Kenya Political Parties: A Review

Published on 19th December 2011

Next year’s election will be won by the party that exhibits grassroots strength and ability to mobilize. It will also be the party that has shown remarked improvement on internal democracy and willingness to embrace credible leaders. Kenyans are keenly becoming aware of the need to elect credible leaders, those without baggage. Buoyed by Chapter 6 of our constitution, and if implemented by the IEBC, parties will have very little otherwise but to shun all sorts of miscreants from running for political office.

A look at our political parties shows that a good number are still detached from the aspirations of Kenyans, especially maturity in conducting business. So far, a few parties have made attempts to give semblance to the fact that they are parties worth joining. In this league is Narc-Kenya and ODM.

It has conducted its elections and has consistently indicated that it will not allow thieves, drug dealers, pilferers of resources from public institutions such as Parastatals and other government departments etc. The only problem with this posturing is that it already has at least  two known drug kingpins in its mix and it went ahead to grant them nomination even when these suspicions were already very rife, this was ostensibly for political expediency. It thus follows that all this is hogwash meant to hoodwink the electorate; Narc-Kenya will still give nominations to such characters because they lost the very first opportunity to begin from a clean slate. This is the mess both ODM and PNU have consistently found themselves in, allowing fellows whose backgrounds are at great variance with what Chapter 6 of the Katiba entails.
Martha has one serious flaw as she attempts to build Nark-Kenya, she is not forging a team across the country that gives her party a national outlook, honestly apart from Karua and Mungatana, I do not know any other serious characters in Narc-Kenya who can be relied on to market the party across the various counties. She would be doing much service to the party as a long term entity to focus on building party structures and wooing especially new, clean leaders of integrity. This will ensure continuity of the party to strategically position for 2017should it not win this coming elections, which is very highly unlikely. However, she is so self-absorbed by her Presidential bid that it is taking centre-stage at the expense of building formidable structures for her continued bid. I predict that if Martha Karua will not win the elections next year, Narc-Kenya, with its resource base will not be able to live beyond a year from the elections of 2012. It will only exist at the registrars office and the certificate holders cabinet.

It has held elections, albeit very stormy in some regions. This stormy way of conducting business which should otherwise be Sunday School affairs is one image this party will need to deal with if it is to gain the trust of Kenyans. With a good countrywide network, ODM would be the party to watch, but it has lots of legwork to do to convince Kenyans that it is a democratic party. Holding elections in itself is not a yardstick to measure this; it is the conduct of those elections by both party officials and members that gives credence to the democratic aspect. So far, even arguments advanced by hardcore followers against those aspiring for positions and the loathing in the party for such aspirants gives the impression that certain positions must be cut out for certain people. This is one big blot on ODM which it must deal with going into the next elections. However, it must be said that it has managed to sustain itself well and with a more open policy and a willingness to embrace democracy fully, it could fair well.
The only challenge ODM will have with many is how well it has managed to fight corruption. Within its ranks have been lords of impunity, the very KANU corruption machine joined it in 2007and this baggage will live with ODM for years to come. It is not even categorically mentioning that corrupt barons are effectively barred from its ranks come next nominations. This implies political expediency still plays a key role in ODM affairs. Kenyans are tired of corruption and any party which does not make Chapter 6 a key cog in its nominations will be struggling to convince Kenyans that it has what it takes to lower significantly our worst enemy to development.
ODM Kenya (now Wiper Democratic Movement).

This has never been a party, it has no semblance of what a party should be, its structures are non functional and it only works when and if Kalonzo wishes so. It holds no party meetings, and is in some precarious dalliance with PNU which is to its disadvantage. Being the smaller party joining PNU, there is absolutely no gain in what ODM-Kenya has been doing in that alliance, it ought to have entered a coalition that allows it to maintain and develop its relevance, structures and distinct identity. It is discovering this a little too late and for WDM to begin now and win any election for Senators, Governors, Mps, etc all the way to the Presidency is a pipe dream, why, it does not even have grassroots organization after it killed its own structures while attending to the moribund PNU activities.
This party would have done better had it ejected Uhuru Kenyatta the moment he entered the Guineas Book of Records as the only Chief of Opposition to deny a country the possibility of changing government. He went ahead to join the incumbent to deny Kenyans the possibility to interrogating the incumbency. That is when KANU should have ejected him and today it would be enjoying the status of attempting some image salvation as it rebuilds itself. The fact that he is still calling KANU meetings and retreats when he has for all practical purposes abandoned KANU and destroyed it can only mean KANU has none within it, leave alone the wherewithal to clean up its past, it is too overwhelmed by its past that it is beholden to it, the very reason it is still waiting for some miracle and revelation to hit the son of Jomo to come back home. The least said about KANU, the better.
These have never recovered from the hang-overs of the second liberation. Their biggest burden is that the founding fathers died before accomplishing their vision and mission of these parties, thus they found themselves under the leadership of people who dream no dreams, have no vision and their only mission was long accomplished, using those parties to get into parliament and perhaps negotiating some Ministerial positions. This is what people like Musikari Kombo did. It is what Shitanda, Wetangula, Wamalwa are poised to do, they do not even believe in these parties but they are aware with small votes here and there, they can head to whoever will win the next election to bargain for some Ministerial positions in a coalition. These parties greatly inconvenienced by the deaths of Jaramogi, Matiba and Michael Wamalwa.

It is not clear whether the leaders of these parties want to stand on ODM or UDM. On one hand they are advancing UDM as their next party of choice and the next fighting attempts to throw them out of ODM. These are like a lover who wants to jilt her partner because she loves another yet is also in love with the wealth of the forsaken lover. This ambivalence is not helpful, especially as far as supporters are concerned. Supporters want their identity, not ambivalent mix. But for these leaders, they want to have their cakes and also eat it. It has never happened before, you either keep the cake or you eat it.
UDM is not certain of its performance on its own especially in its own support base. This is the reason it is clinging onto ODM as a fall back. The often claim that they won’t leave because they build ODM is testimony, why they have not thought of taking over the party and doing whatever from within indicates a lack of strategic thinking. The silence of the UDM lords lately explains their lack of focus. The worst enemy is pegging policy on an anti Raila campaign. In effect, they are selling a product that many will find hard to buy, what if you do not have beef with Raila? Why then would you join UDM? The very fact that even Cabinet Ministers who had brief dalliance with it are running away back to where they came from is indication that UDM is headed nowhere. For starters, for those advancing it to convince the country that they were out for serious business, they would have resigned and sought their positions on UDM tickets the moment they felt disenfranchised and disaffected by ODM.. This would have been a big political gamble and costly to some extent. However, had they made even 5 to 10 seats, this would have given them the leverage they needed to convince not only their traditional support base but the country at large that they are out for greater things.
Juxtapose this with their fervent fight to remain on ODM and what you have is a bunch of cowardly jokers who are throwing tantrums around the country and worth no mention.


The party is still disintegrating into fragments, the center ceased to hold long ago. It is not clear where it will end but when this is done, we will analyses the fragments for what they are. It would be unfair to analyze it at this stage of fragmentation given the process could still bear fruit and come up with parties to watch.One of its offshoots, GNU is already causing ripples in Central Kenya. Perhaps Wiper may also begin to be sexy in the eyes of Kenyans.

By Otieno Sungu.

The writer is Mashinani and On-Line Civic Educator.

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