The Kenyan opposition has launched a National Super Alliance (NASA) aimed at defeating President Uhuru Kenyatta in the general election this year. NASA is an umbrella for all parties opposed to ruling party Jubilee.
Opposition leaders from the newly formed Alliance vowed to field one candidate who will face President Kenyatta in the national elections set for August. The leaders also announced that they have suspended their plans for mass protests against the new election law so that their supporters can concentrate on voter registration.
Led by opposition leader Raila Odinga, the alliance instead called for a "mass registration" to deny Kenyatta another term in office.
Odinga said this could give their supporters ample time to register for the national elections before the deadline in February.
Odinga singled out the two major enemies affecting Kenya as corruption and tribalism which he said citizens can only fight through registering and voting for transparent leaders.
Kenya had a similar coalition of opposition parties in 2002, called the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), that saw the end of the long standing dominance of the Kenya African National Union (KANU), a party which had governed the country since independence in December 1963, including 23 years as a single party.
The road to the August election promises to be a bumpy one. It started early last year with clashes between protesters and police, sparked by a row over who should sit on a committee overseeing elections. At least four people died in the violence.
The government subsequently agreed to change the commissioners, whom the opposition accused of bias. New members are now being appointed.
The second hurdle is the controversial election law which the president signed into law on Monday evening. The law allows manual back up if the electronic system fails. The new opposition alliance argues that the electoral process can only be backed by another electronic system to avoid voter manipulation.
Senator Moses Wetangula, an opposition politician from western Kenya said "If you want an alternative process of elections in case of technology failure, you back up technology with technology." Odinga warned against voter rigging and manipulation, saying "the course of stealing an election would be regrettable." The opposition fears the inclusion of manual back up will open the ballot to rigging, an issue that overshadowed the last two elections in 2007 and 2013.
Kenya tried to digitize it's 2013 general elections to prevent a repeat of the alleged vote-rigging which happened in 2007, plunging the country into chaos and leaving more than 1,000 people dead. But finger-scanning voter identification equipment didn’t work properly, while the server handling the vote count crashed. The results ended up being tabulated manually.
Who will head the challenge?
The mass registration is crucial in Kenya where voting is said to be largely based on ethnicity. In 2013, a Kenyan analyst Mutahi Ngunyi stated that Odinga would lose the elections the moment the voter registration ended. He based this on ethnic voting patterns.
An estimated 5,000 supporters, led by opposition leader former prime Minister Raila Odinga, thronged Bomas of Kenya, a cultural center in Nairobi, to witness the launch of the coalition on Wednesday. The first big test for NASA will be to agree on a single candidate for the elections in August. There have been reports that Odinga, who has previously lost three elections, wants to run again but is facing challenges from others in the alliance.