Kenya’s small political parties grapple with issues of funding

Saturday July 02 2016
ke parties

Jubilee Alliance led by TNA's President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and his deputy URP's William Ruto (second left); Cord coalition led by ODM's Raila Odinga (right), Wiper's Kalonzo Musyoka (centre), and Ford Kenya's Moses Wetang'ula (second right). Out of the 59 registered political parties in Kenya, only TNA, ODM and URP get funding from the exchequer. PHOTOS | FILE

The small political parties in Kenya still find it difficult to compete effectively despite the enactment of the Political Parties Act, 2011, which provided for the state funding.

The big parties are the only ones that receive money from the exchequer courtesy of the votes garnered in previous elections.

According to the Political Parties Act 2011, a party must have at least five per cent of the total votes cast in a general election — or 3.4 million votes — to qualify for funding by the exchequer.

Thus, out of the 59 registered political parties in Kenya, only three parties, The National Alliance (TNA) led by President Uhuru Kenyatta; the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) led by Raila Odinga; and the United Republican Party (URP) of Deputy President William Ruto, qualified for funding by the exchequer. 

Since 2013, the three parties have been sharing the $2.5 million per annum allocated by the Treasury, which was increased to $3.5 million in the 2014/2015 financial year.

The three parties are now forced to share their allocation with affiliate parties under the two coalitions that were formed prior to the 2013 elections — the Jubilee Alliance and the Coalition for Reform and Democracy (Cord).


According to Dr Carey Francis Onyango, the chief executive of the Centre for Multi-Party Democracy (CMD), the funds the political parties are receiving are just 10 per cent of the amount provided for by law, which is 0.03 per cent of the gross domestic product or about $29 million.

In the last disbursement, TNA received $866,679, ODM $848,239 and URP received $273,688 on the basis of their strengths in parliament.

The Political Parties Fund, established under Section 23 of the Act, was to enable the political parties to carry out political programmes democratically and independent of wealthy individuals.


But since the reintroduction of multiparty democracy in 1991, Kenyan political parties continue to remain ethnic-based and where the ethnic kingpins offer the bulk of financing and call the shots when it comes to party matters.

While the Political Parties Act prohibits an individual or organisation from contributing more than five per cent of the total expenditure of a political party in any year, the same “party owners” control those who contribute to their parties behind the scenes during the general election, later translated into lucrative contracts once the concerned party comes to power.

This normally results in a highly contested and chaotic nomination across the board, where in most cases those who contribute generously to the respective parties are given the party tickets at the expense of those with grassroots support.

Gitobu Imanyara, a Nairobi-based lawyer says that Kenyan political parties have failed to introduce the concept of prudent management because most party employees are friends and relatives of party leaders who end up mismanaging the party.

Mr Imanyara added that such practices across the board do not give room for accountability and the growth of multiparty democracy.

Under-reporting incomes

The Act requires political parties to file their returns at the end of every financial year, detailing their income through party activities, donations and expenses.

With Section 28 of the Political Parties Act prohibiting political parties from receiving funds from foreigners, the art of political party funding remains a mystery in Kenya — known only to the party bigwigs.

The section, however allows unlimited technical assistance in the form of vehicles, computers and other equipment from foreign agencies or foreign political parties that share the same ideology.

A recent report by the Registrar of Political Parties indicates that the Kenya’s main political parties are under-reporting their incomes and have not been revealing billions of shillings they have been receiving from fundraising activities, especially in the run-up to the elections.

According to Dr Adams Oloo, the chairman of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Nairobi, the amount the political parties are getting from the exchequer is a pittance.

“Taking into account the typical activities of a national party such as running party offices countrywide, holding grassroots elections and party nominations, as well as mounting serious campaigns during elections, the amount is negligible,” said Dr Oloo. 

Dr Onyango says that the CMD — which seeks to promote multi-party democracy in Kenya through foreign funding — is working with stakeholders to reform electoral laws and encourage internal party democracy.