Kenya: Massive election defeat for Arap Moi

The December 27th General election in Kenya resulted in a massive defeat of the Kenya African National Union (KANU) and the rise to power of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) which brought together sixteen opposition parties. The defeat of KANU was historic because it brought to an end 39 years of KANU’s iron grip on power while it also marked the end of 24 years of dictatorship by the 78 year-old Daniel Toroitich arap Moi.

Mwai Kibaki, NARC’s 71 year-old Presidential candidate who had also held the position of vice president and Minister for Finance for 10 years in former Dictator Moi’s regime before he was sacked by Moi, won the Presidential vote by over 3.5 million votes (64%) out of the 5.7 million votes cast.His closest rival, Uhuru Kenyatta named by Moi as his preferred successor, polled just over 1.7 million votes (31%).

At a Parliamentary level, NARC got a clear majority by capturing 126 seats (61%) as compared to KANU which assumed the role of the official opposition after capturing only 60 seats (29%). What this means is that NARC does not need a coalition government because it has a comfortable majority to rule and to pass legislation in Parliament. Other parties that captured seats were Ford-People (14 seats) and Safina (2 seats).

A new phenomena was that both Mwandawiro Mghanga and Koigi wa Wamwere were elected into parliament. Both have been in exile and been connected to left wing politics. Mwandawiro Mghanga, who lived in exile in Sweden, was elected MP for the coastal province Wundanyi. Koigi wa Wamwere, who was forced to live as a refugee in Norway after Moi’s witchhunt on left activists in the 1980s, won in Subukia. Wamwere was elected on a NARC ticket and the two could be critical voices in parliament.

Split in KANU

The massive defeat of KANU was largely due to a last minute strategic mistake by the octogenarian Moi who attempted to impose an un-sellable Presidential candidate on KANU thereby splitting the party down the middle. After the 1997 General election, the National Development Party (NDP) made a pact with Moi’s KANU. This included a secret agreement that at the 2002 elections, Mr. Raila Odinga, the then leader of NDP, would become KANU’s Presidential candidate and help the party retain power.

This agreement was based on cynical "ethnic arithmetic" that could have seen Mr. Raila Odinga bring to KANU more than one million votes from his Luo community from where the NDP drew its support. As soon as this agreement was sealed on March 18 last year, the NDP dissolved itself and merged with KANU as election campaigns also got underway. This merger followed the appointment of Raila Odinga and other NDP Parliamentarians to the Cabinet. This was a move that heralded the birth of what was seen as the first "Coalition government" in Kenya.

Last year, as pressure mounted on Moi to name his preferred successor in the run up to the elections, the Dictator committed an expensive mistake that cost the party the elections on December 27. The dictator dumped Raila for President and settled for the inexperienced Uhuru Kenyatta, the youthful son of Kenya’s first Dictator Jomo Kenyatta who died in 1978. The major reason why Moi failed to keep his promise to Raila was because Moi was scouting for a puppet who could safeguard the political and economic interests of the Kalenjin ruling class that also formed the core of Moi’s kitchen Cabinet.

Behind the scenes

This arrangement could also have enabled Moi to surreptitiously continue pulling the political strings from his base in retirement where he could have retained the power to sack the President by simply expelling him from KANU. For Moi, Raila’s independence did not match the profile of a puppet while the former detainee’s massive following of more than one million voters from Luo, gave him ultimate authority to make political bargains from a stronger position. This compared to the weaker Uhuru Kenyatta who was rejected by his own constituents at Gatundu in Central province during the 1997 Parliamentary elections.

After Moi ditched Raila, the former detainee quickly organised a rebellion within KANU to defeat what became known as Moi’s "Project Uhuru". The consequence of this rebellion is that Raila eventually resigned from his Ministerial position together with other long standing boot-lickers of the dictator like former Vice President George Saitoti and KANU’s former Secretary General Joseph Kamotho to form the "Rainbow Alliance".

The birth of Rainbow triggered a series of alignments to the Alliance by KANU stalwarts as the party began to crack. As a crisis of sorts brewed within KANU, members of the Rainbow Alliance quit KANU and joined the nascent National Alliance of Kenya (NAK). It is the new fusion between NAK and the Rainbow Alliance that created the National Rainbow Coalition that dislodged KANU from power.

After the elections, the big problem facing the 30 million Kenyans is a crisis of expectation from the NARC government which has promised free primary education, the creation of 500,000 jobs, eradication of corruption, an end to embezzlement of public funds, eradictation of tribalism among other hefty promises.

In the hands of the West

While NARC does have the characteristics of a populist movement which supposedly stands for social reform, the background of many of its leading lights shows that the leadership is pro-capitalist.

In the circumstances of dire poverty and unemployment the Kibaki administration will not be able to deliver on all of its grand promises on a capitalist basis. Delivering half a million jobs will not be possible because the country’s major wealth generating institutions are in the hands of Western multinational companies. The promise of half a million jobs is further dampened by the fact that 11 million able-bodied Kenyans are out of work in a country where half a million people enter the job market every year. The rhetoric about eliminating corruption in high office will soon evaporate because corruption is part of the capitalist system of government which Kibaki has inherited.

During NARC election campaigns, the party systematically avoided putting forward solutions to key problems facing Kenya namely landlessness of millions of Kenyans, rising poverty, class differentiation, privatisation of profitable State enterprises by the Moi dictatorship, starvation wages which has ravaged over 6 million workers in the country, collapsed health care and education system together with collapsed social services.

Likewise, NARC did not address the critical issue of the domination of the country’s economy by multi national companies together with persistent intervention of IMF and World Bank in the country’s economic and political affairs. There was no word about the reduction of MPs salaries of half a million Kenyan shillings, the re-instatement of thousands of retrenched civil servants and other workers under the IMF/World Bank programmes together with measures to curb external dependencies and internal exploitation of Kenya’s massive human and natural resources.

Instead, Raila Odinga, a leading light of NARC, went out of his way to promise that a NARC government will continue with the privatisation of state enterprises while Kibaki, the new President, said that his government was interested in working with IMF and World Bank. He appealed to the two imperialist institutions to resume aid to Kenya.

Same neoliberalism

From the Kenyan elections, what is clear is that the Kenyan bourgeoisie has come to power after dislodging another bourgeoisie party. The Kibaki administration will continue with the politics of liberalisation that in reality, does not provide solutions to the crisis facing the country. With a NARC government, the biggest progress could be the opening of a "democratic space" in Kenya where socialists (who were banned by Moi) can emerge with a clear revolutionary programme that can effectively address the crisis of capitalism in Kenya.

Only a fundamental struggle for socialist change where economic power is transferred into the hands of Kenyan workers and poor peasants lay the basis for changing the poverty filled existence of the country’s population.

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January 2003