Kenya African National Union

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Kenya African National Union
Chairman Gideon Moi
Secretary-General Nick Salat
Founder James Gichuru
Oginga Odinga
Tom Mboya
Founded 14 May 1960 (14 May 1960)
Headquarters Chania Avenue, off Ring Road, Kilimani, Nairobi
Ideology Kenyan nationalism
Political position Centre-right to Right-wing
National affiliation Amani Alliance
National Assembly
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The Kenya African National Union (KANU) is a Kenyan political party that ruled for nearly 40 years after Kenya's independence from British colonial rule in 1963 until its electoral loss in 2002. It was known as Kenya African Union (KAU) before being renamed on 14 May 1960.[1]


From October 1952 to December 1959, Kenya was under a state of emergency arising from the Mau Mau rebellion against British colonial rule. During this period, African participation in the political process increased rapidly.

The first direct elections for Africans to the Legislative Council took place in 1957.

The Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) was founded in 1960, to challenge KANU. KADU's aim was to defend the interests of the tribes so-called KAMATUSA (an acronym for Kalenjin, Maasai, Turkana and Samburu), against the dominance of the larger Luo and Kĩkũyũ tribes that comprised the majority of KANU's membership (Kenyatta himself being a Kikuyu). KANU was in favour of centralism. Despite the numerical advantage lying with the numerically stronger KANU, a form of Federalism involving Kenya's 8 provinces was adopted in Kenya's independence. After independence KANU nonetheless decided to remove all provisions of a federal nature from the constitution.[2]

Origins and Kenyatta[edit]

The Kenya African Union was a political organization formed in 1944 to articulate Kenyan grievances against the British colonial administration. The KAU attempted to be more inclusive than the Kikuyu Central Association by avoiding tribal politics. Kenya African Union was led by Jomo Kenyatta from 1947, until his incarceration for alleged involvement in Mau Mau in 1953, at which point the KAU fell became obsolete, and then again following his release in 1961. On 14 May 1960 KAU merged with Kenya Independence Movement and the National People's Convention Party to form the Kenya African National Union (KANU). From October 1952 to December 1960, Kenya was under a state of emergency arising from the "Mau Mau" rebellion against British colonial rule. Kikuyu, Embu and Meru political involvement was restricted heavily in this period in response to the insurrection (a restriction only lifted when the emergency ended in 1960 and national political parties were allowed.

The first direct elections for Africans to the Legislative Council took place in 1957. The Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) was founded in 1960, to challenge KANU. KADU's aim was to defend the interests of the tribes so-called KAMATUSA (an acronym for Kalenjin, Maasai, Turkana and Samburu), against the dominance of the larger Luo and Kĩkũyũ tribes that comprised the majority of KANU's membership (Kenyatta himself being a Kĩkũyũ). KADU pressed for a federal constitution, while KANU was in favour of centralism. The advantage lay with the numerically stronger KANU. The British government finally brokered a compromise arrangement where under the short lived Majimbo system Kenya entered independence with a federal constitution.


Kenya became independent on December 12, 1963, and the next year became a republic within the Commonwealth. Jomo Kenyatta, a member of the predominant Kĩkũyũ tribe and head of the Kenya African National Union, became Kenya's first president. KADU dissolved itself voluntarily in 1964 and joined KANU. A small but significant leftist opposition party, the Kenya People's Union (KPU), was formed in 1966, led by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, a former vice president and Luo elder. The KPU was banned and its leader detained after political unrest related to Kenyatta's visit to Nyanza Province. No new opposition parties were formed after 1969, and KANU became the sole political party. At Kenyatta's death in August 1978, Vice President Daniel arap Moi, a former KADU member became interim President. On October 14, Moi became President formally after he was elected head of KANU and designated its sole nominee.

One-Party State and return to Democracy[edit]

In June 1982, the National Assembly amended the constitution, making Kenya officially a one-party state, and parliamentary elections were held in September 1983. The 1988 elections reinforced the one-party system. However, in December 1991, parliament repealed the one-party section of the constitution. By early 1992, several new parties had formed, and multiparty elections were held in December 1992. President Moi was reelected for another 5-year term. Opposition parties won about 45% of the parliamentary seats, but President Moi's KANU Party obtained the majority of seats. Parliamentary reforms in November 1997 enlarged the democratic space in Kenya, including the expansion of political parties from 11 to 26. President Moi won re-election as President in the December 1997 elections, and his KANU Party narrowly retained its parliamentary majority, with 109 out of 212 seats.

2002 Elections[edit]

At the last legislative national elections held December 27, 2002, the party won an overall 29.0% of the popular vote and 64 out of 212 elected seats. In the presidential elections[3] of the same day, the party's candidate Uhuru Kenyatta won 31.3% of the vote, and was thereby defeated by Mwai Kibaki from the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) party with 62.2%. On December 29, 2002, the Kenyan electoral commission confirmed that the former opposition NARC party had achieved a landslide victory over the ruling KANU party, thus bringing to an end 40 years of single party rule and 24 years of rule by Daniel arap Moi.

Post 2002[edit]

The Party split into two factions. The larger one, headed by Uhuru Kenyatta, formed a short lived opposition coalition with the Liberal Democratic Party of Kenya, in a coalition called the Orange Movement which successfully campaigned for a no vote in a constitutional referendum in 2005. The political parties ODM-Kenya and Orange Democratic Movement both came into existence out of this movement. The smaller faction, headed by Nicholas Biwott and supported by Daniel arap Moi was opposed to the direction Kenyatta was taking the party. The two factions briefly patched up their differences under the mediation of former party leader Daniel Moi. The result being KANU did not field a presidential candidate in Kenya's disputed general election of 2007, backing instead the incumbent Mwai Kibaki.

Uhuru Kenyatta and Moi in 2007[edit]

In September 2007, Kenyatta announced that he would not run for the presidency and would support Kibaki's re-election,[4] sinking any hopes that KANU would back the Orange Democratic Movement. William Ruto however remained in ODM applying for the presidential candidacy. Of particular interest is that Uhuru's statement came soon after Moi's declaration that he would back current president Kibaki's re-election bid. KANU is part of the Party of National Unity (PNU), a coalition party behind Kibaki. However, unlike other PNU member parties, only KANU had clearance to field own parliamentary and civic candidates.[5] Since the coming into force of the Political Parties act of 2011, differences have once again emerged over the future of the party with a faction led by Gideon Moi accusing Uhuru Kenyatta of neglecting the party.[6][7] Kenyatta, and his supporters, eventually quit the party altogether and in December 2012, KANU entered a four party coalition, including the National Vision Party, United Democratic Movement and New Ford Kenya, to field a single presidential candidate at the 2013 general elections.[8]


Upon its inception in 1960, KANU included politicians of various ideologies. However, with the adoption of Sessional Paper No. 10 of 1965 in Kenya's parliament and the resignation of left leaning politicians allied to Oginga Odinga, it pursued a mixed market economic policy, with state intervention in the form of parastatals. It steered Kenya to side with the West during the Cold War, with both Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi using apparent links to the Soviet Union as pretexts to crush political dissent.


KANU's leadership structure consists of a national chairman, a secretary general and several national vice chairmen. All these officials are elected at a national delegates conference (The last full election was in 2005 and it saw Uhuru Kenyatta, who has since quit the party, confirmed as party chairman).[9]

Delegates who participate at the national elections are selected through the party's constituency level branches.

Past Holders of the Chairman Position[edit]


  1. ^ "Kenya African National Union -". 2014-10-21. Retrieved 2018-04-16. 
  2. ^ "Kanu Youthcongress Reloaded". Retrieved 5 April 2018. 
  3. ^ "2002 election results". Retrieved 5 April 2018. 
  4. ^ Carol Gakii, "Uhuru pulls out of the presidential race", Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, September 13, 2007.
  5. ^ The Standard, October 11, 2007: PNU agrees on joint nominations
  6. ^ Gideon Moi Takes Over As Kanu Ejects Uhuru
  7. ^ Kenya:GideonPlans to Kick Uhuru Out of Kanu On April 14
  8. ^ Four political parties announce coalition pact
  9. ^ Fallout: Biwott's Allies Hit Out At Moi

External links[edit]