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Kenya Presidential Race Takes Ethnic Twist

Panafrican News Agency, 10 January 2001

The presidential race in Kenya has taken a new and extremely ethnic dimension, with Members of Parliament from the Bantu communities vowing to form an alliance to counter the intended merger between the governing Kenya African National Union (KANU) party and opposition National Development Party (NDP).

President Daniel arap Moi, the KANU chairman, is a Kalenjin of Rift Valley province, while his NDP counterpart, Raila Odinga, is a Luo from western Kenya. Kalenjins and Luos are Nilo-Hamites.

The Bantu lawmakers told journalists in Nairobi Tuesday that they were mapping out strategies of forging an alliance to counter the KANU-NDP partnership, which they said they viewed as an association of Nilotes.

A statement issued by six of the legislators said in part: "Following the abortive Nilotic alliance meeting at the Lake Victoria shore town of Kisumu at the weekend, all Bantus in the country are requested to stand by awaiting a major announcement that will be made by their leaders for a meeting to chart their future and that of the entire nation."

Talks are going on behind the scenes between KANU and NDP to have the two parties merge to form a united front for the 2002 poll. During the Kisumu meeting at the weekend, the official merger failed to materialise as the two parties would not agree on the modalities and certain terms.

While KANU wants a total dissolution of NDP for an enlarged ruling party, the NDP leaders insist on a coalition or a government of national unity. But the meeting officially gave Moi the power to co-opt NDP legislators into the cabinet as a first step towards the merger.

Moi is serving his second and final term, which ends with the 2002 general elections.

The Bantu tribes together outnumber the Nilotes, and are concentrated in western and central Kenya, the Rift Valley and the coast.

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