By George Biruri

The plan by Ruto to form one party has sent shivers down my spine. This is the ominous beginning of one party dictatorship.

In Kenya, those who have been in power have always frustrated multipartism. Kenya had two main ideologically different parties at independence: KANU and KADU. Jomo Kenyatta induced, frustrated, and intimidated KADU members “to cross the floor.” We then ended up with a de facto one-party state. Since there was no one to question and hold the government in power to account, land grabbing, corruption, tribalism, and nepotism took root. Freedom fighters Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Bildad Kaggia tried to bring back sanity by forming Kenya Peoples Union ( KPU). However, Kenyatta used the state machinery to silence them.

When Moi took over, he further strengthened KANU into what they called ” chama ya baba na mama.” Moi took the draconian step of legalizing a single-party, KANU. The then Attorney general Charles Njonjo moved the motion and was supported by Mwai Kibaki. Kenya then became a de jure one-party state! Democracy was stifled, and no alternative opinion was allowed. KANU formed two powerful committees: Clearance and Disciplinary. No one who had alternative views or was suspended could be cleared. The disciplinary one was used to harass leaders. I remember one leader in Kirinyaga County was removed from the party register because he did not flash and shake his index finger (KANU party salute) during a meeting attended by Moi!

During the Moi regime, the KANU party was fused with the government and the Provincial Administration. It was then that a brutal crackdown on dissent was done. Many were arrested, charged, jailed, or held in dungeons without trial! Many were killed or disappeared.

When we started the fight for reintroduction of multipartism Mwai Kibaki derided us saying : ” KANU is my home. To think that anyone can remove KANU, is like the futile attempt of cutting the fig tree with a razor blade!”

It took the concerted efforts of the progressive forces from the political class, the clergy, the academics, civil society, and the people to force Moi to agree to repeal the infamous section 2 A to allow the reintroduction of multipartyism. Ironically those like Kibaki, who had opposed multipartyism, became beneficiaries!

During the Constitutional review process, many people pushed for the entrenchment of multipartyism in the constitution. Our Constitution declares loudly in Article 4 (2): ” The Republic of Kenya shall be a multiparty democratic state founded on the national values and principles of governance .”

The hidden intention of the promoters of ‘big parties’ and “single partism’ is to undermine democracy, silence alternative opinions and choices, weaken oversight and accountability mechanisms. As such, they can acquire wealth using whatever means without question. They can do whatever they want without challenge. They can amend the constitution and remove the term limits and rule for life!

This UDA leadership has reversed the democratic gains we fought so hard and long for. Many people suffered for it. It will be grossly wrong to reduce their efforts back to square one.

George Biruri is a freelance writer and political activist from Kenya.


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