Wednesday, July 9, 2008



Date: Tuesday, July 8, 2008, 6:48 AM
A Dispatch from Onyango Oloo in Nairobi

It is about 2 pm Kenya time and I have to rapidly revise this piece in the
wake of the breaking news that Kimunya had not only “offered to step
aside” but that the President had accepted this offer. In a caveat, PNU
spokesperson Dr. Alfred Mutua “clarified” that the move was only
“temporary”. He was quoted in a Reuters dispatch (9:49 am GMT, Tuesday,
July 08, 2008) as saying that “ the finance minister has been in
discussions with the president over this…but he will not be replaced, it is
only a temporary move...”

News of the resignation came amidst reports that at least 10 civil society
activists including Ann Njogu and Okiya Omtatah, were roughed up and
arrested INSIDE a restaurant next to the Kenyatta International Conference
Centre apparently because they were just about to exercise their right to
participate in a peaceful democratic protest demanding Kimunya’s
resignation and an end to impunity on issues of grand graft.

Keen perusers of the Kenyan print and electronic media may have noticed a
subtle shift in the way in which the country’s newspapers, radios and
television stations have been covering the scandalous sale of the Grand
Regency Hotel in Nairobi and the dubious role of Finance Minister Amos
Kimunya in the whole saga.

For instance, there are all these seemingly innocuous op-ed pieces which
are apparently taking an “objective” look at the whole thing and poking
holes at the seemingly air-tight case against Kimunya and his alleged
cohorts. One such article can be found on Page 11 of the Tuesday, July 08,
2008 edition of the Daily Nation where Nicholas Mue cautions his reader to
“beware [of]the distortions” in a piece entitled Vital facts and figures
lost in Grand Regency Sale Saga-basically an apologia for Amos Kimunya. On
the facing page, in the leader section, Macharia Gaitho, one of the senior
editors with the Nation Media Group argues that the “report that indicted
Kimunya left a great to be desired”. Examine the letters pages not only of
the Daily Nation but the Standard and the Nairobi Star. On the weekend, I
saw a couple of other articles over the weekend-especially the piece in the
Sunday Nation putting the case for and the case against Kimunya.

By far the most blatant form of media partisanship was evidenced on Sunday
when Citizen TV aired live, several hours of a raucous public rally in
Kimunya’s Kipipiri constituency. This is where the Finance Minister
delivered his now infamous “I’d rather die than resign” defiant speech
which was followed by Uhuru Kenyatta rambling on and on about the need for
the “community” to rally behind Kimunya and making references to the
PNU/ODM rifts in relation to 2012. Kimunya himself did not shy away from
blurting out that the campaign against him was tantamount to a plot to
“finish” the Agikuyu. It later transpired that this slot was paid for.

A very impeccable source here in Nairobi told me ( this was two days ago)
there was a high level PNU meeting on Wednesday last week where it was
decided that Kimunya must be saved at all costs. My source says that Uhuru
Kenyatta chaired that meeting. I am further informed that Kshs 110 million
was set aside for damage control in the media and that a particular public
relations firm was brought on board to implement this strategy.

A key tactic in this fight back strategy was to recruit key editors in all
the media houses.

It was agreed that the media strategy would consist of the following:

-Casting doubt on the allegations against Kimunya;
-Bringing up the spectre of Raila Odinga as a bogey man to galvanize the
PNU base;
-Going after James Orengo and other chief accusers of Amos Kimunya;
-Tribalizing the issue by giving the impression that the Luos in ODM were
after the key Kikuyus in PNU;
-Imputing that the war against Kimunya was just the dress rehearsal for an
upcoming campaign against Kibaki;

Now there is no tangible evidence that “money has been poured” but it is
interesting to note that the splashy, often trashy Weekly Citizen tabloid
made the Luo versus Kikuyu angle the thrust of their cover story in their
current edition.

The flipside of this strategy is using elements of the state terror machine
to intimidate those Kenyan activists taking to the streets to demonstrate
their opposition to the fraudulent sale of the Grand Regency.

In my humble opinion, the PNU Claw Back over Mumunyagate is an act of
desperation which reeks of ethnic chauvinism. It is a ploy that is likely
to boomerang and even blow up in the face of its conspirators.

If we are to read Dr Alfred Mutua well, he is basically telling Kenyans
that Kimunya’s resignation is a time out, face saving tactic, implying to
the PNU base that Kimunya will roar back to the controls of the Treasury
after the complete damage control exercise is over and after a hand picked
committee probably established by President Kibaki has “exonerated” him

The other thing which may be at play is a gambit to perhaps pre-empt the
ministerial statement scheduled to be unleashed in parliament by Prime
Minister Raila Amolo Odinga.

Whatever the case, the PNU side has goofed badly.

First, by not recognizing the mood in the country which is now beyond
ODM/PNU schisms. On Sunday I watched Paul Muite on Family TV basically
taking a very progressive stance on the issue- stating that Kimunya had to
go and saying that the “reformists” in the Grand Coalition, and he singled
out Raila and Orengo were being undermined by the “conservatives” around
the President. In the case of the Prime Minister, Muite said that PNU was
using the Civil Service to undercut his powers- citing the vulnerability of
civil servants like the Lands Commissioner and how their job insecurity
made them dance to the tunes of Muthaura and Kimunya in doing the necessary
paper work to effect the Grand Regency handover.

Secondly, President Kibaki’s options are severely limited.

The more he tries to stonewall, the more likely for the scandal to swallow
the Othaya MP. Already there are allegations in the streets of Nairobi that
Mwai Kibaki IS THE LIBYAN INVESTOR- in the sense that someone (allegedly
his own daughter Judy was the person who closed the deal) bought the hotel
on his behalf. He will pay for any further sitting on the fence.

Thirdly, Central Kenya “Succession” politics will rubbish any attempt at
building a united front to defend Kimunya, Njuguna, Ringera and the gang
accused of impropriety over Grand Regency- with Saitoti, Uhuru, Karua,
Michuki and others pulling in different directions. Already NARC-Kenya
through Danson Mungatana has allied itself as a party with those calling
for Kimunya’s ouster.

Fourthly, Uhuru Kenyatta will rue his rash outbursts in defence of Amos
Kimunya, especially now that the former Finance Minister has eaten humble
pie (before his actual demise) and bit the resignation bullet. Uhuru is
likely to be reminded of his underhand shenanigans in subverting the law
during his brief tenure as Local government minister in the matter of the
strange nominations of councilors. Some of us have not forgotten that one
of his close aides was caught red handed on camera with hundreds of
thousands of shillings given to the aide as a bribe during the same civic
nominations. More than that, it would appear that Uhuru has forgotten that
he is the son of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, one of Kenya’s most notorious land
grabbers who left people in Taita Taveta and other parts of the country
seething with resentment as squatters on their own land.

Fifthly, PNU’s claw back tactics will revive the post-election bitterness
among a large swathe of Kenyans who are still very resentful about how
President Kibaki and his cronies used billions of shillings to rig
themselves back to power. Remember that a lot of the money being questioned
in the Grand Regency is alleged to be part of a 5.6 billion “gift” from
the Libyans to PNU to use during the elections.

Anyways, let me pause here.

We have to rush to court to be in solidarity with our civil society
colleagues who were arrested earlier today.