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  • News and Notes

Kenya Promises Move to Multiparty System

The one-party regime of Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi and his ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU), one of the most determined opponents of the democratic currents that have been sweeping Africa over the last two years, faced a crisis in late I991 that left it promising to launch a transition to multiparty politics and free elections.

The immediate cause of the crisis was a November 14-16 government crackdown involving the arrest of 14 leading members of the country's main opposition movement, the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD). Among those detained were 80 year-old Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, a former vice-president under the late Jomo Kenyatta, and Gitobu Imanyara, the editor of the Nairobi Law Monthly, a major journal of democratic opinion whose work was discussed by Imanyara's fellow lawyer and human rights activist Gibson Kamau Kuria in the Fall 1991 issue of the Journal of Democracy. When FORD went ahead with its plans to hold a mass rally for multiparty democracy in Nairobi on November 16, police used tear gas to disperse the large crowds that had attended it. Local newspapers reported that the demonstrators suffered one death and seven gunshot wounds as a result of police actions.

Although the government' s initial reaction was to blame foreign powers, particularly the United States, for encouraging the disturbances, by November 19 it was taking steps to mollify longtime overseas and domestic critics of its corruption and authoritarianism. On that day, President Moi dismissed his industry minister and chief lieutenant, Nicholas Biwott, along with several other high officials thought to be deeply implicated in massive corruption. A week later, Moi ordered the arrests of Biwott and Hezekiah Oyugi, the regime's former internal-security chief, in connection with the February 1990 [End Page 135] murder of Foreign Minister Robert Ouko. As these arrests were being made, the judge presiding over a special inquiry into the case announced the suspension of the investigation, which had uncovered detailed allegations (subsequently made public) of links between senior figures in the regime and the killing of Ouko, a noted foe of corruption.

Meanwhile, the Club of Paris—a group of 12 governments and 6 international lending agencies to which Kenya owes much of its $6-billion foreign debt—was deciding to accept the Kenyan opposition's advice and refuse any new aid for at least six months, calling upon the Moi government to make "clear progress in implementing economic and social reforms" during that time. This represents the first major application in Africa of the principle of "political conditionality," which links aid levels to "good governance" and respect for human rights.

On December 3, Moi announced an immediate end to the 9-year-old ban on political parties other than KANU, sparking speculation that he plans to call a multiparty vote as early as February 1992. This prospect has unsettled democrats, who fear that hastily organized opposition parties will prove no match for KANU in snap elections. Many advocates of democracy are thus calling for more time to build parties, as well as the creation of an impartial electoral commission and an international commission to certify the integrity of the political process. Others are calling for a national conference like that which arranged Benin's recent transition to political pluralism.

Paraguayan Constitution Focus of Conference

An international conference on "Constitutional Reform and Democratization: The Challenge for Paraguay" was held in Asunción, Paraguay, on 5-7 December 1991. The conference was sponsored by the Instituto Paraguayo para la Integración de América Latina (IDIAL) of Asunci6n and Miami University of Ohio.

The conference was designed to contribute to the debate on major questions that will be addressed by the Paraguayan Constitutional Convention when it convenes in January 1992 to draft a new constitution. Leading experts from the U.S., Europe, and Latin America discussed with their Paraguayan hosts such issues as presidential versus parliamentary forms of government, equilibrium and separation of powers, specific mechanisms to ensure the independence of the judiciary, alternative forms of judicial review, the constitutional role of the armed forces, and fundamental electoral principles.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3214
Print ISSN
1045-5736
Pages
pp. 135-139
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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