Thursday, July 31, 2008



July 31, 2008
By Joseph Murimi And Mutinda Mwanzia
The Standard

The succession war building up among President Kibaki’s allies bubbled into the open with Justice Minister Martha Karua daring her colleague, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, to come out and face her head on.

A sharp altercation between Karua and Uhuru’s allies indicated the extent of a split that has been escalating among the President’s allies as they position themselves for his succession in 2012.

Karua took on Uhuru after a group of about 200 political activists from Uhuru’s Gatundu South constituency and his key ally, Mr David Murathe, told her to stop dragging his name into succession politics.

Gatundu South constituents defend Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta at Boulevard Hotel, Nairobi, on Wednesday. PHOTO: STAFFORD ONDEGO

Mr John Njuguna and Mr Patrick Gitau led the group that met at Hotel Boulevard, Nairobi, under the umbrella of the Gatundu South Constituency Professional Group.

Uhuru, who is out of the country, did not comment, but Karua was irked by the group that told her to keep Uhuru’s name out of her political games.

Come out of the "closet"

Recently, Karua was quoted saying some people were being groomed to take over from President Kibaki and challenged them to follow democratic methods.

Uhuru’s name has been floated as one of those eyeing the PNU umbrella, which the President is trying to cobble together.

Speaking to The Standard on Wednesday, Karua said: "If Uhuru has any issue with Karua, he should come out in the open and face me."

Karua told Uhuru to stop sending people to attack her, but instead come out of the "closet".

The group claimed that it was speaking for Uhuru and accused Karua of insinuating that a new ‘Project Uhuru’ had been hatched and that PNU was being prepared to eventually succeed President Kibaki.

But Karua said it was clear that the plot to make parties in PNU come together was not borne out of the interest for unity and togetherness.

She said individuals who were almost "partyless" wanted a party to belong to and were allegedly hiding behind huge offices to coerce others into submission.

Karua claimed that the drive for PNU unity only came after she declared the intention to vie for the presidency.

According to the minister, the drive for PNU unity was a scheme to derail Narc-Kenya, the party she says will be her vehicle for the presidential contest in 2012.

Karua alleged that people scared of her candidacy had started a smear campaign that she and her party were in talks with Prime minister Raila Odinga’s party, ODM.

She wondered why her announcement of intent to vie for the presidency had elicited such reaction, saying she was not an automatic candidate for her party.

"If they think I am not serious, why are they worried? It means they have been pricked. Let them watch this space," Karua said.

But Murathe, a former Gatanga MP and a close ally of Uhuru, said the deputy PM did not need to be groomed for the top seat as Karua had implied.

"Uhuru is not a novice in the presidential race. He has travelled the road before and is his own man," said Murathe.

He told Karua to shelve her ambitions and concentrate on strengthening PNU.

"It is her democratic right to run for the top seat, but she should leave Uhuru out of her campaign talk," said Murathe.

Njuguna, of the Gatundu South Professional Group, said: "Uhuru will certainly announce his future plans, but at the moment he is focused on national healing and development."

And his counterpart, Gitau dug in: "We do not want Uhuru’s name to be dragged in the ongoing succession politics. He will certainly consult widely before making any move."

The group also claimed that there was a grand plan to malign Uhuru and make him lose national appeal.

"Our leaders must desist from the old habits of waging smear campaigns against their perceived enemies," said Gitau.

The group was ferried to the hotel for the Press conference in mini-buses.

Freedom of choice

Karua said she stood by President Kibaki during the post-election violence and still does in Government.

But when it came to party politics, she said, she should be allowed the freedom of choice.

She described as double standards a move by PNU members to portray her as a rebel yet they never raised their voice to defend President Kibaki at the height of post-election violence.

Anxiety in PNU started two weeks ago when President Kibaki called a meeting and pleaded with leaders of affiliate parties to coalesce under one umbrella.

But he met resistance from Narc-Kenya, which Karua heads, Ford-Kenya led by Nominated MP Musikari Kombo and DP, who all wanted autonomy from PNU.

Karua subsequently made utterances in public rallies that were seen to target Uhuru and Internal Security Minister George Saitoti.

She said some people did not want a contest and were being groomed to take over after President Kibaki.

Uhuru and Saitoti are seen as the most likely candidates who could get a nod from Kibaki to take over the mantle from him.