Kenya’s high court bars candidates

Ruling party hopefuls suspended amid cries of fraud


Mark Huband in Nairobi

The Guardian, 24 December 1992


KENYA’S high court yesterday suspended the nominations of nine parliamentary candidates from the ruling Kanu party after opposition parties alleged their candidates were prevented by Kanu supporters from handing in nomination papers for the December 29 elections.

The court ruling has temporarily stopped the automatic election of the nine candidates for the Kenya African National Union (Kanu), who were declared unopposed in Kenya’s first multi-party polls for 26 years.

The suspension comes amid growing accusations of widespread fraud and worsening relations with foreign donors after German non-parliamentary election observers were barred from witnessing the poll.

Despite the ruling, the country’s disunited opposition looks set to hand victory back to the ruling regime. Analyses by United States observers suggest both President Daniel arap Moi and the ruling party will secure majorities.

After a detailed analysis of parliamentary seats, Joel Barkan, regional good governance adviser for the US Agency for International Development, believes Kanu will secure between 95 and 105 of the 188 seats.

A Kanu victory is unlikely to be accepted as the result of a fair campaign, among opposition parties or foreign donors, which have frozen $360 million in balance of payments assistance and several million dollars in project finance until a fair election is fought.

Kanu is accused of having used vote-rigging tactics, from the incitement of tribal clashes to alter the demographic landscape, to paying opposition candidates to defect.

State-owned television is accused by foreign observers of largely ignoring the opposition parties, particularly their well-attended rallies. The Kanu-owned national daily newspaper, the Kenya Times, has been blatantly biased in favour of the ruling party.

Throughout the campaign, there have been two sources of reformist pressure on the Moi government – the opposition parties and foreign donor governments. Divisions within the ranks of both have assisted Kanu in its effort to retain power, In an interview yesterday with the Guardian, the vice-president, George Saitoti, was confident of a Kanu victory in both parliamentary and presidential elections. He said the government was prepared to discuss any alleged malpractices.

“One cannot expect that everything will move very very smoothly. These [alleged malpractices] are not deliberate – they are part of experience. But we have done everything to ensure that the elections are free. We know that if they are not free and fair, we will destroy this country. We do not want that,” Professor Saitoti said.

Persistent pressure from foreign governments has strengthened Kanu’s determination to use its expected victory to free itself from the influence of diplomats who have insisted foreign aid be conditional on political pluralism: “This country should move towards a position of self-reliance to ensure that we don’t become the victims of blackmail by the donors. The US embassy here has its own agenda,” Prof Saitoti said.

Tribal migration, mainly by the Kikuyu tribe from the populous Central Province, means the final outcome in several areas cannot be predicted with accuracy. The Rift Valley Province, assumed by many to be a Kanu stronghold, is likely to see only a 33 per cent vote for the government in its 35 constituencies, because the Kikuyu are unlikely to vote for Kanu, the US analysis suggests.

Officials in Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s Ford-Kenya party claim three of their candidates in North-West Province have been paid to defect back to Kanu, which may have planted these candidates in the first place. Telford Georges, chairman of the Commonwealth Observer Group, views these “shameful” defections as “serious malpractices”.

Mr Georges is concerned about President Moi’s objection to a multi-party system: “I have found in speaking to the president that he is not convinced. He believes that multi-partyism will lead to tribal clashes. It’s a genuinely held opinion. He feels that Kenya isn’t ready for it. If he won, it would be a de jure multi-party state but a de facto one-party state.”

© Guardian Newspapers Limited