Defections bolster Moi’s poll chances


Up to 30 deaths mark first Kenyan multi-party election


Mark Huband in Nairobi

The Guardian, 28 December 1992


OPPOSITION defections to Kenya’s ruling party have reduced further the chances of President Daniel arap Moi’s regime being ousted at the country’s first multiparty elections tomorrow.

Sixteen candidates for parliamentary and local council seats in three provinces deserted the three main opposition parties at the weekend. The opposition has said that Mr Moi’s ruling Kenya African National Union (Kanu), in power since 1963, has paid up to £10,000 to opposition candidates to encourage them to rejoin Kanu or stand down.

The steady stream of defections has come amid numerous instances of intimidation, violence in which up to 30 people have been killed and the alleged kidnapping of a candidate. They have been strongly criticised by election observers from the Commonwealth observer group monitoring the election.

The number of defectors now matches the average margin of victory that pollsters expect Kanu to achieve. The Kenyan magazine Weekly Review predicted last week that Kanu would take 77 of the 188 parliamentary seats, with results in 38 seats being too close to predict. A poll by the United States embassy in Nairobi has given Kanu between 95 and 105 seats.

Kanu’s electoral chances improved after the country’s original pro-democracy movement, the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (Ford), split into two factions.

Ford-Kenya (Ford-K), led by the veteran opposition leader and former vice-president, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, and Ford-Asili (Ford-A), led by an ex-cabinet minister, Kenneth Matiba, are both regarded as having allowed their own determination to be president to supersede the needs of unity in their efforts to oust Mr Moi.

Their previous union under the Ford banner created an unbeatable political force at several key levels. It united the country’s two largest tribes, Mr Odinga’s Luo and Mr Matiba’s Kikuyu. It created a clear alternative to Kanu when the regime said multi-party democracy was potentially divisive on tribal lines.

A united Ford also impressed Kenya’s foreign aid donors – with the exception of Britain which regarded Ford as having foreign publicity disproportionate to its perceived support. Donors saw it as a viable political force which should be supported to contend with Kanu. About $360 million in foreign aid to Kenya is being frozen by donors who have demanded free and fair elections before balance of payments assistance is resumed.

Tomorrow’s vote is expected to prove many of the trends that Kanu has argued will be bred by multi-party democracy.

According, to the Weekly Review, Mr Odinga will receive 63 per cent of the vote in his Luo tribal homeland of Nyanza. Mr Matiba’s stronghold is in the area of the Kikuyu-dominated Central Province, north of Nairobi, where the poll suggests that he will secure 45 per cent. The rest of Central Province votes will go to the leader of the Kikuyu-dominated Democratic Party (DP), led by the former vice-president, Mwai Kibaki.

Mr Moi will receive most of his votes in the Rift Valley Province, home to his Kalenjin tribe and the Masai. After 14 years as president under the one-party system, he is expected to win up to 60 per cent in what is by far the most populous of the country’s eight provinces. To avoid a second round of voting, a victorious presidential candidate must win at least 25 per cent of votes in five provinces. Only Mr Moi is expected to achieve this.

The Ford split has seriously damaged both its factions and Mr Kibaki is expected to come second to Mr Moi in the presidential election.

Even if Kanu failed to secure a majority of parliamentary seats, amendments to the constitution would allow Mr Moi to appoint a cabinet entirely from his own party.

The DP is more likely to join forces with Kanu than any of the other parties. This would create a government largely resembling those of days before multi-party polls, due to the significant number of DP candidates and supporters who took advantage of the political reform to desert Kanu and form their own party.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited