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New Party for Moi Opponents

The Nation (Nairobi), 19 May 2001

A little-known opposition party is to be relaunched today (Saturday) at a ceremony spearheaded by the National Convention Executive Council, giving a new voice to radical opponents of the Moi Government.

NCEC chief Kivutha Kibwana will be the key speaker at the relaunch ceremony of the People's Party of Kenya. Its motto will be Usawa, Haki, Uhuru - Equality, Truth, Liberty - and its symbol is a trumpet.

The relaunch could be the first step towards providing a party platform for civil rights activists associated with the NCEC, which has been at the forefront of lobbying for Constitutional change.

Although no formal relationship has been declared between the NCEC and the new party, its political leanings are expected to mirror the extremist positions taken by the council.

Most recently the NCEC's hardline stance could be seen in its attitude towards concessions mooted in the merging of the rival Constitutional reform groups - and the fact that it broke from the mainstream opposition parties.

The launch ceremony will be at Nairobi's Ufungamano House Ð home of the faiths-led reform group recently merged with the Parliamentary review commission.

According to a statement from the party, the secretary general is a Mr George Mwaura Mburu.

The party has a Kiambu District address - P.O. Box 1057 Limuru; and a Nairobi telephone number, 313032.

However the number belongs to a Mr Muigai Kinyanjui, who yesterday told the Nation that Mr Mburu merely uses it to collect messages.

"I allowed him to use the number as a point of contact; he usually calls from wherever he is to get his messages," he said.

Pressed further on how the other officials could be reached, Mr Kinyanjui said: "I think the chairman is from Nakuru, the organising secretary from Machakos, but you call Kivutha Kibwana, he is likely to have more information on the party."

When contacted Prof Kibwana said the party was only allied to the NCEC.

"They merely invited me to deliver the keynote address on political parties in Kenya," he said.

Asked about the party's leadership, he mentioned the secretary general's name.

But pressed to give "the big, notable personalities behind the society", Prof Kibwana added: "The party is led by young people from Limuru, whose concerns have largely been on issues of land and farmers."

Mr Kepta Ombati, head of the NCEC secretariat, was more categorical.

"We have been closely working together with the party since 1997. But we (NCEC) do not own the party. The party is just a close ally of NCEC - like several other political parties, Muungano wa Mageuzi and NGOs," he said.

Political sources claimed last night that there had been protracted negotiations since last August to have certain members of the NCEC said to have political ambitions, acquire the party.

"All I can tell you for now is that the party has more or else been acquired by the NCEC group which entered negotiations with its founders in August, last year, the source said.

Several politicians closely allied to NCEC termed the party as "just another friend of NCEC."

Prof Kibwana has been the subject of speculation that he might enter politics and perhaps be a candidate for the 2002 Presidential election.

A lecturer in Constitutional law, he is involved with several political NGOs, among them Citizens' Coalition for Constitutional Change and Clarion.

The NCEC made its name as the rallying point for mass protests which shut down Nairobi in the early days of demands for a Constitutional review.

The council now often takes the same position as the Social Democratic Party, which is dominated by Left-leaning intellectuals.

Copyright 2001 The Nation. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).