The full circle we have come since first multi-party election in 1992

Youth for Kanu (YK)’92 meeting at Nyayo Stadium in 1992. 1992 was also a year of high drama. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Across the aisle, in 1992, Raila Odinga was a junior operative in the opposition Ford Kenya party.
  • Kanu strategists had identified Matiba to be the most potent weapon to break the threatening.

How times, people, and fortunes change!

Twenty-five years ago when Kenya held the first multi-party elections, Uhuru Kenyatta was a 31-year-old, happy-go-lucky young man with nothing more than a cursory interest in politics.

His mind was with the ordinary masses in the Ford Asili party; his heart with the gentlemen and the moneyed in the Democratic Party; and his foot in the baba na mama Kanu — the party of his father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

YK 92
Those days, he was lean and looked ill at ease in business suits.

His favourite wear was khaki or jeans trousers, checked coats, and cowboy boots.

Elsewhere, one William Ruto, 26, had just fled his masters degree course at the University of Nairobi and abandoned the college Christian Union to join the Youth for Kanu (YK)’92 lobby.


The gung-ho outfit had hurriedly been put together to campaign for the ruling party, panicky of defeat by the opposition’s hurricane. 

President Daniel Moi had ordered open the state vaults for the YK’92 if that is what it would take for him to win the election.

Ruto’s boss at YK ‘92 was Cyrus Jirongo, literally a mobile cash dispenser, who poured out newly-minted Sh500 banknotes that had been nicknamed after him.

Before Ruto was deflowered with the Jirongos of this world, his only contact with any noteworthy amount of money had apparently been the profits he made selling kuku-kienyeji (chicken) at some place called Turbo.

How times change! Today, Ruto the Deputy President has been transformed from “hustler” to billionaire in record time.

In contrast, Jirongo’s purse has thinned significantly to a point one Francis Atwoli is demanding a pound of his flesh over a Sh100 million Shylock deal they had a while ago.


Moreover, Jirongo is a fringe presidential candidate this year, but everybody apparently thinks his is a waste of ballot space.

Across the aisle, in 1992, Raila Odinga was a junior operative in the opposition Ford Kenya party.

The man who is now the National Super Alliance presidential candidate was struggling to locate his space in the political universe, but was totally eclipsed by his towering father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, the doyen of opposition politics.

Kalonzo Musyoka was at the time a card-carrying senior official of the ruling party, Kanu, more loyal than the king in defence of the one-party tyranny.


As deputy speaker of the National Assembly, for example, he had the Nation newspapers barred from covering parliamentary proceedings in 1989 purportedly because of breaching the House standing orders.

It later turned out there was a personal grudge with the Nation.

Mr Moses Wetang’ula was another one who would have killed for Kanu at the time.


He belonged to a privileged battalion called “Kanu lawyers” who made a bundle from government-related legal contracts.

For his loyalty, he was nominated MP after the 1992 election.

Mr Isaac Ruto was yet to reflect anywhere in the national political radar, while Mr Musalia Mudavadi was still on the road to self-discovery only three years after he was plucked from the classroom to the Cabinet following the death of his larger-than-life father, Moses Substone Budamba Mudavadi.


It isn’t just the big boys in the presidential race who have come a long way since 1992.

Not far away from where Mr Ruto sold chicken, one Kipchumba Murkomen was a 13-year-old primary schoolboy and the current Elgeyo Marakwet Senator had never ventured beyond Eldoret town.

Elsewhere, one Mike Mbuvi and another Johnson Sakaja were freshly graduated from wearing diapers to shorts.

In that year, Evans Kidero was struggling meeting deadlines to pay his landlord at Nairobi-Dam estate on Lang’ata Road.

Today, the Nairobi Governor not only owns dozens of mansions in the city’s high-end suburbs but also a couple of holiday homes abroad.

His close neighbour in those lean days was a youthful lawyer called Isaac Lenaola whose jalopy even know-it-all juakali mechanics on Lang'ata Road found a challenge to keep on the road.

As an honourable judge of the Supreme Court today, Justice Lenaola rides in a chauffeur-driven sleek German machine.


Personalities aside, 1992 was also a year of high drama.

The roller-coaster began on December 3, 1991 when President Moi, who only three months earlier had sworn the multi-party system would come to Kenya over his dead body, suddenly changed his mind.

On that day, he summoned Kanu delegates to Kasarani Stadium, allowed them to fume and foam in the mouth, demonising the multi-party system only to ambush them with an announcement that he, after all, had decided the country should go the multi-party way.

What he didn’t tell the sycophantic crowd at Kasarani is that Kenya’s “development partners”— Western donors — had read to him the riot act: Either Kenya embraces multi-party politics or it would be starved of the desperately needed foreign aid.

Another dramatic moment was on Boxing Day of the same year when Cabinet Minister Mwai Kibaki resigned through a statement to the privately owned television station, KTN.

The lady announcer who broke the news apparently got into trouble.


In the Moi government, nobody was allowed to resign.

You waited for the boss to sack you. A decade earlier when one-time Attorney-General and Cabinet Minister Charles Njonjo took his resignation letter to the President, it had been rejected only for him to be fired within days.

Before Kibaki, the only other person to have pulled the rug from under Moi’s feet was Mr Kenneth Matiba who, when resigning, first handed his letter to local and international media before posting a copy to State House.


By the time State House got its copy, the BBC, the VOA, and the German Radio had gone on air.

In those dark days, State House still went ahead and arm-twisted the local media into carrying news of Matiba resignation as a three-paragraph inside-page story! 

The year 1992 opened with big news of the first opposition rally at Nairobi’s Kamukunji grounds.

The media reported the rally was attended by an estimated one million people.

But the grounds can only hold a crowd of not more than 10,000.

For a million people to fit there, they must have been standing on each other’s shoulders to form human storeys.

But in the euphoria of the day, facts and logic counted for little.

The other big event was the homecoming of multiparty hero, Kenneth Matiba, who had been hospitalised in the UK after suffering a stroke while in detention.

The event was similar to the reception accorded Mr Kibaki after he, too, had been in hospital in London, after a road accident just weeks to the third multi-party election in 2002.

News would later emerge that unlike the Kibaki reception that was entirely an opposition affair, the Matiba reception 10 years earlier had secretly been infiltrated by the Kanu government.


Kanu strategists had identified Matiba to be the most potent weapon to break the threatening, but potentially divisive, opposition.

The most formidable opposition party at the time was the united original Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (Ford), but which was quietly torn between pro-Matiba and pro-Jaramogi forces.

With none willing to cede ground for the other, Kanu saw a great opportunity to sow seeds of division.


And it worked. By the time of elections in December, the original Ford had split into Jaramogi’s Ford-Kenya and Matiba’s Ford-Asili.

Matiba was useful to Kanu in yet another way.

He would split the Mount Kenya vote between his Ford Asili and Kibaki’s DP.

In the master double stroke, Kanu was able to smile all the way to the ballot box.

Then the drama of releasing results of the December 29, 1992 election.

With the divided opposition still deceived it could somehow pull a miracle and win, the Electoral Commission of Kenya decided to play mind games.

Results from the opposition strongholds came in fast and furious, and celebrations began that Kanu was headed for a crushing defeat.


It turned out that Kanu strategists had only been keeping track of the numbers before they unleashed their own “tyranny of numbers” where, in most of the Kanu zones, the votes exceeded the voters!


Tukutane kwa debe jumanne!


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