Kenya Political Stage – Political party and ethno-regional political alliances began in earnest in 2008 when it downed on the politicians that Mwai Kibaki was serving his last constitutional term as Kenyan president.
Politicians began to scout for political alliances in readiness for the Kibaki succession. Political alliances were constructed and deconstructed depending on the circumstances facing the politicians.
Ethnic groups and regional blocs aligned themselves according to the interests of these politicians. The interests of the politicians were tactfully transformed to be ethnic or regional interests.
The Kibaki succession that dominated political alliances after the 2007 elections revolved around two issues. The first was to politically isolate Raila Odinga who was the Prime Minister. Raila was perceived as a strong contender in the Kibaki succession.
Isolating Raila meant weakening the ODM Pentagon and distancing him politically from the vote-rich region of Rift Valley. Rift Valley had overwhelmingly voted for Odinga during the 2008 elections. Second was the criminal charges facing some prominent Kenyan politicians at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague.
Political alliances began immediately after the formation of the coalition government in February 2008. It began by some Rift Valley politicians who accused Raila of shortchanging the region in government political appointments.
This marked the beginning of the disintegration of the ODM Pentagon and distancing Raila politically from the Rift Valley region. The blow to Raila’s political grip of Rift Valley followed from the Mau forest eviction.
The eviction was overseen by Raila’s office of the Prime Minister. Rift Valley politicians led by William Ruto blamed Raila for the evictions. The Rift Valley voters were convinced by these politicians.
William Ruto even declared that he will vie for presidency in the coming general election. Utterances were also made to the effect that the office of the presidency needed to be occupied by a ‘young’ person. This was aimed at undermining Raila politically since he was seen as representing the old politicians in Kenya.
The utterances that Kenya’s presidency should be occupied by a younger generation of politicians witnessed the formation of a political alliance in Kenya. This was the so called Kikuyu, Kalenjin and Kamba (KKK) alliance.
The alliance was a calculated move to bring together the Kalenjins of Rift Valley, the Gema community of Mount Kenya region and the Kamba of eastern Kenya. Its political leaders were William Ruto from Rift Valley, Uhuru Kenyatta from Central Kenya, and Kaolonzo Musyoka from Eastern Kenya.
This alliance was accused of promoting ethnicity in Kenya by some politicians who felt left out in this political alliance. Facing a political backlash, members of KKK strategically began to dissociate themselves from this political outfit. They denounced the KKK tag in political rallies to convince the electorate that they were not championing tribalism in Kenya. A new political outfit emerged out of the ruins of the KKK alliance.
This was the so called group of seven or the G7 alliance. Its main leaders were William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta and Kalonzo Musyoka. Other members were Najib Balala, Omingo Magara, Kiraitu Murungi and George Saitoti. Other members of the G7 began accusing Kalonzo Musyoka of being a political opportunist who only wanted to benefit from others tribulations.
The formation of the KKK alliance and its christening as the G7 was seen as a political fight between Ruto and Raila. The political wrangles between the two culminated in a cabinet reshuffle where Ruto and his allies were sacked.
As political squabbles between Ruto and Raila continued another political battlefront for Raila within ODM emerged. This was a political contest between Musalia Mudavadi and Raila. Mudavadi was an ODM pentagon member and the party’s deputy leader. Mudavadi declared that he will challenge Raila for ODM presidential candidate.
ODM party members tried to reconcile the two but they failed. Consequently, Mudavadi declared that he will vie for presidency in another ticket not ODM.
Political alliances were not only dominated by ODM politics and attempts to isolate Raila. Another rallying point was the ICC charges facing Kenya’s at The Hague. Notably among the accused were William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta.
The two politicians used the ICC issue as a platform to form a political alliance and to galvanize their supporters. They used the issue to further isolate Raila politically. The two politicians made their supporters to believe that it was Raila who played a major role in having them accused at the ICC to liquidate them politically.
The two attempted to have a structured political engagement by forging political party alliances. Ruto took over the United Democratic Movement (UDM).
He later formed the United Republican Party (URP) after political wrangles in UDM. Uhuru Kenyatta ditched KANU where he was the chairman and formed the National Alliance Party (TNA). The two then began discussing a possible political alliance in readiness for the general elections that was held in March 2013.
Political and Ethno-regional Alliances to Mach 2013 Elections
After discussing the background to political alliances during the Kibaki succession, let us now discuss the formation of political party and ethno-regional alliances in the run up to March 2013 elections.
We discussed above in this lecture that political alliances began to constructed and deconstructed in Kenya when it was apparent that Mwai Kibaki was serving his last constitutional term in office as the president of the Republic of Kenya. Politicians formed political alliances with a view of winning the March 2013 elections.
The first political alliance to be formed was the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD). This was a pre-election political alliance that brought together ODM of Raila Odinga, Wiper Party of Kalonzo Musyoka and FORD-Kenya of Moses Wetangula. Charity Ngilu of NARC briefly joined this coalition but later on abandoned it for the Jubillee alliance which will be discussed below. Other political parties joined this alliance as well.
The three had a pre-election understanding where they agreed to share positions should they win the forthcoming elections. The political positions were to be shared as follows: Raila Odinga was to be the Coalition’s presidential candidate with Kalonzo Musyoka as his running mate. Moses Wetangula was to be the majority leader in the Senate.
This coalition was a well calculated attempt to form a strong ethno-regional voting bloc. It was aimed at bringing together the Luos of Nyanza, the Kamba of Eastern province and the Luhyias of Western Kenya.
These were perceived as the dominant ethnic groups in those regions. After securing votes from these regions, the coalition’s leaders campaigned in other regions in Kenya to win their votes. Consequently, this coalition received support from a sprinkle of support from members of those other ethnic groups as well.
As the CORD coalition was still at the formative stage, another rival coalition was formed. This was the Jubilee Alliance. It was mainly a political alliance of William Ruto’s URP and Uhuru Kenyatta’s TNA. There was uncertainty in this alliance since its two senior members were facing criminal charges at the ICC.
There was fear that they might be barred from contesting any political office in the country. Consequently, they brought in their fold Musalia Muavadiof UDF as a compromise candidate in case of that eventuality. As the political jostling was taking place in this coalition, Uhuru Kenyatta publicly declared that he will be the presidential flagbearer for this coalition.
He was supported by William Ruto who settled as his running mate. Charity Ngilu of NARC who had earlier abandoned the CORD coalition joined this political alliance. She was to be the majority leader in the Senate according to the Jubilee’s political arrangement.
The Jubilee alliance apart from being a political party’s alliance was also an ethno-regional alliance. It was an alliance meant to bring together the two populous regions of Rift Valley and the Mount Kenya region as its leaders were coming from these regions.
William Ruto of URP came from Rift Valley and Uhuru Kenyatta of TNA came from the Mount Kenya region. Ngilu’s NARC was to bring on board the Kambas of Eastern Kenya. This alliance received support from other regions as well.
Other political alliances also emerged in readiness for the March 2013 elections. Musalia Mudavadi who had been disappointed in the Jubilee alliance formed the AMANI Coalition with him as its presidential candidate.
The AMANI coalition was a political alliance between Musalia Mudavadi’s UDF, Gideon Moi’s KANU and Eugine Wamalua’s New Ford Kenya. Rafael Tuju and Peter Kenneth also formed a political alliance called the Eagle Alliance.
Peter Kenneth was its presidential candidate. The Eagle Alliance was a coalition between Peter Kenneth’s the Kenya National Congress (KNC) and Rafael Tuju’s Party of Action.
The general elections were held on ****March 2013. The Jubilee alliance was announced the winner after the tallying of votes. The CORD coalition contested the Jubilee win and filed a case in the Supreme Court challenging this.
Immediately Jubilee was announced as the winner, the coalition entered into postelection political alliance with KANU and UDF. After the legal battle The Supreme Court upheld the Jubilee win.
Kanyinga, K. ‘Limitations of Political Liberalization: Parties and Electoral Politics in Kenya, 1992-2002’, in W.O Oyugi, P. Wanyande and C. Odhiambo Mbai (eds). The Politics of Transition in Kenya: From KANU to NARC. Nairobi: Heinrich BÖll Foundation, 2003. Pp 96-127.
Wanyande, P. ‘The Politics of Coalition Government,’ in P. Wanyande, M. Omosa and C. Ludeki (eds). Governance and Transition Politics in Kenya. Nairobi: University of Nairobi Press, 2007, pp. 107-129.