Cries of foul as defectors join Moi


Mark Huband in Nairobi

The Guardian, 16 March 1993

MOVES by Kenya’s ruling party to destabilise the opposition by allegedly offering money to defectors have exposed its failure to secure popular support outside its tribal strongholds, and threaten to halt the reform process.

President Daniel Arap Moi’s Kenya African National Union (Kanu), which in December secured a majority in the first multiparty elections since 1963, is accused by at least two opposition MPs of offering potential defectors up to £76,000 to join it and force by-elections.

So far, Protus Momanyi of the Democratic Party (DP) and Charles Owino of Ford-Kenya (Ford-K), have joined Kanu, though neither has admitted receiving money. Opposition councillors in several opposition strongholds have also defected, most dramatically in the Murang’a district of the leader of Ford-Asili (Ford-A), Kenneth Matiba. There the Ford-A mayor and deputy mayor joined Kanu.

Although Kanu already has 112 of the 200 parliamentary seats, including 12 non-elected MPs nominated by the president, the government is clearly determined to secure seats, particularly in areas dominated by the two largest tribes, the Kikuyu and Luo. The election left Kanu without significant representation in these areas, which has created a dangerous sense of isolation. There is little obvious government attempt to appease the two tribes.

Last year, political parties dominated by these tribes united, then split, leaving the field open for a Kanu victory. Since the election, Ford-K’s attempts to maintain Kikuyu-Luo unity have come under strain. This unity is symbolised in the party leadership of the Luo chairman, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, and the Kikuyu first vice-chairman, Paul Muite.

Now Kanu’s pressure to defect, coupled with recriminations over who was responsible for Ford-K’s defeat, are likely to force a rethink of the leadership, a senior Ford-K source said.

Kikuyus blame the ageing Mr Odinga for not presenting an impressive presidential candidacy, and are now more likely to identify with Mr Matiba, or the DP leader Mwai Kibaki, both Kikuyu.

Pressure on Mr Odinga to work with Kanu is also mounting among some Luo. The defection of Mr Owino, an MP from the Luo stronghold of Nyanza, was predicted by Ford-K colleagues after he led a group of Luo in arguing that an alliance with the government, rather than with the Kikuyu opposition, would be of greater benefit. Since independence the Luo have never held power, because of Kikuyu dominance under Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta.

Despite Kanu’s parliamentary majority, it secured one million fewer votes than the opposition at the election. The opposition’s isolation from power means large sections of the population, who had high expectations of the election, feel their hopes of taking power democratically have been shattered and their wish for accountable government will remain unmet.

On Saturday the government banned an opposition rally on security grounds. It has been accused of attempting to silence and discredit the opposition by accusing it of inciting violence.

Meanwhile, clashes between the Kikuyu and Mr Moi’s Kalenjin tribe, which last year left hundreds dead and 50,000 people displaced, are being blamed on Kanu by the opposition and foreign diplomats. The clashes, which have continued since the election, allegedly aimed to shift population to Kanu’s electoral advantage.

The government recently introduced sweeping economic reforms, pre-empting criticism of the growing political tension from foreign financial donors, who suspended balance of payments aid worth £130 million 18 months ago to force reform. Economists and diplomats say the reforms are linked to the attempts to consolidate power.


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