Kenya's ruling party has agreed Friday to begin merger talks with the National Development Party.
There was an air of excitement at the joint conference of the ruling Kanu party and the National Development Party. The more than 6,000 delegates at the conference agreed on the formation of a joint committee to merge their two parties.
Ochieng Chieng, a delegate from NDP, says he is very pleased his party may join with Kanu. "It's the right formula in the question of nation building," he said. "I'm so excited, I'm so excited because it was long overdue. It can't be New Kanu, neither can it be new NDP. We have to find a new name that will incorporate both the parties. The new party should just be called Kanu-NDP New Front."
Despite Friday's agreement on talks, some senior figures in the ruling Kanu Party are so hostile to the merger that they did not even want the joint conference to take place.
President Daniel arap Moi is constitutionally bound to retire, and there is intense behind-the-scenes competition to succeed him. Many in the ruling Kanu party fear that President Moi is so eager to get the leader of the NDP, Raila Odinga, to agree to the merger of the two parties that he might even promise to support him for president in next year's elections.
According to the NDP's national treasurer, Peter Odoyo, the terms of the merger between the two parties have yet to be decided, but he makes it clear that his party's attitude toward the merger will depend on what happens to Mr. Odinga.
"I think the terms and conditions will determine our level of happiness," said Mr. Odoyo. "Raila obviously is a leader who is young and has got opportunities and the kind of changes that are coming up he will be a key and a major player. We would like to see him as the head of this country when Moi retires obviously."
If the Kanu/NDP merger does go ahead smoothly, Kenya's fragmented opposition parties will have to cooperate more than they ever have in the past if they are to have any chance in next year's presidential elections.