Moi is as one with his party's state

Foreigners may have their place in Kenya, writes David Orr from Vihiga, but it is not in politics
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The Independent Online
It had been a most successful harambee. As storm clouds gathered over Vihiga, in Kenya's Western Province, hundreds of local businessmen and party officials queued to hand fistfuls of cash over to President Daniel arap Moi. By the time the tribal dances had ended, and rain began to fall, the equivalent of pounds 60,000 had been collected.

A harambee is a fund-raising event, in this case for a bursary to give children of the poor better access to education, but it is also a way for President Moi and his ruling party, Kanu, to consolidate their support. Kenya is no longer a one-party state, following Kanu's victory in democratic elections in 1992, but on occasions like this, it is hard to tell the difference.

Vihiga, a small town set in some of the country's best farming land, is a Kanu stronghold. The wananchi (the people) lined the road to Vihiga High School, waved flags and cheered as the Presidential cavalcade passed. "This harambee is aimed at filling the gap between rich and poor," said President Moi, on a podium which contained an array of Kanu dignitaries, including Vice-President Professor George Saitoti, and five prominent government ministers. "We hold harambees because our destiny depends on us and that is how we plan our future."

Loud approval issued from the crowd of brightly-dressed schoolchildren, party faithful and curious onlookers. This was the first presidential harambee to be held in Vihiga, and people had come in their hundreds, bearing placards declaring: "Long Live President Moi." The 71-year-old leader, looking older than his placard pictures, waved his gold and ivory ceremonial stick.

Mr Moi's aversion to multi-party democracy has never been a secret. He often takes the opportunity to underline the tribal and other tensions he claims it has produced. Rarely has he issued such an outright condemnation of the multi-party system as he did on this occasion.

"Multi-party politics is a foreign ideology which has been introduced to divert Africans' attention from the real issues," he said. "If we are divided, we cannot develop our country. Multi-party politics have brought divisions among Kenyans."

Such remarks are unlikely to leave any doubt as to the President's feelings about the direction his country has taken since the election. Were it not for the mounting pressure of foreign aid donors at the turn of the decade, few observers believe the Kenyan leader would have embraced change so readily.

Suggestions that he favours a return to one-party rule have always been met with a stern rebuff by President Moi. In recent months, however, he has raised the spectre of threats to national security. Opposition parties have been subjected to virulent attacks for their alleged roles in fomenting unrest.

These themes of division and instability have become even more strident since a group of lawyers and human rights campaigners, of whom the internationally- renowned conservationist, Richard Leakey, is the most prominent, announced their intention to form a new opposition party dedicated to political and economic reform. Mr Moi has been vociferous in his condemnation, and in particular of Mr Leakey, dismissed as a racist and atheist bent on usurping power for his own ends, and on dividing Kenyans.

Although a second generation Kenyan citizen, Mr Leakey has been subjected to charges of raising foreign money to sponsor his political objectives. His international connections, used to attract funds for endangered wildlife, are now being used in an attempt to discredit him and his political allies.

"We in Kenya are ready to share with everyone, including foreigners," said Mr Moi."We give unlimited opportunities to everyone who wants to invest here and their investments will be safe. So, let foreigners participate in everything in Kenya, but not in political leadership. That we will not have. No, no, no." If any wananchi in Vihiga wanted to differ, it did not seem the moment to do so.