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Dissent In Kenya's Ruling Party - 2002-08-13

Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi is trying to put down a revolt by senior figures within his own party, opposed to what is seen as a campaign to have Uhuru Kenyatta succeed him as president. There is a growing sense that Mr. Moi will have to change his plans and accommodate the dissenting voices.

President Moi's firing of ministers Joseph Kamotho and Fred Gumo on Monday is seen here as a clear warning to other rebels in Kenya's ruling Kanu party to watch their step. But many here wonder how effective the tactic will be.

The fired ministers are members of the Rainbow Coalition - a group within Kanu set up last week to press Mr. Moi to stop his campaign on behalf of Uhuru Kenyatta to become the country's next president.

The Rainbow Coalition wants the party to hold a secret ballot to decide its presidential contender in the December poll.

Kanu Secretary-General Raila Odinga and Vice President George Saitoti - who are themselvesleading contenders for the top job, lead the rebels.

Although he has since returned to the Kanu fold, Raila Odinga once abandoned Kanu to form the opposition National Development Party -- the N-D-P.

Some analysts here believe he will not be deterred by the dismissals and could do something similar again.

Miriam Kahiga is an analyst at the Center for Governance and Development.

She says, "I don't think Raila is going to be intimidated by these sackings. I don't think that he is going to be intimidated at all. If I were in Raila's shoes I would push ahead. I would just go on. And if the worst comes to the worst and we have to split, I mean on the eve of the 1997 elections he discovered N-D-P. It's not too late. He can discover a new party."

Andrew Ngwiri, a political commentator with the Daily Nation newspaper, believes it will not go that far. He predicts that President Moi will find a way of keeping Raila Odinga in the ruling party.

He says, "If he is not nominated and he thinks that it was unfair he might very well say enough is enough and leave Kanu and probably join the opposition. Frankly I don't see it happening because that would be a big blow to Kanu and could lose it the election. So they will have to find a way of accommodating him."

Kenya is supposed to have a new constitution in time for the December elections. If that happens, analysts say they believe that would lead to the creation of the post of prime minister. And, they say, Raila Odinga would be the man who gets the job.

Many Kenyans are opposed to Uhuru Kenyatta becoming the next president. They see him as a political novice whose main credentials are that his father was the country's first president.