Political Party Cooperation in Postelection as Ethnic Tensions (Kenyan Case)
Prof. Mwaruvie, John
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In most African states, general elections generate a lot of ethnic tensions. This is because most parties are ethnicbased or receive support from certain ethnic groups. When a party loses in an election, it is excluded from the government and the ethnic group that supported it suffers reprisals, its members are even victimized in the civil service, parastatals and other state backed institutions. This attitude has generated more tensions and conflicts. This paper attempts to give suggestions on how postelection tensions can be minimized in plural societies. Kenya will be taken to show that party cooperation between KANU, NDP and Ford Kenya has created coexistence of the ethnic groups that supported such parties. The paper also evaluates the impact of party cooperation in the future of multiparty politics in Kenya. The paper also draws examples from other countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa to show the merits of party cooperation in defusing wouldbe conflicts. The 1990s has witnessed a new wave of political dispensation in Africa. After practising a oneparty political system for three decades, the beginning of this decade witnessed the adoption of a multiparty system. It was hoped then that political competition between parties would usher in a government that observed transparency and accountability devoid of corruption and bad governance. The clarion call then was for a change of guards at the helm. However, in many countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe, the ruling parties regained their leadership. In other states like Zambia and Malawi, new leaders took over but brought in minimal changes. Most of these countries have conducted two multiparty elections and the aftermath of elections has led to the evolution of a new philosophy and attitude towards the future government. The new approach seems to be geared towards political party cooperation or the formation of a government of national unity. In Kenya, after the second multiparty election in December 1997, political party cooperation has been the in thing. This is a new concept in African political thought, and possibly a political practice that is likely to dominate politics in the 21st century. It is a political philosophy that has the capacity to ease tensions between various cooperating ethnic groups. It is a political concept based on mutual cooperation between the ruling party and one or two opposition parties. The cooperation does not eliminate complete opposition politics. 5/8/2015 MOST EthnoNet publication: Anthropology of Africa http://www.ethnonetafrica.org/pubs/p95mwaruvie.htm 2/6 The concept of cooperation as practised in Kenya by the Kenya African National Union (KANU) the ruling party and National Development Party (NDP) the third largest party in parliament also implies that there is concerted effort to reconcile the Kalenjin group (dominating KANU leadership) and the Luo community dominating NDP. The cooperation concept is a few steps below the realisation of the government of National Unity as practised in South African and royal oppositions in United Kingdom. In the case, the government of National Unity is constituted in the constitution. The constitutional arrangement gives the parties with 5% of the national vote, a legal framework and obligation to participate in the government. In this regard, the members take ministerial posts in government. In the British system, the royal opposition party is the officially recognised opposition party. In the Kenyan case, the official opposition is the Democratic Party. (DP) of Mwai Kibaki, former VicePresident. His party is the real opposition to the ruling party and the cooperating parties. DP seems to have adopted an old adage of "a" friend of my enemy is my enemy". The D.P on the other hand is rightly or wrongly accused of representing the aspiration of the Kikuyu, the largest ethnic group in Kenya. Fear of Kikuyu domination of the political landscape has forced other ethnic groups to organise opposition against them with the aim of neutralising them. Very few ethnic groups are willing to cooperate politically with the Kikuyu since they are known to be Kikuyucentric, when it comes to general elections. They support wholeheartedly one of their own without fearing repercussions in case of losing. It is almost certain that the cooperation between KANU and NDP is simply to frustrate D.P in Parliament and in national politics. Another aspect of political cooperation and which makes it unique is that, it lacks the tenets of coalition government. In most coalition governments, the parties involved share ministerial posts in the government. They have a common policy and support one another in Parliament. Political cooperation is like marriages of convenience between the political leaders. It does not also imply that the members of Parliament belonging to a cooperating party have any obligation to support the other party. What has emerged is that there is serious lobbying between members before a stand is taken. Through the cooperation mechanism, the government has been able to defeat serious motions like votes of no confidence on the President, and secured election of KANU candidate as Speaker of National Assembly, and that NDP candidate as Deputy Speaker against DP and Ford Kenya candidates. As noted earlier, the political party cooperation is not enshrined in the constitution nor is it included in party constitutions. As a result, the cooperating parties do not take ministerial posts but leaders who have been able to pull the strings behind the scene have members of their ethnic groups appointed to lucrative positions in the government and in key parastatals. This has been seen as the direct benefit of cooperation. In this regard, the ethnic groups participating in cooperation have realised tangible benefits from the political venture. The government has gone for the best in Luo community in effecting the policy. In fact, the candidates' promotion in many cases was overdue because of lack of political goodwill. Such talented peoples were victimized because of the politics of exclusion of those communities that did not sing the tune of the ruling party.