Moi uses v-cs in election bid

December 26, 1997

Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi has put together a campaign team for Monday's general election that includes vice chancellors and heads of state corporations, but no politicians.

The move is to sidestep charges of collusion between state officials and his ruling KANU party. In the 1992 general election President Moi and KANU used the central bank officials, civil servants, provincial administrators and police to intimidate opposition.

This is the last time President Moi can seek re-election under the constitution and he is trying to show that he is able to separate government machinery from KANU as stipulated in recent constitutional changes.

The recruitment of vice chancellors is expected to give credence to his commitment to this and the limited constitutional changes that parliament recently passed following lobbying from the National Convention Executive Council, a group of civil societies.

Only one of the five vice chancellors has been involved in politics: William Ochieng of Maseno University College is a historian who has written pro-government articles. The others are Francis Gichaga (Nairobi), George Eshiwani (Kenyatta), Justin Irina (Moi), and Japheth Kiptoon (Egerton).

Conspicuous by his absence is Ratemo Michieka, vice chancellor of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, who is allied to a rival KANU faction.

In 1992, President Moi enlisted the help of Philip Mbithi, a former vice chancellor of the University of Nairobi, as head of the civil service to harass the opposition. The two fell out three years ago.

The vice chancellors see serving on the re-election team as an indicator of President Moi's favour.

But political analysts at the department of government at the University of Nairobi said: "The inclusion of vice chancellors in the team is just to give it credibility to assure both the opposition and donor community that Moi and his cronies will not be caught with their hands in the treasury till as happened in 1992."

Then, the central bank pumped money into the economy pushing inflation up to three figures.

President Moi is campaigning against 12 other presidential candidates and is standing on a nationalist platform. He also is trying to gain credibility in the diplomatic community.

The linkage between vice chancellors and KANU bodes ill for greater university autonomy. President Moi directly appoints vice chancellors, deputy vice chancellors and college principals as well as university councils and members of the commission for higher education.

Opposition parties are complaining that the use of vice chancellors and the heads of state corporations are another indication of Moi's grip on power.

"This is one way Moi and his cronies had been misusing their office," said one Nairobi opposition critic.

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