Hopes for Kenya opposition fall as split widens



Mark Huband in Nairobi

The Guardian, 14 August 1992

The split in Kenya’s main opposition party’ has widened with an attempt by one faction to dismiss the party chairman after a division on how the presidential candidate should be selected.

The Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (Ford) now appears so divided that President Daniel arap Mol’s ruling Kenya African National Union (Kanu) is expected to call a snap election long before the March 1993 deadline.

Ford’s chairman, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, was dismissed on Tuesday by a faction led by a rival presidential aspirant, Martin Shikuku. Mr Odinga ridiculed his dismissal and announced the establishment of a committee, largely comprising his supporters, to run the party’s day-to-day election preparations.

Mr Shikuku, who is operating an increasingly shaky alliance with a third presidential aspirant, Kenneth Matiba, is Ford’s secretary-general. He and Mr Matiba have insisted that the election procedure, which will decide who fights Mr Moi for the presidency, should be by a secret ballot of all party members. Mr Odinga and his allies say the party does not have sufficient funds and that the presidential candidate should be selected by a conference of party delegates.

In constituencies where Mr Odinga’s Luo tribe are in the majority, the balloting for delegates has been underway for two weeks and will be completed by August 18. This is a strong sign of how deeply the party is divided. In areas dominated by Mr Matiba’s Kikuyu tribe, the balloting has been more scanty, signalling acceptance of Mr Matiba’s view that a direct ballot is the only democratic way to elect a candidate.

The establishment of a committee to oversee the running of the party was announced by a close Odinga ally, Paul Muite, a Nairobi lawyer. The committee includes the fourth Ford presidential aspirant, Masinde Muliro. Mr Muliro’s move towards the Odinga camp is being seen as a blow to the Matiba-Shikuku alliance.

While Mr Matiba’s securing of a large Kikuyu vote gives him a power base in Kenya’s largest tribe, he is now isolated. Few other tribes wish to see a Kikuyu president. Mr Shikuku is not seen as having a substantial tribal power base and relies for popularity on his claim to be champion of the poor.


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