More of the same in Kenya Moi returns: Flawed election reflects ethnic divisions among opposition.

January 11, 1998

DANIEL ARAP MOI has begun a fifth term as president of Kenya, thanks to a flawed and ragged election. As a result, Mr. Moi will carry on as autocratic ruler, without recognition of legitimacy that elections normally bring.

It is not all his fault.

Mr. Moi runs a deplorable regime that represses opposition, tolerates corruption, fans ethnic tensions, squanders a healthy economic legacy and measurably displeases a majority of its people. His inaugural promise to bring reforms lacks credibility. The election was marred by violence, needed a second day of voting and was disputed as rigged not only by the opposition but even by the winner.

Yet the people appeared to have voted without fear, a majority of them against Mr. Moi. He won more votes than any of 12 challengers and edged out the strongest contender, former Vice President Mwai Kibaki.

Still, Mr. Moi won the most votes of those running and 25 percent of the vote in five of eight provinces, avoiding a run-off. The opposition collectively won a decisive majority for president and parliament, but could not overcome ethnic rivalries.

Each of three leading tribes had a candidate who could not win enough votes outside that tribe. Mr. Kibaki is from the dominant Kikuyu tribe, whose dominance of national life is resented by Luo and Luhiya people. Mr. Moi, from an insignificant tribe, does better than his rivals at attracting votes from other tribes.

He reluctantly allowed multi-party elections in 1991, but does not allow open criticism. Kenya needs order, social accord, free discussion and institutions that are legitimate in the eyes of its people. Given the ethnic diversity, that should mean a stronger parliament and weaker president.

The international community should continue to press Mr. Moi on these issues. But there is no use pretending that anyone else would have won the election.

Opposition leaders need to cooperate better, support the strongest among them across ethnic lines and build a stronger sense of Kenyan solidarity.

They did not do that this time.

Pub Date: 1/11/98

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