THE NAIROBI NOTEBOOK
Absolute surprise
Newton Kanhema
Published: 01-JAN-03

Election campaigns are pregnant with many surprises. Kenyans are going to the polls on December 27 and their elections are no exception. The election fever is warming up to high political temperature never seen in the 40 years of Kenyan independence.

Most African founding parties die after they have served their purpose and the Kenya African National Union (KANU) seems to have served its purpose - and the Kenyan electorate is ready to send them to the political graveyard. But the old guard will not go without putting up a fight, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that their time is up.

Currently there is no politics-free- zone in Kenya. Almost every place where there is more than one person, people are discussing what will happen when their incumbent President of 24 years, Daniel Moi leaves office at the end of this year. The freedom to speak ones mind is theoretically there but some have learnt that there is a price to that freedom.

Last November (2002) a policeman who could not stomach the anti-ruling party sentiments in the capital city decided to use all the force at his disposal to discipline, a packed Nairobi nightspot. The bar patrons refused to support his choice of presidential candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta, son of founding" president, Jomo Kenyatta.

The officer was so infuriated that nightclub patrons in the do

wntown club were talking against Kenyatta junior that his anger turned to rage in the early hours. He left the popular night spot at 2.30 am, went back to his police station in the neighbourhood, returning armed with teargas canisters, which he lobbed into nightclub. Pandemonium ensued as revellers tried to escape the effects of the gas and many were injured in the stampede that followed. The officer who was not on duty later told his superiors that he "threw the teargas when he sensed a commotion within the club was getting out of hand". For his actions the officer received no disciplinary action. However, three of his colleagues who expressed a view that Kanu's presidential candidate would be trounced in the coming election were sacked. They had been drinking in a Police Station canteen -

The freedom to speak ones mind is theoretically there but some have learnt that there is a price to that freedom.

where another policeman overheard, tape -recorded their conversation and reported them.

Human rights organisations, former Members of Parliament and the opposition have condemned the sackings, saying the officers had not committed any crime but merely exercised their freedom of speech.

But Kenya's police commissioner begged to differ, justifying his actions by saying that the three officers had been tried and found guilty of breaching the Standing Orders Act before they were sacked and they were free to appeal against the decision.

In other election drama a father and a son disagreed to the extent that the two are now contesting for the same parliamentary seat on opposite sides. The father is fighting for the seat on an opposition ticket while the son has decided to take him on a Kanu ticket.

The younger, an advocate insisted that his decision to oppose his father was not influenced by outsiders. He is rumoured to be getting the support of President Moi against his father because the two, Moi and his father differed over the Kanu presidential nominations.

The father, a former assistant minister, opposed Moi's choice of Uhuru Kenyatta and decamped to the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) supporting its nominee, Mwai Kibaki. He said he had made the decision after realising that the "time has come for the youth to take over leadership". The advocate argued that his father "still had the soul and mind to rule, but does not have the strength".

The tradition of creating dynasties seems to be taking root in Kenyan politics.

Apart from hand picking the son of the founding president as his successor, Moi has also fielded two of his sons for parliamentary seats. Gideon Moi is said to be earmarked for the vice-presidency if Uhuru Kenyatta wins the election.

Kenyans are fed up with Kanu. In the last two general elections the opposition rallied more than a million votes more than those of the incumbent president but because of their division, Moi emerged with the single biggest vote though less than 40 percent of the total votes in both polls. With a super alliance of the opposition, this time around, the tribal arithmetic is against Moi and his protege, Uhuru Kenyatta.

The evidence on the ground shows that it is almost impossible for the opposition to loose this election and again impossible to contemplate Kanu's victory. But after 24 years of absolute power, Moi is pregnant with absolute surprises - fair or unfair.



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