Kenya: Kibaki Finally Names His Party Today East African Standard (Nairobi)16 September 2007
Posted to the web 15 September 2007Gakuu Mathenge
NairobiPresident Kibaki is today scheduled to go live on radio and television to announce he has picked Party of National Unity as his re-election vehicle.
Sources familiar to the resolve struck by the President’s insiders revealed the rallying call of the umbrella party for Kibaki-friendly parties will be Tuungane pamoja (Let us unite).
The symbol will be, as is the case with its rival ODM-Kenya, the map of Kenya but in the place of the sliced orange in the middle, there will be the shape of the human heart.The President will then head to Western Province for a four-day tour to rally support for his Government.
After months and weeks of keeping the nation guessing, President Kibaki’s team decided on his re-election, eyes turn to Kenyatta International Conference Centre where the President makes the announcement at 3:30 pm.
A Presidential Press Service dispatch to newsrooms in the afternoon invited the Press for a presidential press conference at KICC at 3.30pm.His formal entry into ring completes the charged three-horse race, before the sun sets down on December.
Also on the starting blocks are Lang’ata MP Raila Odinga and Mwingi North MP Mr Kalonzo Musyoka.Delicate balancing actThe entry also bears the promise of the bigger war ahead given that on his side are a constellation of 14 parties, two led by Mr Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Simeon Nyachae, who lost to him in the race to State House in 2002.
He can also count on his predecessor, and opponent in the 1992 and 1997 poll, Mr Daniel arap Moi. He also has former Vice- President Prof George Saitoti, Ford-Kenya chairman Mr Musikari Kombo and the Shirikisho trio – Cabinet ministers Ali Chirau Mwakwere, Moris Dzorro and Suleiman Shakombo – on his side.He also has the support of high profiled ministers who are all in Narc-Kenya, which now, with all its 60-plus national officials, an affiliate of PNU.
But the cocktail comes with its on challenges; particularly because the glue that holds them onto PNU is the confidence among its leaders they could be the President’s running mates They also are staking out for plum Cabinet jobs for their cronies and supporters.
It is a delicate rope the President has to walk in balancing the competing interests without showing disregard for anyone who has crossed to his side.Whereas the last election was fought on the platform of anti-corruption and generational change, which lost, this time the President is packaging himself as a national unifying force.
The announcement ends months of speculation and anxiety among his supporters and theatrics by political parties, which have claimed his allegiance even as he studiously kept aloof.But the President has serious challenges before he can pop the champagne bottles for the second time and final time in less than 12 weeks.
To be President one has to be nominated by a political party that certifies one as a parliamentary and presidential candidate to the Electoral Commission.To get elected, one needs highly motivated, effective, elaborate and well-organised and focused political machinery, usually organised around a political party.To be President one has to bag the majority of the total of presidential votes cast, and at least 25 per cent of votes cast in five of eight provinces.President Kibaki’s re-election campaign kicks off with all the advantages of incumbency, but lacks one crucial ingredient: his own political party that propagates his vision and development record, but which he hopes to name today.If he is re-elected on another umbrella party, the country may be looking forward to another five-year cycle of a presidency that is hostage to party chiefs and regional chieftains that keep on exacting their pound of flesh at the slightest excuse.
Kibaki has scored wellThe administration enjoys a fair score. An impressive economic turn around from negative growth rates in 2003 to above six per cent, unprecedented tax collection levels, free primary education, salary increases for civil servants, improved health care and a revamped Kenya Medical Supplies Agency replacing predators of Mafya House as late former Health minister, Mr Joshua Angatia once said.Rural electrification has been fast tracked and made more accessible by low income earners, road construction budget more than tripled until the local capacity got chocked by the volume of construction, not to mention the refurbished and re-energised civil service that has won the country two global awards.President Kibaki acknowledges not everyone sees things his way. There exists a significant section of the populace that thinks his time to go home is long overdue.Last weekend during inter-denominational prayers at Uhuru Park, Kibaki acknowledged this reality thus: “Kazi tumefanya, aliye na macho ameona, lakini yule hataki hatuwezi kumulazimisha ” (We have achieved a lot, but we cannot force those who chose not to see to acknowledge the achievements)Kibaki often reminds his audiences that it is their taxes that have driven what his Government has done. Those supporting his bid for a second term are urging him to take charge of his campaign and sell his achievements to the voters directly.Though some say this self-effacement disguises a thick skin that has weathered many a political storm, his hands-off style, allowing his ministers and sidekicks too much room, has been cited as the reason his achievements have not translated into political goodwill and support.
Unflattering appraisalFor instance, last weekend, the President had to endure an unflattering appraisal from youthful Wajir West MP, Mr Ahmed Khalif, who accused him of “betraying” the people of Wajir West even after they voted for Narc. He claimed he instead rewarded Kanu opponents who voted against him.”You have no votes here in Wajir, your Excellency,” Khalif told the President, amid applause from the crowd. Khalif’s father, former Labour minister, the late Ahmed Khalif, who died in the Busia plane crash in 2003, was the only MP elected on a Narc ticket in 2002.Although Khalif’s language did not go down well with some of those present feeling it was unnecessarily caustic. But that part of the crowd applauded means his message resonated.It was an indication the President’s men on the ground, were not with the people. This is why we are saying all candidates must be subjected to nomination to test their popularity. We should not take the risk of direct nominations,” said Kiunjuri.Regional Development Assistant minister, Mr Ali Wario, who is also the an influential voice among the pastoralists had similar sentiments:”There is an urgent need to harmonise the presidential campaign and the various groups involved,” he said.The Bura MP and chair of the Parliamentary Pastoralist Group, said although Kibaki’s administration had achieved much, the message was being lost in the cacophony of voices coming from his corner.North Eastern Province has indicated it may take much more than goodies to win a second term.The President has visited North Eastern three times in the last five years, has warmed up to a region that voted against him almost to the last man in 2002, appointed Wajir Central MP Mr Mahmud Mohamed (Kanu) Cabinet minister, and several MPs from the region appointed assistant ministers besides doling out other top civil service jobs.No counter propagandaPresident Kibaki has spoilt a few other regions with more and high profile goodies than the NEP.Prior to his visit last week, the President had just granted the region seven new districts, elevating nearly every constituency to a district, raising NEP districts from four to 11 last June.Last week, the Head of State converted Wajir Military Airport, built by Israeli’ and Americans in the 1970s into a commercial civilian airport. It is expected to greatly market livestock products and civilian transport.Despite all these and many more, the region seems reluctant to welcome Kibaki and his Government, and the mood seems to have changed little since the 2005 Referendum when NEP overwhelmingly voted against the proposed Constitution, which the Government supported.Asked why the region seemed hostile, a retired senior civil servant and one of the aspiring parliamentary candidates for Dujis, Mr Ali Korane says the Government has neglected to counter a five-year opposition propaganda that has painted the Government in extreme ethnic colours.”The administration was also painted as anti-Islam during the referendum campaigns and this has been allowed to stick. There has never been an attempt to counter this projection,” he says.The hard face of Internal Security minister, Mr John Michuki, has also not helped, a region long used to dealing with the OP for prompt resolution of all manner of situations.”The current Office of the President, tends to scare people away than inspire a sense of protection. OP has historically been the centre of Government, acting as the enforcement arm. This is no longer the case,” said Korane.The politics of the region are personality and clan based, and Korane feels civil service and technocrats alone cannot mobilise political support.He called on the president and his handlers to consult local leaders before taking decisions.
No one in-charge of campaign
Discordant voices coming from the President’s corner have also had the effect of confusing supporters as to who is in charge of his re-election campaign. A proliferation of freelance initiatives claiming the presidential re-election campaign mandate have cropped up, but some of whom have been accused of alienating the President from his supporters.Most vilified has been the three-tier structure that comprises Advisory Council as the apex, a Presidential Elections Board -comprising parastatal technocrats in the middle – and a secretariat at the bottom comprising professional foot soldiers.The group was crafted by a closely-knit group of long time allies of the President, whom politicians have accused of shielding the Head of State.”For a long time this group has sidelined politicians and political parties. We are telling them a president is put in office by voters and only politicians know where the voters are,” said a politician.”Kibaki needs to take charge of his campaign. There are too many centres of power and one does not know whom to deal with,” said Bomet MP, Mr Nick Salat, who was among MPs from Rift Valley who pledged support for Kibaki’s re-election last week.Besides dispelling the notion he is a prisoner of any clique, class or interest groups, Kibaki has to pacify political parties who are also fighting for space in his court.Democratic Party Secretary General, Mr George Nyamweya, complained that Narc-Kenya was making impossible demands that it would only join the grand coalition umbrella party only if DP was kept out.Nevertheless, DP was not invited to the Naivasha meeting last week that brought together Ford-Kenya, Kanu, Ford-People and Narc-Kenya leaders to discuss the Kibaki re-election coalition.Narc-Kenya views DP as a nuisance waiting in the wings to harvest from anticipated falling out after the nominations.The entry of Mr Uhuru Kenyatta and his Kanu brigade, who have said fielding parliamentary and civic candidates in all constituencies and wards was not negotiable, complicates things further for Narc-Kenya, a party that is still struggling to shed the image of being in the stranglehold of sitting MPs.