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Kenya: post-referendum blues; Although the government lost the referendum on the new constitution back in November, political normality is yet to return. Wanjohi Kabukuru reports from Nairobi.

In the run-up to the constitutional referendum in November, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), a disgruntled partner in the ruling National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), jumped ship and joined the opposition Kenya African National Union (KANU) to form the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) whose symbol, the "orange fruit", signified "No" to the new constitution.


When the final tally was announced, "No" had carried the day by a margin of one million votes. This loss marked a significant milestone in recent Kenyan history.

Soon after President Mwai Kibaki conceded defeat on national television, the ODM leading light and former minister for roads, Raila Odinga, urged the president to dissolve parliament and call a snap election. This was flatly rejected by both the president and the Church, who insisted that the government had to go the full course as laid down by the constitution.

A day after accepting the referendum results, Kibaki dismissed his entire cabinet and ran the country for a fortnight with only the vice-president, attorney general and permanent secretaries.

When he named the new cabinet two weeks later, all ministers who were allied to the "No" campaign, namely Kalonzo Musyoka (environment and natural resources), Raila Odinga (roads and public works), Prof Anyang Nyong'o (planning), Linah Kilimo (immigration), Najib Balala (national heritage), Ochillo Ayacko (sports), and William Ole Ntimama (state), and several like-minded deputy ministers, were all left out. Rather, sympathetic members of both KANU and FORD-People were given cabinet posts.

Since then, Kibaki has moved fast to assure the public that the progress so far made on the constitution would not go to waste, but that only contentious issues in the proposed constitution would be dealt with.

Now, all of a sudden, the country's oldest party, KANU, is enmeshed in a fight for survival. A splinter group calling itself New KANU Alliance has been registered. The new party is ostensibly exploiting a loophole which KANU overlooked when it registered its documents ahead of independence in 1963.

The loophole is solely based on trademarks. The new party is seeking to take control of KANU's age-old cockerel symbol, one-finger salute and even its flag. It has already filed its intentions with the registrar of trademarks.

Due to the timing of the registration, KANU has shifted all blame to Kibaki's government, saying the move to register the new party is intended to "create acrimony".

But the secretary general of the New Kanu Alliance, Imanyara Mugambi, does not think so. "We have a stake in the use of the symbols because we are a splinter group," he says. "Yes, it's true that we want exclusive use of the symbol because they have never been reserved for old Kanu."

The case is pending in court.

Boosted by the plebiscite victory, members of the ODM (who rarely meet as ODM today) want to set the new agenda for the country's constitutional review process, but their calls for a "structured dialogue on the way forward" have so far gone unheeded as President Kibaki has literally ignored them.

To make themselves a legal entity, the ODM then sought for registration, and got the shock of their lives. To their disbelief, some unknown political neophytes had beaten them to the registrar of societies, and registered ODM as a political party.

Now, who gets what in next year's general elections has become the preoccupation of politicians who are falling over themselves to gain vintage positions in readiness for the elections.

As expected, both KANU and the LDP (the main movers of the ODM) have been sending out conflicting signals as to who will be their presidential

candidates. Kalonzo Musyoka who appears to be the frontrunner and has been leading in the opinion polls has suddenly kept silent after his party colleague, Raila Odinga, declared his interest on New Year's Day.

With the entry of Odinga and William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta and Mudavadi have also maintained silence on their next moves. However, a day after Ruto announced his presidential bid, former President Daniel arap Moi poured cold water on it.

At the time of going to press, the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, who has been chastised from all corners, had not declared his interest for a second term. But Kenyans are exuberant over the new democratic space, something that prompted the Ugandan journalist and editor, Charles Onyango-Obbo, to write:

"When the history of Kenya is finally written in the years to come, Kibaki will probably be judged more favourably than current events suggest. Whether through his proverbial laid-back style, non-combative style or subtle calculation, he enabled Kenyan democracy to make its unpredictable erratic march forward."
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Title Annotation:Around Africa
Author:Kabukuru, Wanjohi
Publication:New African
Geographic Code:6KENY
Date:Feb 1, 2006
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