Poll row may split Kenyan opposition


Mark Huband in Nairobi

The Guardian, 1 August 1992

Kenya’s main opposition party could split within weeks because of differences between factions led by the four men seeking the party’s presidential nomination.

A senior party activist, Paul Muite, yesterday predicted that the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (Ford) will split and may lose the elections, scheduled to be held before March 1993, to President Daniel arap Moi’s ruling Kenya African National Union (Kanu), which has run the country as a one-party state since 1964.

Ford led the campaign against one-party rule as a pressure group before becoming a political party seven months ago. Its factional strife has intensified in the past week over the issue of procedures to nominate a presidential candidate at a delegate conference on August 22. The election process was due to start today.

Two factions led by the presidential aspirants Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Kenneth Matiba have insisted on different procedures. Mr Odinga wants delegates to choose the candidate while Mr Matiba wants a ballot of all party members.

Mr Muite, who is on the party’s national steering committee and is an ally of Mr Odinga, said that a split was inevitable. “I don’t think the marriage is likely to last much longer.” He said he would prefer to see a split while there was still time to repair the damage, because Mr Moi would be likely to call an election as soon as he felt Ford had wrecked its electoral prospects.

Mr Matiba is considered to stand a better chance of receiving the presidential nomination in a direct ballot. His faction, which includes Ford’s general­secretary and third presidential aspirant, Martin Shikuku, this week announced the indefinite postponement of the elections.

Mr Odinga subsequently announced the elections would go ahead next week, while the fourth presidential aspirant, Masinde Muliro, said they should be postponed for a week.

Ford activists   are   worried that if Mr Matiba, a member of the Kikuyu tribe, is nominated, Mr Odinga’s Luo tribe will vote for President Moi as they will regard Mr Matiba as having usurped their candidate.

Many tribes fear a Kikuyu president after the 14-year rule of Kenya’s Kikuyu founding leader, Jomo Kenyatta.

If neither Mr Shikuku nor Mr Muliro, both from the Luhya tribe, gets the Ford nomination, then it is possible the Luhya will also vote for Kanu rather than support a Kikuyu, practically assuring Mr Moi another term.

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