African Press International (API)

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Kenya: President declares elections coming soon

Posted by African Press International on September 30, 2007

 

By Gakuu Mathenge

Elections are around the corner and the signs are already out, President Kibaki has declared.

“The election is near, if you look keenly; even you can guess, said the Head of State who will on Sunday be at the Nyayo National Stadium to kick off the next phase of his re-election bid.

He was speaking at State House Nairobi where he addressed representatives of the informal sector. He said it would not be good for the country if only 55 per cent of registered voters vote later in the year. “If you have attained the age of voting and you do not participate in the exercise then you are doing your country and yourself a lot of disservice,” President Kibaki said.

Tonight marks the last in the long wait for the President, who is campaigning on the platform of good performance in his first term, for his agenda for the next term if re-elected. It will also allow Kenyans to catch a glimpse of his strategy and vote mobilisers, including the wing commanders he named this week. It will also be the moment to paint the picture of a united coalition Party of National Unity following the open disagreements among the affiliate parties.

Today marks the end of the long wait for him to unveil the shape and form of his re-election vehicle, the colours and the symbols. This item on the political diary coincides with speculation he will prorogue Parliament anytime.

While Kibaki the President has not been in doubt, Kibaki the candidate for a second and final term has not been very apparent.

The President is expected to unveil the faces of the men and women he has assembled to help him execute a re-election campaign. Also in the race are his former Cabinet ministers Langata MP Mr Raila Odinga and Mwingi North MP Mr Kalonzo Musyoka.

The two were key figures in his 2002 campaign, when he was bound to a wheelchair following a road accident in the last leg of the contest.

 

Leaving no loopholes

 

Raila is leading the Pentagon team of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) while Kalonzo rides the Orange Democratic Part-Kenya (ODM-Kenya) ticket.

Facing the Orange family will be the Party of National Unity (PNU), which is expected to pass a resolution endorsing Kibaki as its presidential candidate at its inaugural delegates conference at the Nyayo Stadium.

The ADC is also expected to unveil and endorse PNU 24-member National Executive Council, mainly comprising party leaders and regional political captains from various political parties supporting Kibaki.

All parties in the PNU are expected to have held their ADCs by the end of the day today, minuted their resolution to endorse Kibaki as presidential candidate and picked their representatives to the PNUS executive council.

The council is expected to serve the role of the Narc-Summit in 2002.

This time round, the builders of the PNU coalition seem more cautious and unwilling to leave anything to chance, including potential legal challenges. They insist on playing by the book.

Unlike the Narc-Summit and the controversial boardroom Memorandum of Understanding that divided and stalled the Cabinet and nearly brought down the Kibakis administration, PNU seems keen on a well-structured outfit.

While the architecture of the PNU points to a unified campaign by parties and leadership that boasts regional and ethnic supremacy, the proof of the pudding is in the eating: They must face the opposition at the ballot, marshal majority votes and secure the mandatory 25 per cent votes cast in five out of the eight provinces.

It will take more than just reciting the litany of achievements his administration has made, particularly in economic growth and general development. An observer quipped on Thursday: “When a party and a candidate start buzzing people to attend meetings and rallies, that should raise the red flag.” That was in response to news PNU parties were busy organising supporters from the countryside to attend Kibakis rally in Nairobi on Sunday.

Despite the good record in economic revival, and the improvement in

agriculture, public health services, infrastructure and rural electrification, the President still scores badly in such huge voting blocs as the Rift Valley.

In Central Rift region, Nandi and Kipsigis communities are yet to forgive him over the forest evictions of 2004-2005 and perceived persecution of senior civil servants inherited from the Kanu regime from the region.

Standing out are the forest evictions and torching of houses without compensation in Kipkurere, Mau Settlement Scheme, Embobut, Likia and Mount Elgon areas. The residents had been settled by the previous Kanu regime and had put up homes.

For instance, by the time the evictions from Mau catchment were over, 18 primary schools and seven churches had been pulled down and more than 6,000 children were out of school. This was a traumatic experience for the impoverished rural villages.

To mollify to these communities, the Kibaki campaign is applying a two-prong strategies: Firstly, lining up Agriculture minister Mr Kipruto arap Kirwa as one of the frontrunners for Kibaki and a potential VP.

It is not lost to observers that Kirwa was the only non-party leader who was allowed to speak at the unveiling of PNU at the KICC. That was before he emerged as the spokesperson of the PNUs official launch committee last Wednesday.

 

Rift Valley protest vote

 

Secondly, efforts to revive Kanu and reposition it as a serious contender with ODM in the Rift Valley have been going on. Chairman Uhuru Kenyatta has been in the Central Rift trying to re-establish his own networks after his secretary general, Mr William Ruto, abandoned the party.

Sources said the newly refurbished Kanus high command is wooing Kirwa to join the party national leadership, preferably as one of the national vice chairmen.

Kirwa is yet to confirm acceptance, giving credence to reports that he and Defence assistant minister, Mr Stephen Tarus, have been toying with the option of joining Kanu through United Democratic Movement (UDM), which gave Kirwa a foothold in Narc.

Uhuru was confronted with the difficulty of marketing Kibaki in the province when he gathered grassroots leaders at the Gichea Farm last week. “They told him only a personal apology and an assurance from Kibaki would make them listen to anyone talking about him, let alone vote for him. Kirwas voice wouldnt amount to much since he was in the Cabinet that approved the evictions and he never talked about it,” a source revealed.

The minority communities of North Rift, for years ravaged by insecurity, have flocked to ODM, especially after the referendum. This is in protest against what they perceive to be abrasiveness on the part of Internal Security minister, Mr John Michuki, when dealing with them.

“Michuki has shown little time to listen and understand simple nomads and find solutions to their problems. He treats everyone like Mungiki, deploying the army and special squads to kill and disarm people. The evictions from Laikipia last year were unnecessarily rough. He has abandoned initiatives established by his predecessor, Dr Chris Murungaru, who used to take local leaders and the parliamentary committee on security to peace meetings and listen,” Samburu West MP, Mr Simeon Lesirma said in an interview.

North Eastern Province too, where Kibaki granted seven districts last month and converted a military airport into a civilian one in Wajir, has remained hostile to the administration. It is against what it sees as OPs condescending attitude when dealing with people used to Harambee House being their first and last contact with Government, especially on the touchy issue of terrorism.

While PNU assembles a broad alliance of interest groups and regional political chieftains, the team Kibaki unveils Sunday will also reveal the character and profiles of the men and women in charge of the task of narrowing the gap in the latest opinion polls.

He must also pacify the bruised egos of those left out, just incase they decide to throw tantrums.

Lifted and published by Korir, API*APN source.standard.ke

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