Violence in Kenya on eve of election

Moi defies ban on last-minute campaigning to deny fraud


Mark Huband in Nairobi

The Guardian, 29 December 1992


VIOLENCE erupted throughout Kenya yesterday and a parliamentary candidate was reported abducted as rival political parties prepared for today’s multi-party elections, the first since the government was forced to lift a 26-year ban on opposition parties.

The opposition Forum for the Restoration of Kenya (Ford)- Asili of Kenneth Matiba said last night that Apili Sifuna Mwaomba, its candidate in the western constituency of Lugari, had been kidnapped by members of a youth group of the ruling Kenya African National Union (Kanu).

Supporters of the rival opposition Ford-Kenya party (Ford-K) of Oginga Odinga, set fire to a bus in the western town of Homa Bay and fought street battles with Kanu members. At the weekend, a government minister was forced to flee on foot after Ford-K supporters attacked his convoy. Kanu supporters attacked a candidate from the opposition Democratic Party (DP), while DP supporters were reported to have attacked four policemen with swords in the western district of Kisii.

President Daniel arap Moi yesterday ignored a ban on election-eve campaigning by addressing rallies in the opposition stronghold of Central Province. He derided critics who claim the elections have been rigged. Nine opposition parties abided by the electoral commission ruling of no campaigning the day before the poll.

Mr Moi, president since 1978, told supporters: “In everything there is a right way and a wrong way. In this election unity, integrity and stability and progress are the right way. I am the only one capable of assuring that.” Eleven people were charged for stoning the presidential motorcade and Mr Moi has urged police to take firmer action.

All lorries have been banned from the roads today in an effort to halt voters being taken to different constituencies to vote more than once. Irregularities, ranging from intimidation of candidates to the alleged incitement of tribal clashes by Kanu to depopulate or disperse opposition strongholds, have raised increasing concern among foreign election observers.

Eight opposition parties are vying for power, though only three stand any chance of success. Along with Ford-K and Mwai Kibaki’s DP, Ford-Asili has split the opposition vote. The electorate will vote along tribal lines, allowing Kanu to add to its 18 unopposed seats, notably in areas where opposition candidates were most seriously intimidated and prevented from registering.

Mr Moi is expected by most observers, including critics, to win the presidential election. He must win at least 25 per cent of the vote in five of the country’s eight provinces. He is generally expected to secure up to 35 per cent of the overall vote.

Predictions for the outcome of the parliamentary elections vary, though Kanu is expected to be the largest party. There is a possibility of a coalition, but the potential for a crisis also exists if the opposition controls parliament while Mr Moi becomes president. By law the president can nominate 12 MPs and may appoint a cabinet entirely from his own party, even if he does not have a majority.

While Mr Moi has insisted there have been no electoral malpractices, the vice-president, George Saitoti, said he would investigate any complaints, thereby acknowledging that the campaign had not been without its shortcomings.

There is mounting concern among foreign observers over what to do if they decide the outcome is fraudulent. The United States embassy in Nairobi, which has been strongly critical of the government, has said that intimidation and shortcomings of the nomination procedure mean a fair election is impossible.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited