Kenya's ruling coalition moves to create single party for 2017 general elections

Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya

The main political parties in Kenya’s governing Jubilee Alliance are considering plans for a merger, an agreement analysts say may involve rotating power between two of the country’s largest ethnic groups.

Members of parliament in the two-year-old coalition have gathered in the central Kenyan town of Naivasha for talks on issues including the creation of the Jubilee Alliance Party, Johnson Sakaja, Chairman of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s The National Alliance party, said by phone.

“The aim is to have one political vehicle” for the next general elections in 2017, Sakaja said.

Uhuru Kenyatta, a member of the most-populous Kikuyu ethnic group, and Deputy President William Ruto, a Kalenjin, are former political rivals who were elected on a joint ticket in 2013. The men were on opposite sides during the 2007 elections.

Any deal to form a single party from the alliance may involve a pledge to allow Kenyatta to run for a final five-year term in 2017, after which Ruto would become the party’s presidential candidate, Francois Conradie, an Analyst with NKC Independent Economists, said in an e-mailed note.

Uhuru Kenyatta, a Kikuyu, is the son of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president after independence from Britain in 1963 and former head of the Kenya African National Union political party, or KANU.

“It could be good for Ruto, if the single party can build a countrywide structure for 2017, which he can also use for a possible presidential candidacy in 2022,” Emmanuel Kisiangani, a Senior Researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, said in an interview from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

“However, some members in URP may want to cling on because there is a belief that the central region where Kenyatta comes from will not support another ethnic group to take power,” Kisiangani said.

The three largest ethnic communities in Kenya are the Kikuyu at 6.6 million, Luhya at 5.3 million, and Kalenjin with 4.9 million, in a total population of 39 million. Mwai Kibaki, Kenya’s third president after Daniel arap Moi, was also from the country’s Kikuyu community. He ruled the country for more than a decade before being succeeded by Uhuru Kenyatta.

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