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Ruling KANU Set to Merge With Opposition Party

By Tervil Okoko, Panafrican News Agency, 6 January 2001

Nairobi, Kenya - The ruling Kenya African National Union or KANU and opposition National Development Party or NDP Saturday laid the groundwork for a merger when leaders of the two parties held a joint rally in the Lake Victoria shore town of Kisumu.

For the past two or so years, NDP and KANU have been involved in an operational co-operation.

But in the past few months, there has been speculation for the merger.

NDP leader Raila Odinga and the KANU chairman, President Daniel arap Moi have been holding behind-the-scenes meetings to pave way for the proposed union.

And although Odinga has repeatedly said he is for a coalition government or one of national unity, and not for a merger, it is an open secret that the two parties will soon be one.

At the Kisumu rally, one of largest to be held in western Kenya in recent times, the two leaders agreed to merge within the shortest time possible after modalities have been worked out.

President Moi said it was wrong for some people, especially the press, to talk much about the possible merger while the concerned parties had not yet agreed on it.

Odinga asked the crowd to assure him that they would support him and his team if they finally crossed to KANU.

The NDP leader, who introduced the cabinet ministers present, repeatedly sounded KANU's Harambee rallying call, to which the crowd roared: "Nyayo! Nyayo!" a gesture that they were ready for the merger.

The KANU secretary-general, Joseph Kamotho, told the crowd that KANU, in recent a National Governing Council meeting, had authorised the national chairman to hold consultations with his NDP counterpart to find ways to facilitate the merger.

The cabinet ministers present at the Kisumu rally praised Odinga for his decision to co-operate with the government.

The minister for information, transport and communications, Musalia Mudavadi, said the NDP leader is now a statesman, and called on Odinga and the entire Luo community (Odinga's tribe) to join KANU.

The Vice President, George Saitoti and other cabinet colleagues described the Saturday meeting as unique, saying it would result in a new chapter in the country's political history.

The anxiety, which had gripped the lakeside town for the last one week over a possible merger announcement, continued throughout the day and even after the rally.

But the crowd was seemingly disappointed as the local leaders remained tight-lipped over the rally's outcome.

The Luo community, long suffering political and economic marginalisation owing to opposition politics, is eagerly waiting for the merger. They hope that it will bring about better economic fortunes and catapult some of the opposition MPs to the cabinet in the future joint government.

What is not yet clear is whether this would be only a party merger or a coalition government.

While most of the NDP members of parliament want the coalition, President Moi and most KANU top brass back a party merger first before a new government could be formed.

But should the merger or coalition government happen, pledged Odinga, the new government will be in a better position to fight the country's three major enemies poverty, disease and ignorance.

The NDP leader said what was remaining was for his party and KANU to change the local government and provincial administration to enable them fight the identified common enemies.

Copyright 2000 Panafrican News Agency. Distributed by allAfrica.com. For information about the content or for permission to redistribute, publish or use for broadcast, contact the publisher.