The change of the West’s policy towards Kenya also witnessed a change in the political group that they supported in Kenya’s political struggles.
Not common during the Cold War period, the USA and her Western allies were now sympathetic to the cause of those who were advocating for multiparty system in the country. Not only did they support the regime’s critics, but they themselves turned out to be the government’s critics.
As the USA ambassador Smith Hempstone was calling for political reforms some of the discontented Kenyan politicians (as discussed above) were challenging KANU’s monopoly of power.
The most important political organization that threatened the government and so the Rift Valley politicians who were strong KANU supporters was FORD.
This political organization was seen as a coalition of the Luo, Kikuyu and to some extent, the Luyias. This situation was reminiscent of the ethnic coalition in KANU and KADU during the eve and immediately after independence.
After KANU lost support of the donor countries in internal political struggles following the end of the Cold War, some Kalenjin politicians from Rift Valley began to advocate for Majimboism – a federal system of government.
They feared that the donor community might apply pressure to Kenya to introduce multiparty politics and that KANU under President Moi may lose power to FORD.
To be able to protect their ethnic interests, Majimbo system was seen as a political shield. The Majimbo debate was started by Dr. J. Misoi a KANU politician from Rift Valley who declared that it (Majimbo) was no longer a dream. This sentiment was picked up by a number of Rift Valley politicians. There were reports that members of parliament and other politicians from six districts in Rift Valley had drafted a constitution for a Majimbo system of government. They intended to take it to parliament when the House resumed after a two months recess.
These reports were confirmed at a public meeting at the Kipchoge Keino stadium at Kapsabet Town Nandi District on 7 September 1991. The meeting was convened by the Nandi KANU branch chairman, Mr. Henry Kosgey. The politicians, who attended the meeting, comprised twelve MPs and about 50 councillors from Nandi, Kericho, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Uashin Gishu and Nakuru Districts. Providing the leadership was the Minister for Cooperative Development and MP for Aldai, Mr. John Cheruiyot, the Minister for Public Works, Mr. Timothy Mibei (Buret), an Assistant Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Kipkalya Kones (Bomet) and Mr. Paul Chepkok (Kerio Central). Mr. Kones set the mood of the meeting with his announcement that Mr. Chepkok would table the Majimbo Constitution and would get support from MPs from Rift Valley Province and elsewhere in the country in a bid to silence multiparty advocates who were against the Government of President Moi.
Regarding the Majimbo issue, Mr. Kones asked the Government to employ more Permanent Secretaries and District Commissioners from ethnic communities in the Rift Valley. The same communities should provide personnel in the Ministry of Lands and Housing in order to save their land from being grabbed by outsiders.
Mr. W. Kamuren, one of the attendants, said that Kalenjins were not tribalistic but only rejected people bent on causing chaos. He told Government critics to move out of Kalenjin land. He said “Let them keep quiet or else we are ready for introduction of Majimboism whereby every person will be required to go back to his motherland.” In reaction, the MP for Molo Mr. John N. Mungai accused the Rift Valley MPs of engaging in a conspiracy to rob the Kikuyu community of their land.
Debates on the issue quickly picked up, highlighting sharp divisions even among pro-establishment figures, but stopped when President Moi rejected the suggestion. Regarding multiparty politics, the President argued that it would divide the country along ethnic lines.
In service of this self-fulfilling prophecy, highly inflammatory speeches were made by senior government and party officials in stage-managed meetings, urging the various resident “foreign communities” not to abuse the hospitality of the indigenous communities and suggesting that the latter might have to defend themselves. The result of these inciting statements was ethnic clashes in Rift Valley where the perceived “foreign communities”, the Kikuyu became the victims.
The Political Struggles within the Opposition
Let us now discuss political conflicts within the opposition after the reintroduction of multiparty political system in 1991. Barely two days after KANU voted to restore multiparty politics, a sharp rift emerged in the opposition, with FORD, splitting into two groups, one led by Oginga Odinga and Paul Muite and another by Martin Shikuku.
On 5 December 1991, the two opposing groups addressed two separate press conferences at the press centre at Chester House, Nairobi. Mr.Oginga Odinga denounced the Shikuku group as ‘self-seekers’ who do not believe in the democratic process. Although the wrangle began on personal ambitions it soon assumed an ethnic dimension.
The wrangle within FORD intensified with the coming back of Kenneth Matiba and his declaration that he would contest for presidency on a FORD ticket. This intention directly conflicted with Oginga Odinga’s intention of vying for the same seat on the same ticket. To this effect, ethnic claims to leadership became more important than Kenya’s struggle for greater democratization. The Luo-Kikuyu feud during Kenyatta era became imminent again.
The Luos in FORD, who rallied behind Oginga Odinga, thought that this was their chance to offer a president. Their Kikuyu counterparts believed that the forthcoming multiparty general elections would provide a chance to return the leadership of Kenya back to the House of Mumbi.
As the wrangle continued, on 11 August 1992, the Matiba-Shikuku (Matiba had joined the Shikuku faction based at Muthithi House) faction of FORD suspended Oginga Odinga as interim Chairman and declared him as an ambitious dictator. Mr. George Nthenge, the party’s Treasurer, was confirmed acting Chairman.
In a tit-for-tat move, Oginga Odinga, who was earlier on suspended by the Matiba-Shikuku faction as FORD interim Chairman, on 12 August 1992, sacked his fellow founder members and replaced them with a caretaker committee to run FORD. Mr. Odinga said in a statement that founder members Martin Shikuku, George Nthenge, Phillip Gachoka and Ahmed Bamahriz had abdicated their duties in the party. To this end, they were nolonger useful in the party’s leadership.
These wrangles were accompanied by political campaigns to win support from different ethnic groups. Mr. Raila Odinga sparked off the move by saying “no” to another Kikuyu president. In what appears to be a response to Mr. Raila’s remarks a FORD activist, George Nyanja on 27 August 1992, addressed a series of meetings in Kikuyu division exhorting the Kikuyu and Kenyans in general to reject a Luo president. Mr. Nyanja, who supported Mr. Kenneth Matiba’s presidency, denounced FORD interim Chairman Oginga Odinga calling him a traitor and uncircumcised person who cannot lead the Kikuyus and Kenyans in general.
In the ensuing struggles within FORD, in August 1992, Odinga and Matiba consented to the registration of two FORD political parties under their respective leadership, that is, FORD-Kenya (FORD-K) under Oginga Odinga and FORD-Asili (FORD-A) under Kenneth Matiba.
The 1992 General Elections
The re-introduction of multiparty politics in Kenya meant that a general election had to be held to determine which party was to form the next government. By the time the parliament was dissolved in October 28 1992, a number of political parties had positioned themselves for the forthcoming general election that was first scheduled to be held on December 7. The Electoral Commission of Kenya then postponed it to December 29.
These parties were: KANU with President Moi as its presidential candidate; FORD-Asili under Kenneth Matiba; FORD-Kenya under Oginga Odinga; Kenya Social Congress (KSC) under George Anyona; Kenya National Congress (KNC) under Chibule wa Tsuma; Party of Independent Candidate of Kenya (PICK) under Harun Mwau; Kenya National Democratic Alliance (KENDA) under Mukaru Ng’ang’a and Social Democratic Party (SDP) which did not sponsor any presidential candidate. These competing political parties, therefore, embarked on a strategy of selling their political programmes to the electorate.
To say most of the political parties in Kenya just before the 1992 general elections were based on tribal sentiments is a tenable argument. Let us take the “big four” – KANU, FORD-A, FORD-K and DP – as examples. Each of them had tacitly allotted itself some geographical regions that its members often referred to as “our zone.” It was not by coincidence that the predominant ethnic group in those zones had their tribesmen at the higher echelons of the respective parties.
Where the Kikuyu are dominant, the DP and FORD-A had strong backing there for the simple reason that the two parties were led by Kikuyu – Mr. Mwai Kibaki and Kenneth Matiba respectively; where the Luos are dominant FORD-K had the strongest support since its chairman Mr. Odinga is a Luo. Tribes that had no leaders in any of the opposition parties chose to stick with KANU and form alliances with the Kalenjin. These other political parties tried to woe them during the political campaigns.
In that way, Luoland gave Mr. Odinga about 90% of its votes, Kikuyus distributed 96% of their votes between Matiba and Mwai Kibaki while the Kalenjins gave President Moi about 90% of their vote. With the candidates having formed a base with votes from their own tribes they recorded varying performances among other communities in different parts of the country.
The registration of the two FORDs and the continued independence of the Democratic Party paved the way for a KANU electoral victory in December that returned Moi firmly to power with only a 36% plurality of the vote. Though they outpolled KANU almost two to one, the opposition parties and their supporters split three ways.
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Diamond, L. ‘Promoting Democracy in Africa: US and International Politics in Transition,’ in J. Harbeson and D. Rothchild (eds). Africa in World Politics: Post-Cold War Challenges. Boulder: Westview Press, 1995.
Throup, D. and C. Hornsby. Multiparty Politics in Kenya. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.