Moi gains strength as opposition keeps bickering

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The Independent Online
KENYA'S opposition remained deadlocked about what to do after their defeat in last week's election, which they have denounced as rigged and fraudulent.

As President Daniel arap Moi was hurriedly sworn in yesterday, the leadership of the three opposition parties were deep in discussion about how to prevent him becoming president. After long discussions, they reiterated their rejection of the election results and committed themselves to use 'legal and non-violent methods to ensure fresh elections are held'.

But they did not decide on a leader of their alliance, or whether to take their parliamentary seats or hold rallies and protests. Already wincing from the knowledge that an alliance between any two of them would in theory have defeated Mr Moi, they have joined together to try to reverse the election. But Kenneth Matiba, Oginga Odinga and Mwai Kibaki seem unable to agree any more now than they did before the election.

Despite evidence of widespread malpractice, no one is supporting their demand for cancellation of the election. Two middleweight but important colleagues, John Keen and Martin Shikuku, have pleaded with the three leaders to accept the result.

As the hours go by and Mr Moi acts more and more like the victor, the initiative is slipping away from the opposition. Most foreign governments are urging them to accept defeat and take up the role of opposition. Mr Matiba, the leader of Ford-Asili, and the opposition leader who polled the most votes after President Moi, is understood to be committed to boycotting parliament. But others are keen to take up their seats on 20 January when parliament resumes.

The leaders of the three defeated parties, 50 or so dark- suited gentlemen seated round a table in the ballroom of the Intercontinental Hotel, seemed a long way from their constituents who include poor slum-dwellers and struggling farmers. Many people fear that without leadership, violence could easily erupt. The weakness and silence of the opposition leadership in these crucial hours is not preparing their supporters for what happens next.

Meanwhile, in the toughest statement from any election observer group so far, the International Republican Institute (IRI), an independent US organisation, said that electoral malpractices questioned the validity of the election. The IRI, which has had the largest monitoring group on the ground during the election, said 'the electoral environment was unfair and the electoral process seriously flawed. We question whether all Kenyans were able to freely express their will'.

The statement said confusion and irregularities in the counting of votes, breakdowns in ballot security, and an electoral environment favouring the government 'have raised questions about the validity of the election'.

But the IRI also said there was no pattern to the malpractices and said the election was a 'significant step' on Kenya's transition to multi-party democracy. Asked at a press conference if the IRI judged Mr Moi's election victory valid, Joe Balser, the Vice-Chairman, conferred with two colleagues for nearly 30 seconds before saying: 'The result of the election is a reality Kenyans have to live with.'

Like most other observers, the IRI has urged aggrieved losers to take their complaints to the courts. In the next few days Mr Moi will have to pick a cabinet. The ranks of his own party have been depleted by defections to the opposition and there is not a single Luo or Kikuyu politician of note in his camp. Under the constitution he can appoint 12 MPs and draw on them for cabinet material, but aid donors will be scrutinising his selection before agreeing to restore aid.

The international donor community cut aid in November 1991, and a Western diplomat yesterday confirmed there would be no early restoration of aid until Kenya fulfils its agreement with the International Monetary Fund - the money supply has gone haywire during the elections. He said donors would use aid to press Kenya on issues of human rights and good government.

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