Tuesday, September 2, 2008


By Jerry Okungu
September 1, 2008
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Zanzibaris are up in arms against the 45 year old union with Tanganyika that gave birth to Tanzania. Several appeals and even reprimands by the top organs of Chama Cha Mapinduzi to scuttle the debate have not yielded results. Even interventions by both President Jakaya Kikwete and Prime Minister Peter Pinda have not cowed Seif Shariff Hamad, the Secretary General of the Civic United Front (CUF) from rekindling the debate. However, in Tanzania, this type of defiance is at the interparty level.

Before he died in a road accident two months ago, Chacha Zakayo Wangwe, the MP for Tarime fought running battles with his party boss at CHADEMA where he was the deputy chairman. It is not clear what the fight was all about however; the acrimony became so serious that before Wangwe died, he had been suspended from the party leadership.

In Kenya, it would appear like it is the season for discontent within political parties. The three major parties seem to have either lost their pre-election unity or are in the process of disintegrating.

It all started with Narc- Kenya defying President Kibaki when he asked PNU affiliate parties to dissolve and form PNU to face ODM in Parliament for the next four years. Kibaki also wanted to leave a strong outfit on the scene to safeguard the interests of his political allies when he finally bows out of elective politics. Narc- Kenya’s defiance was quickly followed by the Democratic Party founded by Kibaki way back in 1992 and Ford Kenya currently led by one Musikari Kombo. The trio have since been outspoken critics of the merger as preferred by Kibaki.

In the Orange Democratic Party of Kenya, led by Kalonzo Musyoka, the rebellion started almost immediately the coalition cabinet lineup was announced. Kalonzo’s former ardent supporters now accuse him of selfishness after a number of them missed cabinet appointments. The infighting took new levels when it transpired that Kalonzo sabotaged the nomination of some civic candidates forwarded to the Electoral Commission. They allege Kalonzo Musyoka swapped their names with his cronies from Ukambani.

Kalonzo’s woes in the ODM-K camp don’t seem to be subsiding considering that in the last one week alone, he has been accused publicly of accosting a female MP from Ukambani that ended up being a police case. He has again been accused of intimidating and sacking his former allies who stood by him when he was campaigning for the presidency. Two of those allies have allegedly been sacked while one Mr. Maanzo who saved his neck in the fight between him and ODM by clinging to the party certificate has now been given an ultimatum to either resign from the party or resign from his new job as Secretary of Sports in the coalition government.

If you thought PNU, Chadema, CCM and ODM K are the only political parties with internal flu, you may have spoken too soon. KANU is on its deathbed while discontent in ODM has its roots in the coalition appointments.

Kipsigis MPs feel miffed that they got less cabinet posts than their cousins in Nandiland despite producing more votes than their cousins. To push their agenda, they are now roping in the Mau Forest saga to hit back at Raila.

Beyond Kipsigisland, Coast MPs have also been grumbling that the Prime Minister has been micromanaging Ali Makwere. They also want to regionalize KPA that they feel is their birthright. Whether they succeed or not is something we will wait and see.

But perhaps the most vexing thing for Raila is whether he will dispel the rumour that since his appointment as the Prime Minister, he has become inaccessible. This claim may only affect a few people who used to meet Raila the Opposition leader from time to time and who may find it perplexing to learn that Jakom is no longer available for every Onyango, Maritim and Gicheru!

On the surface; it would appear like internal commotions among political parties may be a destabilizing factor in young democracies such as we have in our regions. However, this instability may well be good in the long run. Parties that survive current internal turmoil may come out stronger, better managed, less autocratic and more transparent in their dealings. More importantly, the Political Parties Act in Kenya as it stands today will force unviable parties to merge into fewer stronger parties which will be good for democracy.