Deep divisions rock opposition parties in Kenya

Saturday June 06 2020

Ford Kenya party leader Moses Wetangula (left) confers with Kiminini Member of Parliament and acting Secretary General Chris Wamalwa (right) during a media briefing at the party’s headquarters in Nairobi on May 31, 2020. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG


Kenya’s opposition has been thrown into deeper disarray after two rival factions in Ford-Kenya each announced leadership changes in a party that enjoys considerable support in the western parts of the country and has more than 10 Members of Parliament.

The feuding in Ford-Kenya broke out recently when a group of officials convened a meeting in a Nairobi hotel and announced they had replaced Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula, a former foreign affairs minister, with Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi as party leader.

Mr Wetang’ula responded to the mutiny by suspending Mr Wamunyinyi and at least three officials who endorsed the latter.

The registrar of political parties is expected to arbitrate the dispute in the coming days after both factions presented documents last week on Tuesday seeking to formalise leadership changes.

But the bickering in one of Kenya’s oldest political parties, which has its roots in the 1990s agitation for multiparty democracy, has triggered an even more significant falling-out in the National Super Alliance (Nasa).

Nasa is the pre-election coalition that backed the candidacy of former prime minister Raila Odinga against President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2017 election.


Latest rebellion

Mr Wetang’ula and Mr Musalia Mudavadi, the former Kenyan vice-president who leads Amani National Congress (ANC), have accused Mr Odinga of orchestrating the latest rebellion in Ford-Kenya.

The two parties are key members of Nasa alongside Mr Odinga’s ODM and Wiper Democratic Movement, whose leader is Kalonzo Musyoka, who served as vice-president in the Mwai Kibaki administration between 2008 and 2013.

The three leaders have in the past also faulted Mr Odinga for his decision to enter a co-operation deal with President Kenyatta in March 2018, which has seen ODM MPs vote with the ruling Jubilee Party in Parliament and weakened the opposition.

ODM is the single largest opposition political party, with 76 MPs in the 349-member National Assembly, more than those of its Nasa partners put together.

Mr Odinga’s party has also bolstered its strength in Parliament with some independents and ANC rebels.

The continued disintegration of the opposition further swings the legislative balance of power towards the executive and raises concerns about weak oversight at a time when President Kenyatta is moving to purge the ruling party’s parliamentary leadership of internal dissent.