Kenyan opposition forms united front


Parties agree to take up seats to fight for new elections

Mark Huband in Nairobi

The Guardian, 5 January 1993


KENYA’s three largest opposition parties succeeded last night in forming a united front to fight President Daniel arap Moi’s victory in last week’s elections and appeared to have overcome earlier disagreements by deciding to take rip parliamentary seats won by opposition candidates.

The Ford-Asili (Ford-A) leader, Kenneth Matiba, last night reversed his earlier rejection of decisions by two other opposition leaders, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga of Ford-Kenya (Ford-K) and Mwai Kibaki of the Democratic Party (DP), and agreed that the three parties should take up their parliamentary seats to fight for fresh elections after jointly rejecting last week’s poll, which they say was rigged.

Final results show the opposition parties won a total of 3.3 million votes in the presidential poll, compared to Mr Moi’s 1.9 million. But Mr Moi, president since 1978, secured the required 25 per cent of votes in five provinces and was sworn in as president yesterday morning after winning the largest single vote.

His ruling Kenya African National Union (Kanu) party secured 94 parliamentary seats, compared with the opposition’s 84, while six seats are being disputed.

Mr Matiba came second in the presidential poll with 1.4 million votes. His party received 30 parliamentary seats, compared with 29 for Ford-K and the DP’s 22.

Mr Kibaki last night read a statement outlining agreements so far reached between the OP, Ford-Kenya (Ford-K) and Ford-Asili (Ford-A). “We have agreed to establish an alliance [of the three opposition parties] which will co-ordinate our activities ensuring that measures are taken to ensure peace, that democratic institutions are strengthened and the law upheld. We shall use all legal and non-violent methods to ensure that fresh elections are held,” he said.

After two days of intense meetings no detailed opposition strategy has yet emerged, although Mr Kibaki hinted that the elections were likely to be contested in the courts. Any further delay will harm the opposition parties’ ability to maintain pressure on Kanu.

Mr Moi’s swearing-in took place at a small ceremony in the Nairobi State House. Previous ceremonies have been highly public occasions which have usually taken place outside.

Mr Matiba’s reversal came after he had met the American ambassador to Kenya, Smith Hempstone. Mr Hempstone, who exerted intense pressure on Kanu to allow a multi-party system, surprised the opposition by accepting the result despite the alleged rigging.

Widespread fraud, for which the opposition has said it will provide evidence, appears to have led to thousands of extra votes being counted in Mr Moi’s Rift Valley stronghold and North-Eastern Province, which gave Kanu the votes it needed to secure its lead.

The opposition’s new-found unity comes after an acrimonious campaign during which they insulted each other as much as they did Mr Moi. However, their ability to preserve their newly formed alliance is uncertain due to the personality clashes among the three party leaders.

If they fail to work together, the significance of the opposition as a viable force could crumble, after a poll which has led to the virtual exclusion from government of Kenya’s two largest tribes – the Kikuyu and the Luo – both of whom are dominant in the opposition parties.

• The US state department has said the elections were marred by serious shortcomings but nonetheless served to advance democratic institutions.

A spokesman said the integrity of the process was compromised by Kanu manipulating organs of the state.


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