By Ben Agina and Joseph Murimi
Crisis loomed for President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (Panu) as three of its key affiliates grappled with hurdles occasioned by the coalition.
Narc-Kenya, Ford-Kenya and DP were on Thursday embroiled in wrangles that threaten to tear the party apart. A Narc-Kenya meeting ended in a deadlock after Cabinet ministers and MPs disagreed on the nomination method of its parliamentary aspirants.
As the NEC meeting went on at Safari Park Hotel, DP secretary general, Mr George Nyamweya, railed at the flower party accusing it of treating DP as an inferior entity.
The two hitches occurred as Ford-Kenya holds a special meeting at Silver Springs Hotel Friday, to decide which coalition to work with and iron out complaints that party chairman, Mr Musikari Kombo, had moved in to back Panu before a consensus was reached.
At the Narc-Kenya meeting, MPs came up with proposals that would be tabled for discussions with leaders of other Panu constituent parties. A key proposal expected to generate resistance is that Narc-Kenya fields candidates across the country. Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, Ms Martha Karua, led the group that proposed that Narc-Kenya fields candidates countrywide.
But other MPs opposed the mode and proposed that the country be zoned to allow Panu affiliates to exclusively field candidates in areas they were popular. The MPs disagreed.
The meeting, attended by nine Cabinet ministers and 14 assistant ministers, was described as ‘heated’ by MPs who spoke later. Sources revealed that Narc-Kenya toyed with three scenarios of nominating candidates, but agreed on none.
The first scenario, as favoured by the President, is that each political party holds its nominations to field candidates in zoned areas, while Kibaki vies under a Panu ticket.
The second scenario favoured by the conservative wing of Cabinet ministers Mutahi Kagwe and Karua, envisioned a situation where all the parties supporting Kibaki would hold joint nominations and whoever wins gets the only ticket under Panu.
In the third scenario, the aspirants were to go for separate nominations and whoever wins runs on their original parties without zoning restriction. Majority MPs said they favoured a situation where all parties competed at common primaries to produce the strongest candidate for Panu. Some are more equal than other.
The meeting saw the leader of Narc-Kenya’s aspirants’ forum, Mr Kimani Ngunjiri, take on the ministers and their assistants, accusing them of treating them as lesser members of the party.
Ngunjiri said Panu should resolve the issue and start campaigning since time was limited. Karua said a clear slogan, symbol and colours of Panu must be identified to avoid confusion during campaigns.
She suggested that a map of Kenya with a circle within which all the colours and symbols of the affiliate parties are contained should be used. Speaking at a different forum, Narc-Kenya chairman, Mr Raphael Tuju, said Panu affiliate parties had not agreed on how to conduct their nominations.
Speaking to journalists after attending the Africa Presidential Peace Conference at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi, Tuju said: “The issue of zoning is someone’s opinion and he is not talking on behalf of Panu.” He said Panu would choose a spokesman. “We will choose our spokesman either today or tomorrow and all statements from the council will be relayed through him,” the Foreign Affairs minister said. But as Tuju spoke, Nyamweya, after attending a DP NEC meeting, said, “We appeal to Narc-Kenya members to tone down their language, be respectful and treat other coalition parties as equals because without it nothing will work out.”
Nyamweya said they were prepared to work with Narc-Kenya in Panu only if they were to be treated as equal partners. Said he, “In a coalition, there is room for debate and one has to be prepared to adjust one’s position if the process is to run smoothly.” It was not clear why Nyamweya decided to shoot straight at his coalition partners, but DP sources said the party NEC had discussed “Narc-Kenya’s arrogance”.
And on Ford-Kenya, a source said, “We met last week and the NEC was sharply divided on who to support come the elections.” The NEC member said they were not against Kibaki’s re-election, but the issue had to be resolved unanimously. Additional reporting by Lucianne Limo, Morton Saulo and Renson Mnyamwezi