, saying he was busy campaigning at the Coast.
Mr Mudavadi said he would be represented by Mr Marende at the London talks. However, Mr Marende also said he had withdrawn from the trip last evening.
He told the Nation: “My conscience tells me not to go after considering many things. I am a team player.” Mr Kilonzo, the ODM team leader, also withdrew from the trip saying “there was nothing much left in it” after five key leaders had pulled out.
Mr Odinga has been on a campaign trail for about two weeks in the US.
In their statement yesterday afternoon, the four presidential hopefuls who withdrew from the trip at the eleventh hour said: “The present debate has clouded this issue and made Kenyans at large very suspicious of our motive, questioning the reason for our travel there.”
“In view of that fact and being leaders who are sensitive to the sentiments of our people, we believe that as those people’s servants, we must abide by their demands.”
And they added: “We have, therefore, taken a decision and have cancelled our trip to London.”
The four dismissed speculation that their trip was meant to reach consensus on picking one of them as the ODM Kenya presidential candidate.
“We would like to categorically state that the decision of who is the flag-bearer of ODM Kenya will be decided by party members in Kenya and not by anyone else,” they added. Although they had made the decision late after their colleagues had already made travelling arrangements, they expressed solidarity with them and wished them fruitful deliberations. They added that they had not had enough time to consult their colleagues, who had made such arrangements.
The statement explained that they had been invited by the ODM supporters in Britain, who shared their plans, agenda and vision for the country.
The leaders were to address Kenyans in the UK and explain to them what role they could play if ODM took over the leadership later this year.
Role in the future
“We would like to state categorically that the ODM leadership was invited by our brethren in the UK to go there and share with them our plan and agenda for the future of this great country. They also wanted us to inform them, as Kenyans, what role they can play in that future.”
They said their decision to withdraw from the trip was mainly because Kenyans have been questioning the leaders’ decision to go and bond outside the country.
Independent sources said some of the leaders withdrew after they learnt that Pastor Gilbert Deya was one of the organisers of the trip. Pastor Deya came to fame during the miracle babies saga and he is wanted by police in Kenya.
Last evening Pastor Deya confirmed that he was one of the organisers and an ODM supporter.