The Social Democratic Party of Kenya, one of the constituent members of the Hoja Alliance, is on the brink of quitting that fledgling formation.
I speak with authority as one of the senior leaders of the SDP. The proposal to pen this essay was mooted at the highest levels of the party and is being circulated with the full knowledge and approval of the Social Democratic Party Central Committee. I was the person designated by our party to sit on the technical committee which deliberated on the structures, strategies and future plans of the Hoja Alliance and therefore can expound on issues connected to the alliance from a position of first hand information and insight.
To commence at the end:
Why is the Social Democratic Party on the verge of discontinuing its membership in the Hoja Alliance?
Primarily it is because we have, as a party, discovered to our disappointment, that the alliance is riddled with opportunism, unprincipled political horse trading and crass elite-pacting-the complete antithesis of the values, ideals and building blocks we thought the Hoja Alliance was anchored on.
To give a snippet:
One of the principles we had consensus on was that no member of the Hoja Alliance would simultaneously enter into a dalliance with other alliances without consulting the rest of the alliance partners. More so, if these other alliances were predicated on tribalism, regionalism and personality-based obsessions.
The Hoja Alliance was supposed to have been the anti-dote to such nefarious pacts like the G-7, GEMA, KAMATUSA and so on.
Imagine our shock and consternation when we turned on our television sets a few days ago, to be confronted with the sight of perhaps the most high profile individual in the Hoja Alliance making pronouncements in the comfy company of shady politicians who to us represented the very negation of what was supposed to be a national, issue-based non-ethnic, ideology driven centre-left grouping of progressive Kenyan political parties charting a new vision for this country.
We were dumbfounded to be confronted with a fait accompli when the same person convened a hastily arranged meeting of some representatives of the Hoja Alliance in almost total contravention of our rules of engagement without going through the proper channels and giving adequate notice to the parties to prepare for such a meeting.
Even as we write these lines, I am watching, live on the Sunday, August 12, 2012 evening news, none other than Raphael Tuju, the main driver of the Hoja Alliance concept announcing that his Party of Action will send two representatives to a special technical committee set up to galvanize the political ambitions of the G-7!!!
This happening against the backdrop of deliberate stalling and foot dragging on the part of influential members of the Hoja Alliance to act on previously agreed upon recommendations has sparked our ire as a political party making us to openly question the value addition of our continuing presence and membership in the alliance.
2.0. Background to SDP’s Membership in the Hoja Alliance
The Hoja Alliance is a coming together of several political parties (nine at last count) who resolved to work together on a common platform that is ISSUE-based and IDEOLOGY driven and united by the need to buttress and consolidate the multi-party character of Kenya’s emerging democracy-something the constitution itself underscores.
Each party entering into the Hoja Alliance had to read and sign the following agreement:
Code of Conduct and Terms of Engagement
By signing this pledge, we commit our parties to:
1. To uphold the Hoja Alliance Principles and values in line with Kenya Constitution 2010.
2. Collaborate with the Alliance members towards securing victory in the next general election through deliberate efforts geared towards building friendships, trust and confidence among members of the Alliance through activities such as joint meetings, workshops and other team-building events.
3. Integrate our campaign activities as an Alliance whilst staying open to pursuing activities specific to our mother parties but not at variance with the core ideals of the Alliance.
4. Articulating the principles and values espoused by the Hoja Alliance in all our public and media events and continuously publicly identify with the Alliance and at all times while respecting the diversity of the Alliance.
5. Work actively towards recruiting further partnerships that may bring on board other political parties and caucuses that share the ideals and principles of the Alliance.
6. At all times uphold the tenets under Section 10 (2) of the Constitution of Kenya especially as relates to social justice.
7. Adhere to the code of conduct as spelt here below;
Code of Conduct
We members of the Hoja Alliance commit ourselves to the following:
1. Desist from talking at cross-purposes.
2. Allow only the designated spokespersons to make pronouncements on behalf of the Alliance.
3. Take cognizance of strengths and resources that individual parties bring on board and deploy them to strengthen the Alliance.
4. Host weekly consultative meetings in order to review progress and to continuously chart the way forward for the Alliance towards developing events and building consensus.
5. Commit to keep off any public announcement on disengagement before the matter is discussed and agreed upon by the top organ of the Alliance.
6. Vet all members who join subsequently in order to maintain the ideals of the Alliance.
7. Ensure the Alliance Charter is signed by the top leadership of the constituent parties, for instance, the Party Leader, Chair and Secretary General or their designated representatives.
8. At all times strictly adhere to and be guided by the Principles of Chapter Six of the Kenya 2012 Constitution.
The SDP sent a high powered delegation who participated very actively in all the deliberations setting up the alliance right from the outset. We gave direct input to the principles, demands and aspirations at the core of Hoja Alliance vision and agenda. We were satisfied that these principles were not at variance with SDP’s own minimum democratic demands as captured in our party documents. We designated the Secretary for Ideology to represent the party in the technical committee. The party’s Secretary General and Chairperson represented SDP in the principal policy making body, the Oversight Committee. After a series of meetings it was decided that a Hoja Alliance Secretariat be set up.
Here is an excerpt from the minutes of the third meeting of that Secretariat:
Third Meeting of the Hoja Alliance Secretariat
Date: June 29, 2012
Venue: POA offices, Muthangari Gardens, Lavington, Nairobi
Onyango Oloo – Social Democratic Party of Kenya
Vicky Betty Chepkorir– Party of Action
Kathomi Njeru – New Democrats
Kisemei Mutisya – Chama cha Mwananchi
Saba Saba Asili
People’s Party of Kenya
Chama cha Uzalendo
Time: 11:00 to 12:45
1. Review draft job descriptions;
2. Assign Secretariat tasks;
3. Rules of Operations for Secretariat;
4. Action Step to be recommended to the Oversight Committee
This was a continuation of the previous meeting.
Minute 1: Job Descriptions Overview
The four job descriptions for Secretariat Coordinator, Financial Coordinator, Media and Communications Specialist and Secretary were reviewed and adopted as acceptable for commencing on the core functions of the Hoja Alliance Secretariat.
The meeting resolved to create an additional position- Research and Strategy Coordinator and later developed a job description for this as well.
Minute 2: Allocation of Secretariat Positions
It was noted that previous sessions of the Hoja Alliance Secretariat had repeatedly deferred this task to allow the constituent political parties who were members of the Alliance to delegate their members to the Secretariat. Unfortunately, despite several reminders some parties were yet to do so. It was reported that two parties- Saba Saba Asili and Chama Cha Uzalendo had officially communicated to indicate that they were still not in a position to send someone to the Hoja Alliance Secretariat because of ongoing internal consultations within their respective parties.
After a comprehensive, cordial and collegial discussion, the following were recommended for the respective positions:
• Secretariat Coordinator - Onyango Oloo (Social Democratic Party of Kenya)
• Media and Communications Coordinator – Kathomi Njeru (New Democrats)
• Financial Coordinator/Secretary - Vicky Betty Chepkorir (Party of Action)
• Strategy and Research Coordinator - Kisemei Mutisya (Chama cha Mwananchi)
Minute 3: Rules of Operations
It was decided that the Secretariat will work out a detailed document on this for the perusal of the Oversight Committee.
Nevertheless, the meeting came up with the following as among the basic guidelines of the Hoja Alliance Secretariat:
1. The secretariat is bound by the rules and terms on engagement of the alliance
2. The secretariat members should observe professionalism. Integrity and confidentiality are key.
3. English and Kiswahili are the languages of communication at the secretariat
4. On the issue of quorum for Secretariat meetings it was resolved that the minimum number would be four and that an apology sent in advance would be considered as part of the quorum.
Minute 4: Action Steps
The meeting revisited the suggestion first mooted at the Oversight Committee retreat for an inaugural Hoja Alliance rally. It was proposed that we hold a rally on the 21st of July.
A detailed proposal from the Secretariat on when, where and what resources were needed for this rally will be circulated to the Oversight Committee between July 3rd and 4th, 2012.
There being no further matters to discuss, the meeting adjourned.
In sending out the above minutes to all the members of the Hoja Oversight Committee in my capacity as the INTERIM Coordinator of the Hoja Secretariat, I tacked the following note:
Greetings. Attached please find some documents providing updates of the proceedings of the newly set up Alliance Secretariat.
1. Minutes of the third meeting of the secretariat;
2. Job descriptions for some of the functional responsibilities;
3. A proposal from the Secretariat for a Hoja Rally to be held inBomet around the 21st of July.
It is our hope that the Oversight Committee can be convened on Friday, July 6, 2012 from 10 am to 12:30 pm at the POA offices to discuss among other things, the issues raised in the attached documents.
Hoja Alliance Secretariat
No other party apart from the Social Democratic Party confirmed attendance at the proposed meeting. There was no feedback to the minutes and other documents sent by the interim Hoja Alliance Secretariat. Subsequently, through the informal grapevines word seeped out that some of the well-connected personalities in the alliance were busy with fund raising initiatives and that the Secretariat would be up and running once it was resourced to roll out its activities.
Within the SDP we continued to be perplexed at the dearth of information, lack of direction and sheer inertia which had set in, making us wonder what in fact, we as a party, were doing in the Hoja Alliance.
In addition, SDP was getting perplexed and bewildered with the process (or lack of it) of identifying, vetting and approving new members of the Hoja Alliance.
This following excerpt from a June 23, 2012 report by the SDP Secretary of Ideology to the party’s Central Committee captures our concerns:
Secretary for Ideology’s Report to the SDP Central Committee on the Hoja Alliance’s”Vetting Exercise” of Saturday, June 23, 2012
Onyango Oloo represented the SDP at the above exercise after being mandated and requested to do so by Mwandawiro Mghanga, the party Chair.
What I participated in was a travesty, a sham calculated to rubber stamp decisions previously made elsewhere. It was totally against SDP’s principles and values.
While having breakfast with two of the Hoja Vetting Committee members at the nearby restaurant I quickly brought up the subject of the vetting exercise.
First of all, there was no trace of the prospective new Hoja Alliance member that I came to learn was the Party of Democratic Union.
I then broached the question of the methodology of vetting. Was there a certain format, a scoring grid, an interviewing process, some key questions that were posed, I asked?
It became patently clear that there was no such process.
Everything I was told, was quite “informal” partly because, I was told, “some of our leaders have already met these people. They are good people-we know them.”
I was simply dumbfounded and astounded given the length and depth all our parties had gone through in defining the core principles of engagement anchoring the Hoja Alliance.
After some chit chat, we decided to go back to the POA Secretariat, our breakfast having been consumed. On our way back we saw three representatives of PDU also approaching the venue.
In the meantime we still could not locate representatives of the New Democrats who were also supposed to be in the meeting. Other parties had sent apologies that they would not be showing up.
After PDU had finished their presentation and seeing that no one else wanted to take the initiative in drilling the PDU leaders, I decided to ask a few questions having to do with PDU’s manifesto; if they understood the terms of engagement of the Hoja Alliance and so on.
But I was quickly rudely and crudely interrupted by one of the Hoja Vetting Committee members. He admonished me for “interrogating” the PDU leaders saying that these “were good people” that he could personally vouch for.
In any case he said, “We all know who our COMMON ENEMY is. It is ODM.”
Another member intervened, explaining how all these parties had previously met Raphael Tuju, who was the “Convener of the Hoja Alliance”. Besides she expressed her surprise at SDP’s questions because “Kinara wenu, Mwandawiro” had met with the other party leaders to talk about the process of inviting other parties into the alliance. The committee member who had cut me short now said that we had apportioned ONLY ONE HOUR for this meeting “because some of us are very busy and have other engagements after this".
My reaction to this naked attempt to trivialize what I was saying and ultimately silence and shut me down was to announce that I was retracting my questions.
I said I would be writing a formal report to SDP that had sent me to that meeting.
I further said that SDP was driven by certain principles which led it to join the alliance.
I said that our party did NOT believe that our alleged “common enemy” was ODM or even Raila Odinga. I said that our party shunned and spurned the cult of personality and I asked what difference, therefore, Hoja Alliance had with the G7, whose sole binding glue was hatred of Raila and opposition to ODM.
I further added that “Kinara wa chama chetu ni Kamati Kuu; sio Katibu Mkuu; sio Mwenye Kiti ama mtu yoyote binafsi.”
The SDP, I explained, believed in COLLECTIVE LEADERSHIP; our party unlike many other Kenyan ones, was not “owned” by a single individual.
When I came to that meeting I said, I came as PART OF THE LEADERSHIP of SDP.
1. SDP should endorse PDU as a member of the Hoja Alliance because it is already a fait accompli, decisions having been previously made elsewhere. We were just there to rubber stamp this decision. As proof of that, even before we met PDU a ceremony had already been confirmed and organized for Sunday, June 24, 2012 to officially induct PDU into the Hoja Alliance! This is a BIG JOKE comrades.
2. This vetting committee should be officially baptized the H.R.C- in other words, the Hoja Rubber Stamp Committee.
3. SDP should pick someone other than Onyango Oloo to attend these so called “vetting meetings.” I cannot participate in such charades. My conscience troubles me.
4. At the next Hoja Oversight Committee meeting, SDP should open up for discussion the question of WHO is OUR COMMON ENEMY. I always assumed it was Imperialism and the local neo-colonial bourgeoisie as a STRATUM across their many feuding factions and fractions- PNU, TNA, ODM URP, UDF etc.
Report compiled by:
Secretary for Ideology
Social Democratic Party of Kenya
Saturday, June 23, 2012
One could cite further examples, but the above will suffice for now.
In summary here are the main reasons why I believe the SDP days in the Hoja Alliance are numbered:
1. Looking at events unfolding over the last two weeks, it is evident that the Hoja Alliance is geared to be an appendage of the G-7 grouping of tribalists, throwbacks to the dark days of the KANU dictatorship and bastion of the forces of impunity. The Social Democratic Party will not be party to such conservative regroupings.
2. Collectively, the Hoja Alliance has completely disregarded its terms of engagement. That is why the SDP feels no twinge in our conscience in terms of sharing this issue in the public domain.
3. We have lost a lot of time, putting our ideological reputation and historical credibility on the line expending our energy on an alliance built on deception. It is time better spent on building the Social Democratic Party.
4. We abhor and detest the bankrupt underpinnings of some politicians whose sole raison d’être is the axe they have to grind against this or that personality, this or that ethnic group, this or that region- yet the full meaning of the Hoja Alliance is a coming together based on principle, ideology and issues affecting the Kenyan wananchi.
We have not yet exited from the Hoja Alliance.
We await the deliberations and outcomes of the upcoming Hoja Oversight Committee meeting which was scheduled to take place on Monday, August 13, 2012 but has UNSURPRISINGLY been postponed yet again.