Forming and killing parties, the curse of Kenya’s politics

Saturday February 13 2016

Jubilee Alliance Party supporters listen to Philip Charo at Alaskan ground in Malindi where he launched his campaigns for the Malindi Parliamentary seat by-election on the party's ticket on  February 8, 2016. PHOTO | KAZUNGU SAMUEL | NATION  MEDIA GROUP

Jubilee Alliance Party supporters listen to Philip Charo at Alaskan ground in Malindi where he launched his campaigns for the Malindi Parliamentary seat by-election on the party's ticket on February 8, 2016. PHOTO | KAZUNGU SAMUEL | NATION MEDIA GROUP  


The merger of The National Alliance (TNA) and the United Republican Party (URP) and its smaller affiliates into the Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) is yet another reminder of the transient nature of Kenya’s political culture.

It is also a signal that the General Election scheduled for August next year will largely be fought and delivered on brand new political outfits, complete with new symbols and slogans.

Equally significant is the fact that the merger effectively marks the demise of TNA and the URP whose stormy and colourful entry onto the political scene swept President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto to power in 2013.

The coalition parties were equally transitional organs formed within months of the 2013 polls. When they arrived on the scene, the parties caused the type of commotion that has come to be associated with Kenya’s new and moneyed political outfits. Their singular objective was to win political power.

With its display of massive resources ever mobilized by A Kenyan political party, TNA and URP bombarded voters with their bright and attractive party colours and equally captivating slogans. Party offices and branches were hurriedly opened and painted with party colours and slogans. The new parties were attractive in the true sense of the word.

Their main rivals that coalesced around Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) presided over by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula left nothing to chance, pouring out as much resources in their campaigns.
Like Jubilee Alliance, Cord was also formed months to the 2013 elections as a joint front of the Orange Democratic Movement Party, Wiper Democratic Party and Ford Kenya.

But as soon as elections were done and spoils shared by the winning coalition and while losers leaked their wounds, party organs were forgotten. Offices that had come to live and served as gravitating points for campaigns only months earlier were abandoned and closed.

Politicians have returned to the drawing board to craft new strategies solely for winning the next elections with party reorganization and refocusing underpinning those strategies. Indeed, if Cord goes the Jubilee way, the country will see the exit of the major political coalitions that contested the 2013 elections.


The culture of forming and abandoning political parties is a sad and retrogressive affront to the principle of nurturing strong and sustainable parties that can stand the test of time. It negates the whole principle of building political parties founded on strong ideologies and membership.

As it is, Kenyan parties are not only bereft of ideology and membership but have no social character. Instead of membership, they thrive on public demonstration of support often gauged by the size of crowds during campaign rallies.

A scrutiny of the activities of JAP have left little doubt about its ultimate intention of mobilizing support for the re-election of President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto in 2017.

These intentions have, to my remotest review, nothing to do with uniting Kenyans. Neither do they guarantee that JAP will survive to 2022 when Mr Ruto is expected to take a stab at the Presidency.

The fact that JAP has made the unity of Kenyans its rallying point is a purely political because Kenyan parties have never been known to be instruments of unity.

Indeed the more the parties have mutated and new ones born, the more politically divided Kenyans have become.
Forming and abandoning parties has been the hallmark of Kenyan politics. Party of National Unity (PNU) that secured Mr Mwai Kibaki’s disputed victory in 2007 came into being hardly two months to the elections and effectively died three months later.

By then, the National Rainbow Coalition that propelled Mr Kibaki to landslide victory in 2002 had long disintegrated.


The reality that political parties are not more than temporary bridges to power that get destroyed soon after elections cannot be over-emphasized.

Ever since the return to multiparty democracy in 1992, parties have only come to life in the build up to elections and died soon thereafter.

That is the reality that has left Kenya’s political landscape littered with expired and moribund political parties that lose their attractiveness after every general election.

This culture started with good old Ford (The Forum for Restoration of Democracy). Even before it tested the fruits of its struggle, Ford splintered due to rivalry for the presidency among its top officials and as a consequence, handed power back to then ruling party Kanu. Now, Kanu has completely lost the national stature it once commanded.

Enactment of the Political Parties Act 2011 meant to streamline political parties has hardly changed the situation. Thanks to ruthless mutilation of crucial sections of the Act by Parliament, the Act now not only allows abandoning of existing parties but also provides for shifting of allegiance to new parties by MPs and MCAs midway without the danger of losing their seats.

Mr Musebe is a career Journalist and communications consultant. [email protected]