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Kenya's Ruling Party Breakaway Group Joins Opposition - 2002-10-14

At one of the biggest political rallies ever seen in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, a splinter group from the ruling KANU party has merged with the two main opposition parties. The new alliance, called the National Rainbow Coalition, hopes to end KANU's 39 years in power in the upcoming elections.

There was an air of jubilation at Nairobi's Uhuru Park. Politicians' speeches were drowned out by the crowd as they sang, 'Without Moi everything is possible.'

Opposition to President Daniel arap Moi's chosen successor, Uhuru Kenyatta, has united Kenya's opposition something Kenyans have been talking about for the last ten years.

Defectors from the ruling KANU party announced Monday that they had quit the government and formed the Liberal Democratic Party.

Now, that new party has merged with the National Alliance for Change, itself a coalition of 14 parties, and the People's Coalition of Kenya to form a super alliance, the National Rainbow Coalition.

This brings together the parties that came second, third, fourth and fifth in the last general election in 1997, giving them a good chance of defeating the government in the December elections.

Charity Ngilu, leader of the National Party of Kenya, which is now part of the new coalition, said opposition leaders have abandoned their personal ambitions in order to defeat the ruling party. "All the leaders who have stood in front of you have realized the need to come together and today we are together. Nothing from today will separate us again. We have come together with one voice to liberate our nation. No interest will override the interests of Kenyans," she said.

The KANU defectors quit the party in protest at President Moi's refusal to allow them to compete for the party's presidential nomination.

President Moi has put his support firmly behind Uhuru Kenyatta, a political novice who is the son of Kenya's founding father, Jomo Kenyatta. Earlier Monday, the KANU party formally selected Mr. Kenyatta as its presidential candidate.

Speaking after his nomination, Mr. Kenyatta denied that KANU has been weakened by the infighting over his nomination. "The weeks leading to my nomination were marred by a stridency of political posturing that has indeed tested our unity as a party. But our party I believe has withstood the test and emerged ever stronger, its tradition of consensus intact," he said.

The KANU party has ruled Kenya ever since independence in 1963. In the last two general elections, the opposition has won more votes combined than KANU, but its votes have always been split among many parties.

This time around, Ms. Ngilu says, the opposition has decided to work as a team, and exactly what position each party leader gets is not important. She says the National Rainbow Coalition will announce its line-up of candidates at its next rally.