Demise of KKK Alliance and the Progressive Democratic Movement (PDM) party
By Prof. Maurice Amutabi
The political scene in Kenya is shifting again, after the passage of the proposed constitution by parliament recently. The lines are drawn and it looks like this time round, it is going to be a class struggle (and muted religious tensions). It is quickly turning into a struggle between land owners and defenders of peasants and land rights. It is apparent that those who have grabbed public land and who own over 10,000 acres of hectares of land are threatening to mobilize their supporters against the proposed constitution in the referendum, vowing to vote No. This group includes families who own vast tracts of land such as the Moi’s, and their sidekicks who comprise leading land owners like former speaker Francis Ole Kaparo. On the other side are MPs who do not own more than 10,000 acres and have nothing to fear in the new constitution, loudly declaring that they will vote YES. This group includes politicians like Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi, Kiraitu Muriungi, etc. The entire political equation is being transformed within a scope of few days. It is also emerging in the debates about the proposed constitution that the old land grievances are still unresolved and squatters at the coast and the Rift Valley will have a chance to voice their dissatisfaction with land issues in Kenya, if they vote yes. Some members of the clergy (and not the whole Church) is also being recruited, on the abortion issue, as well as the clause on the kadhi courts, to vote no, although there is still talking going on over this.
We cannot divorce the 2012 elections from the outcome of the referendum, for like in 2005, the two are thoroughly and intricately entwined. The passage of the proposed constitution in parliament, ready for referendum has already started to have its causalities. The first to go is so-called Kikuyu, Kamba and Kalenjin (KKK) alliance, which died as a result of the reneging on agreement reached at night meetings. The second to die was the new Progressive Democratic Movement (PDM) party. It died before it even became a party. Very few political pundits and observers applauded the move by the Party of National Unity (PNU) affiliate parties when they moved ahead and to form a new outfit to be known as Progressive Democratic Movement (PDM) party. The PDM included segments of parties such as ODM-Kenya, Kanu, Kaddu, Sisi kwa Sisi, Kadu-Asili, Shirikisho Party of Kenya, and other smaller parties. For many observers, this move meant that those behind the PDM were either panicky or keen to see how their potential opponents would react to their first move. In other words, many thought that it was only a first move, especially if PDM has a strategy or has learnt anything from the past. But they were giving to much credit to these politicians, for very few are informed by history. Political races in Kenya and other African countries are run like a marathon race. Elections are won by those who plan and think like marathon runners and make moves when they are certain that it will bear fruit. Marathon runners have to have a strategy in order not to burn out. They have to identify the ‘rabbit’ (usually a runner who is paid to increase the pace of the race in order to push the actual competitors). The rabbit often drops out midway through the race, although there have been occasions when rabbits have gone on to win races, especially when they realize that the other competitors are not giving the chase. In ideal marathon race conditions, the expectation is to wait for a lead pack (usually three or four runner who isolate themselves and surge ahead of the rest) to emerge, weigh it out and then make a move. Experienced marathon runners know when to make a fast break.
The PDM had all the makings of what had been in the air for a sometime, of an alliance between Kalonzo Musyoka, Uhuru Kenyatta, George Saitoti and perhaps William Ruto and Najib Balala. Many observers knew that this alliance was not tuneable because the five could only hold together if there were five equal positions for each one of them. Unfortunately there is only one position for head of state. From the split on the proposed constitution, it is unlikely that they will agree on one them, because the five of them will have to postpone their own personal ambitions, which none of them is likely to be prepared to do. It is not surprising that Martha Karua’s Narc-Kenya and the Democratic Party of Kenya declined to be part of the new PDM outfit, for obvious reasons. Maratha Karua is one of the many politicians who have declared interest in the presidency in 2012. The elements in DP think that they have been betrayed despite supporting the Kibaki regime, and believe that this is the time to create new allies, away from PDM. Nevertheless, the announcement of the formation of PDM did not come by surprise to many political onlookers and experts.
During the announcement of the launching of the PDM, Kiraitu Murungi said that member parties of PDM would give up the right to field candidates independently in the General Election, which is anathema to many party leaders who made a lot of money during the last elections, by charging aspirants nomination fees. Some owners of political parties made a fortune selling nomination forms to aspiring candidates. Some nomination certificates were sold for as much as 100,000/-. They were not going to allow PDM to take over their money-making rights without discussing compensation mechanisms. The PDM also lacked a unifying force, above and beyond hatred of Raila. What is also important to note is that the announcement appeared rushed. There was no committee selected to steer the idea further. There were no plans for a secretariat or head office and most importantly, there was no party leader and chairman. The vagueness and ambiguity in defining these important markers was the PDM’s major undoing. That the announcement did not get a lot of attention and traction was not unexpected, but what was surprising was the immediate rejection of the idea by some of the parties that were allegedly mentioned as being part of the new outfit. What is therefore important was what was not mentioned by Kiraitu Murungi – that this was a movement created to counter Raila’s apparent invincibility. The events of the past one month have revealed that the PDM is not tenable as a political entity, for many reasons.
First, tensions over the Yes and No vote during the referendum are likely to be driven into the 2012 elections. Although the referendum will not be as tumultuous like the 2005 event, there is likely to be political falling out, like Najib Balala ditching the No vote largely because of his largely Muslim constituency which has vowed to vote yes, because of the kadhi courts which survived a proposed amendment by Mutava Musyimi in parliament. Musyimi wanted the Muslim courts expunged from the proposed legal statute.
Second, the timing of announcement of PDM was a serious miscalculation and has all the hallmarks of work by political novices. It came at the wrong time, under false triumphalism from the Naivasha accord. The planners of PDM idea failed to realise that political alliance-building does not succeed where there is no concrete strategy of execution in the absence of a major threat or a common enemy. FORD movement was successful in early 1990s because of perceived threat by the KANU political machine and Moi. Majority of Kenyans hated KANU and rallies at Kamukunji and other places were the clearest indication of the mass revulsion. NARC had the same fortunes in 2002, largely as result of internal struggle in KANU created by the privileging of Uhuru Kenyatta against other contenders like Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka. Although PDM was created to counter Raila’s popularity, it was apparent that some MPs from Central and Eastern did not disagree totally with the way Raila handled the Mau issue. Raila Odinga is not a threat like he would have been if he were the president. The movement could not get enough traction largely as a result of what appeared to be personal rather than major differences, and attacks against Raila only added to the illumination of Raila as a national leader, enjoying wide support among Kenyans.
There is also a sense in which many felt that the PDM exposed its strategies too early. That is why, although among those who attended the two-day ‘strategic’ retreat that created PDM were Uhuru (Kanu chairman), Saitoti (PNU chairman), Kalonzo (ODM-Kenya leader), they were not backed by enough numbers of MPs from their parties who feared to antagonise their colleagues across the aisle. Although there were representatives of smaller parties, which included Sisi Kwa Sisi, Kaddu, Kadu-Asili, and Shirikisho Party of Kenya among others, their support was not voiced, and fissures were clearly visible from day one. The representatives of small parties were muted and appear to have attended the meeting to ‘observe’ than to get involved. It is also possible that they imagined someone was going to grease their palms, in order to buy their allegiance. The organizers of the PDM did not have goals and objectives that would have acted as the glue that held the group together.
The PR job was badly handled, especially dealing with party leaders. They lost the psychological game, for they failed to massage the egos of the leaders of the small parties. That is the reason why many leaders whose parties were listed as being part of the PDM disowned it. Ego massaging is part and political culture all over the world, and Moi knew how to do it. He would call the names of Shariff Nassir, Mulu Mutisya, among others, as representatives of the people. They would kill you for him. This is why ego–massaging is an art which is supposed to be used as part of political recruitment. You cannot get the support of the Democratic Party (DP) without parading its leaders, Joseph Munyao and Wilfred Machange. The opposition from DP, Ford Kenya, Narc Kenya and New Ford Kenya distancing themselves from the movement was not unexpected. They felt left out, as stakeholders.
Some PNU officials also dismissed PDM and said their party would win the next election. This was a clear way of saying that they should not underestimated. They said that they were not interested in joining alliances whose purpose they did not know. During the acrimonious voting on the draft constitution in parliament, an obviously irritated William Ruto suggested to the speaker that Martha Karua, Gitobu Imanyara and Bonny Khalwale be given permanent seats outside the chamber because they were derailing attempts at any modifications to the document by denying the chamber quorum by moving in and out of the house at critical times. It is instructive to note that these three belong to political parties that were mentioned as being part of the PDM. The DP national chairman Wilfred Machage was even direct and emphatic, saying that DP had nothing to do with PDM and would go it alone in the next general election. If Machange has been told to read the statement on behalf of the PDM, the result would have been very different. That he felt the DP was excluded is what engineered the reaction. It is the reaction Machage said that DP was not prepared to be dragged into a partnership that would end up dividing its members like in 2007 when its candidates were compelled to contest civic and parliamentary seats under the PNU umbrella. It is the reason he said that the DP would field candidates at all levels, including a presidential candidate in 2012. He felt isolated. Despite being around Daniel Moi and Raila Odinga for many years, it was clear that the leaders of PDM have not gained any political lessons from history. Politicians like to be acknowledged.
The formation of PDM was denounced rapidly by many of the 22 parties that allegedly joined the movement. Some of the leaders of these parties were quoted in the press by saying that contrary to the announcement by Kiraitu Murungi, none of the 22 parties affiliated to PNU had joined the movement. They pointed out that claims by Kiraitu Murungi in his prepared statement were false, saying that PDM was a movement of a few people who wanted to force it on others. Asked to comment on the relationship between PDM and Ford-K, the chairman Musikari Kombo said the party would only form a coalition with others after the 2912 elections. Musikari Kombo has gone ahead to endorse Eugene Wamalwa for 2012 presidential elections. Narc-K secretary general and Garsen MP Danson Mungatana, an ardent supporter of Martha Karua said his party would not join PDM because it was led by people who were positioning themselves for the succession battle. Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale, of New Ford-K, accused Kiraitu Murungi and PNU MPs who supported the formation of PDM of failing to consult affiliate parties before making the key announcement. At the end of the day, only few PNU elements were left holding on what never was. The KKK and PDM will go down in history as one of the short-lived political alliances in Kenya.
Some observers thought the PDM was a vehicle for Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto more than Kalonzo Musyoka and George Saitoti. It now appears that as we move towards the referendum, the PDM will be dumped in the scrap yard of political outfits. Others also thought that Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were engaged in a personal crusade, especially given the fact that they have gone to court demanding that their names be removed from the list that was handed to The Hague, of perpetrators of the post election violence. It is not lost to observers that there are some in PNU and ODM who will happily step in to inherit the positions that the two hold in the cabinet. Given that Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto have taken different routes on the referendum, with Uhuru Kenyatta supporting yes note, and Ruto supporting a No vote, it is evident that we might have just seen the last of the KKK and PDM.
Prof. Maurice Amutabi teaches history at Central Washington University, Ellensburg, USA.