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Kenya's Ruling Party Divided Over Choice Of Presidential Candidate - 2002-08-19


Kenya's ruling party, the Kenya National African Union, or KANU, is divided over who will be its nominee for the presidential race later this year. The party's chairman, President Daniel Arap Moi, is experiencing hard times as the campaigns gain momentum.

Since its founding, KANU has never held presidential nominations. The first two presidents -- the late Jomo Kenyatta and his successor president Daniel Arap Moi have always stood unopposed. Now the party faces a test of democracy ahead of the next general election. According to the party’s constitution, the presidential candidate must be elected by a nominations council consisting of 4,200 delegates from the country’s 210 constituencies. Mr. Mutahi Ngunyi a political analyst with the Nairobi based firm called Africa Consult. He says President Moi has violated the constitution by campaigning for one of the presidential hopefuls, Uhuru Kenyatta – the son of the founding father of KANU.

He says, "I think he jumped the gun and I do not believe he has the right as president to say who his candidate should be because when you talk of a right, you must talk about responsibility and if excercising your right will injure somebody, responsibility demands that you do not exercise that right in this situation."

Candidates are free to campaign and lobby in public in an effort to influence the votes of delegates – who are thought to want to vote for the candidate with the greatest national appeal.

The grumbling over the entire process is about one candidate getting undue advantage over the rest. The party’s secretary general Raila Odinga is one of those aspiring to run for the presidency on the party’s ticket.

He says, "The chairman of the party who would have played the role of umpire has chosen to play the role of a campaign manager to one of the contenders. KANU must now seek the assistance of an external agency to supervise the election of the party officials and delegates in 210 branches, prepare a register of all delegates and finally supervise the presidential nominations."

It’s not clear when the nominations will be held. A crisis meeting of the party’s national executive committee on Wednesday agreed to have branch officials based in each constituency before a date for the nominations is set. As party chairman, the president can call or postpone party elections, dissolve branches and suspend errant officials and members. Those who are opposed to Mr. Uhuru’s candidature say he is inexperienced and lacks popularity. They say if he is imposed on the electorate there will be a major falling out within the ruling party. Mr. Gor Sungu is a KANU member of parliament who shares that opinion. He says, "If president Moi decides to rig in Uhuru Kenyatta then he will have divided the party down the middle. People are going to be united they could go to opposition they could form another party, there are many alternatives but we are not saying now. If you show a cow (President Moi) the knife (the steps his critics will take) which you are going to use to slaughter it, it might become very wild and unmanageable." However legislator Maina Njagwe defends Uhuru’s record saying he is fit to succeed president Moi. "There are people who are experienced in this country but their experience is bad experience. I would rather have a candidate who is not experienced at all and this man is starting on a clean slate. He’s a person who has not been involved in any scandal, he is a person who is intelligent he is inspiring as a leader."

KANU’s constitution stipulates that nominations shall be by secret ballot, but those supporting Moi’s choice want acclamation or voting by show of hands. The president’s critics suspect that if the president’s method prevails, those who vote against him will become easy targets for

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