[Documents menu] Documents menu

Moi Worried By Mounting Rebellion In Ruling Party KANU

By Tervil Okoko, PANA, 4 August 2000

NAIROBI, Kenya (PANA) - Last week's aid resumption announcement by the International Monetary Fund could probably be described as a sudden flash of shine on a cloudy day for Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi.

Before that, the sailing did not seem to be so smooth for the 78-year-old leader due to a sever economists estimate could cost Kenya's ailing economy some 660 million US dollars between July and October.

Then, there is the constitutional reform issue on which there is a major disagreement between Moi's ruling KANU party, on one hand, and religious organisations and the opposition, on the other.

However, according to certain analysts, the president's greatest nightmare is the internal division within his party.

For the past four years, KANU has been divided between what the local press calls KANU A and KANU B. The split is sustained by KANU politicians' calculations ahead of Moi's final mandate, which ends 29 December 2002.

Within KANU A are radical party members rallying behind one-time finance minister Simeon Nyachae, while the other faction consists of right-wing members fronted by Vice President George Saitoti and Moi's confidant and chief adviser, tourism, trade and industry minister Nicholas Biwott.

But this is no longer a major problem to the president, who brags of being "a professor of politics" by virtue of his having been in parliament continuously for the past 42 years.

He has also been able to outsmart the opposition, quite a few of whose members were university teachers.

Those who nag him most are rebels in the governing party, championed by Nyachae, who resigned from the cabinet two years ago after Moi moved him from the prestigious finance ministry to industrial development.

Since then, as a backbencher, Nyachae has been virulent in his attack on the system's excesses, especially corruption.

This prompted Moi to once ask Nyachae to defect to the opposition if he does not like the KANU government that much.

Responding to this, Nyachae affirmed he wouldn't go, at least for the time being. "It's not the party I don't like; it is Moi, his henchmen and their corrupt ways," he said.

Matters came to a head two days ago (Wednesday) when the president took the war to Nyachae's doorstep in his home district of Kisii, western Kenya.

Addressing a public rally, Moi railed on Nyachae, blaming him for resigning his cabinet post.

The president complained to the Kisii community by saying: "I love you and that's why I have given you two cabinet ministers (Sam Ongeri of public health and Chris Obure of agriculture), yet you don't reciprocate the love."

This did not sink well with the local politicians. The following day, the whole panoply of Kisii politicians took a swipe at Moi for being decidedly against Nyachae.

One of them, legislator Zephania Nyang'wara of KANU, told a news conference: "President Moi is a liar; let him not deceive the Kisii that he loves them. For if he did, he would not impose unpopular KANU leaders on us at the expense of Hon. Nyachae whom we dearly love."

What makes Nyachae a hard nut to crack is his immense wealth, such that the president cannot use cash handouts or a job offer to woo him to his side.

The one-time provincial commissioner, chief secretary and finance minister owns a lot of property in Nairobi, not to mention large coffee and tea estates.

Nyachae is also a king among the Kisii community.

About two years ago, Moi engineered and bankrolled a coup d'etat and replaced him with Geoffrey Asanyo as chief of the Kisii KANU branch.

The Kisii KANU members have since then given Asanyo a tough time with frequent calls for his resignation and Nyachae's immediate reinstatement.

Besides, Nyachae enjoyed quite a bit of admiration during his brief tenure at the finance ministry with his forthright and pragmatic approach to the country's economic woes.

Perhaps this is where his brush with Moi started. Addressing Kenyan economists and foreign representatives with interest in Kenya, Nyachae admitted publicly that the government was broke.

This did not go down so well with the establishment and, a few months later, he moved to take over the industrial development portfolio, a development Nyachae did not like. He quit in a huff, to Moi's embarrassment.

Yet, Nyachae is not the only Moi pet peeve. Kipruto arap Kirwa is among a group of Kanu legislators dubbed the "four sisters" owing to their brave opposition to the Moi government. Cyrus Jirongo, John Sambu and William Ruto are the others.

The first two have remained steadfast, while the president has used his two famous instruments - immense financial resources and scheming prowess - to woo the other two back to the fold.

The president must be cursing the advent of political pluralism in Kenya just before the first multi-party general elections in 1991.

During the 26 years of KANU's single-party rule, it was unheard of to publicly criticise the president or the government.

Nyachae and the four sisters would have been thrown out of the party long ago.

Moi's only consolation right now is his success in courting the leader of the opposition National Development Party, Raila Odinga, to accept co-operating with KANU.

Once an implacable Moi critic, Raila, the son of the late Jaramogi Odinga Oginga, is now as good as a KANU supporter. Through this co-operation, his party has made it possible for the government to win crucial votes in parliament.

Raila is chairing the parliamentary constitution reform initiative, which seeks, among other things, to counter the move to reduce the absolute powers vested in the presidency.

If there are cracks in the governing party from outside parliament, there are faults within. On several occasions, a number of KANU lawmakers joined forces with the opposition to vote down certain government proposals.

About two weeks ago, a contentious motion seeking to debate a corruption bill suffered substantially when what is notoriously known in Kenya as "The List of Shame" had the names of key government figures expunged from it.

The list consisted of names purported to be the most corrupt Kenyans as compiled by a parliamentary select committee. It included those of Saitoti and Biwott.

Amid charges of bribery in parliament, the two key government figures had their names deleted from the list despite spirited efforts of a combined KANU and opposition force to indict them.