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Political terrain changes in Kenya as president launches new party

11 September 2016, 23:54

Nairobi - Kenya's political landscape is set to change radically following the merger of several parties to form one homogenous outfit known as Jubilee, on which President Uhuru Kenyatta will seek re-election in next year's polls.

About 12 small parties agreed to dissolve this week to form Jubilee Party, which the President launched Saturday.

President Kenyatta, while speaking at the event to formalize the new party in Nairobi, said Kenya has no choice but to unite to avoid tragic consequences.

"We have in the past fallen prey to divisions based on ethnicity and religion to serve the interest of a few. Ethnic differences in Africa become political differences, with poverty and hatred being the consequences," he said, adding Kenya nearly disintegrated in 2008 due to ethnicity.

He said the Jubilee Party has one sole purpose in the East African country, which is to bring people together for development of the nation.

"We will grow as a party to embrace all and bring the nation together. We will promote internal democracy; every shed of opinion will have space in the party and everyone despite their ethnicity, colour and shape will call it home," he said, noting Kenyans are tired of tribal political enclaves.

Following the launch of President Kenyatta's Jubilee Party, the East African nation would now have two major outfits namely Jubilee and Cord, an alliance of small parties that form the Opposition under leader Raila Odinga.

The two major parties, according to analysts, would dominate the politics of the two nations in the coming years, with one forming the government and the other Opposition.

Kenyans are, therefore, going to coalesce under the stronger outfits based on the leaders they love and which party is in government.

"Politics is no longer going to be the same in Kenya, it is either one is in the ruling Jubilee Party or Opposition Cord. This would be clear as the country heads towards the elections. There would be little or no small parties," said Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer and political analyst in Nairobi.

According to him, only candidates that would be nominated under Cord and Jubilee in regions that they command support would stand a chance to be elected governor, MPs, senators and woman representatives.

"Once elected, there would be little chance for leaders to differ with their parties and associate with others and still remain in Parliament under the same ticket as it has been the case. That means Kenyans will see some discipline in parties as it were years ago. The recent passage of law to bar party hopping would help entrench this," he said.

While this may be good for the bigger parties, Wandera believes in the long-run it may stifle democracy and kill smaller outfits.

"Smaller parties have in the past been the biggest beneficiaries of fallout in bigger parties by some candidates defecting once they lose nominations. But this would no longer be the case as candidates are barred from decamping last-minute to other parties. With their resources, the bigger parties, therefore, would dominate politics killing smaller parties and even independent candidacy."

Jubilee Party leaders, however, insist that their outfit is going to unite the country, which is currently deeply divided.

"We have started the journey to unite the country. We have brought together different political parties and Kenyans from all across the country to unite. This event is a culmination of many years of nationalist and social transformative agenda for our country," said Deputy President William Ruto.

Some critics, however, have dismissed the political developments in the country, particularly the formation of Jubilee Party, noting a similar thing happened in 2008, where former President Mwai Kibaki formed the Party of National Unity, which collapsed soon as he ascended to power.

"To me nothing has changed. This is akin to wildebeests temporary migration stampede to eat fresh grass across the river before return with many casualties. The bedrock of Kenya politics should be inclusive economy and strengthening of devolution," said Ndung'u Wainaina, a human rights activist. 

- Xinhua


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