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TV47 clinches award for best coverage of ODM expulsions story

A decision by a political party to delete from its register some of its elected and nominated leaders makes a big story.

So, it was that on September 6, the Orange Democratic Movement expelled Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda and MPs Caroli Omondi (Suba South), Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem) and Felix Odiwuor, alias Jalang’o (Langata).

In endorsing recommendations of the party’s Disciplinary Committee chaired by University of Nairobi’s law professor Ben Sihanya Wuod Awuor Nyar Orera k’Ojow (for that’s his full name and sobriquet), ODM’s National Executive Committee also expelled four members of county assembly MCAs it had nominated to Kisumu: Caroline Opar, Kennedy Ajwang’, Peter Obaso, and Regina Kizito.

ODM chairman John Mbadi announced that MPs Mark Nyamita (Uriri) and Paul Abuor (Rongo) should each offer a written apology to the party and pay a Sh1 million fine within 60 days. Why did the duo escape expulsion? Mbadi offered that they appeared before the Disciplinary Committee in person and explained themselves. What of Nairobi Woman Rep Esther Passaris? ODM ordered her to pay a fine of Sh250,000 for defying the party and voting in support of the Finance Act, 2023.

In a matter as weighty as this, one would have expected all media reports to be complete in explaining the circumstances surrounding the expulsions, the laws and regulations used in arriving at the decision, and what lies ahead for the affected MPs and MCAs.

What wrong did they commit? Against what provisions of the ODM constitution and regulations had they run afoul? What legal powers did the party organs use to mete out the diverse levels of punishment on the members? Where do the punished politicians go from here? In short, the stories demanded deep beginnings and contextualised endings with no iota of embellishment to enhance the consumers’ unbiased understanding of the issue.

The media should be toasted for covering the ODM MPs’ expulsions story in a timely manner, with some broadcast stations relaying it live and – almost instantaneously – harvesting reactions from some of the affected politicians.

For example, KTN reporter Chris Thairu said those who were expelled were “accused of dinning with the enemy,” and– helpfully – indicated that the affected members had the recourse of appealing to the Registrar of Political Parties at the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal.

The Standard named the affected politicians, reported that the lawmakers were expelled over allegations of gross misconduct, quoted Mbadi as relaying the decision of the party’s NEC, and ended the story there in a manner to suggest that the matter was closed.

Under the title, ‘ODM expels 4 MPs and a Senator’, Citizen TV’s Stephen Letoo quoted “party stalwarts” as saying the expelled legislators had chosen to work with the rival Kenya Kwanza, complete with a cut-away on the NEC presser. What next for the expelled MPs? He didn’t say.

KBC online said the MPs were expelled “for their dalliance with the ruling Kenya Kwanza administration. Reporter Martin Mwanje added: “The lawmakers in question mounted a strong defence against accusations of gross misconduct when they earlier appeared before the party’s Disciplinary Committee. It would appear their pleas of innocence fell on deaf ears.” The story said nothing about the next steps. Citizen Digital took a similar approach.

Of the media sampled, TV47 did a better job of the assignment. Reporter Apollo Kamau had more. He captured a quote by Prof Ojienda: “My party has today expelled me for working with HE President William Ruto. I have no apology and will continue to work with the President.”

He offered his story the answer to the germane question: What next? Listen to reporter Kamau: “ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna is now expected, as required by law, to write to the Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu, informing her [of] the party’s decision to strike off the names of the MPs from the party register.

“The MPs still have a legal recourse. They can contest the party’s NEC decision at the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal in case the Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu upholds the party’s decision. If the PPDT also upholds the party’s decision, they can move to the High Court and Court of Appeal to exhaust their appeal.”

That wasn’t all. The TV47 reporter signed off his story with a line indicative of an intention of the punishing political party: “The ODM NEC also endorsed the ongoing bipartisan talks where the fidelity of the political parties [sic] is part of the talks’ agenda. Azimio wants Kenya Kwanza to stop raiding its affiliate parties.” This is reporting at its most contextual.

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