Friday, March 4, 2011



By MURITHI MUTIGA AND BERNARD NAMUNANE bnamunane@ke.nationmedia.comPosted Thursday, March 3 2011 at 22:38

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka wanted US President George Bush to prevail upon President Mwai Kibaki to step down in his favour at the last election, apparently on the grounds of ill health, the American ambassador claimed in a secret cable.

Mr Musyoka told US ambassador Michael Ranneberger that the exit of the president from the race would spare the nation a crisis if he was forced to pull out of contention shortly before the elections.

Envoys, after private meetings with Mr Kibaki, often remarked in their letters to their bosses how alert, engaged and well briefed Mr Kibaki was.

The cables also claimed Mr Musyoka knew he had no chance of winning the election but was determined to play the spoiler for his bitter rival Raila Odinga, and kingmaker for Mr Kibaki.

If Mr Odinga won, the envoy claimed Mr Musyoka told him, he would become “another (Venezuelan strongman Hugo) Chavez” because he was heavily influenced by socialism.

The revelations by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks are likely to test the unity between top government officials as candid observations made by ministers and civil servants who spoke to envoys in conversations they believed to be private are made public.

In cables seen by the Daily Nation, Kenyan leaders are shockingly unguarded in their discussions with US diplomats, possibly not knowing that reports on their views would be written.

Mr Musyoka’s discussion with Mr Ranneberger at lunch in early November 2007 is extraordinary for the level of detail the ODM-K went into in outlining his campaign strategy and pleading for American help.

On Thursday, Mr Musyoka responded through his aide, Mr Muthui Kariuki, describing the cables as the work of a “very creative” mind that wants to place the vice president and the President on bad terms.

He said it was unfortunate that Mr Ranneberger had “wasted” his tour of duty by collecting “rumours” which he wired back home in Washington as intelligence reports.

The ambassador has a generally low opinion of the V-P and his language in describing him is some of the strongest in the cables.

He, for example, describes Mr Musyoka as ‘‘an opportunist’’ and ‘‘intellectual lightweight’’, who had conceded that he stood no chance of winning the presidency but was determined to stop Mr Odinga from winning.

“As the conversation developed, it became clear that Musyoka sees himself in the pivotal role of spoiler/kingmaker.

“Having broken with Odinga on bitter terms, he sees no possibility of working with him. He will focus on trying to beat Odinga in critical Rift Valley Province.

“He believes that historical ties between the Rift Valley’s Kalenjin community and his Kamba community will enable him to do so.”

Interestingly, analysis of election strategies by embassy staff in other cables showed that Mr Odinga was actually counting on Mr Musyoka staying in the race, denying Mr Kibaki votes from Eastern which the President stood a better chance than Mr Odinga of getting.

The cable says Mr Musyoka did not criticise Mr Kibaki directly but suggested that the Americans should nudge him to leave the race and give Mr Musyoka a clear run.

“Mr Musyoka, who has consistently polled in either single digits or barely above that, opened (the discussion) with his version of the ‘Hail Mary pass’ (a very long forward pass in American Football, made in desperation, with only a small chance of success)

Musyoka expressed concerns about the health of President Kibaki and the negative impact on the electoral process should Kibaki experience a health crisis before the elections.

Musyoka seriously suggested that President Bush should call Kibaki to urge him to step aside. If Kibaki were to pull out, Musyoka contended, he would receive much of the support Kibaki had received (based on the traditional close ties between Kibaki’s Kikuyu community and Musyoka’s much smaller Kamba community).The latest cable is one of about 2,500 filed from the embassy in Nairobi. The cables offer insights into the private thoughts of local politicians about each other and about the American’s views of corruption levels in government and the state of relations between Nairobi and Washington.

The revelations about Mr Musyoka’s views on Mr Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga come at a sensitive time for the Vice President as political alliances ahead of the 2012 elections take shape.

According to the dispatch, the Mwingi South MP was damning in his assessment of a possible Odinga presidency which he claimed would be damaging to the nation.

“The ambassador pressed Musyoka on his strategy for the electoral campaign. Musyoka offered nothing concrete, instead focusing on a litany of complaints about Kibaki and the other main presidential aspirant, Raila Odinga (ODM).

He claimed that, if elected, Odinga would become “another (Venezuelan strongman Hugo) Chavez” because he was heavily influenced by socialism during his studies as a teenager in East Germany.

He also argued that the election of Odinga would lead to substantial instability fomented by Kibaki’s ethnic Kikuyu supporters.

The youth, Musyoka said, believe that an Odinga victory would be a “revolution” (in the sense of dramatic action against corruption and improvement in social services and other areas) and will be impatient for results.”

Mr Musyoka criticised Mr Odinga’s pre-election pact with Muslims, saying it raised the danger of religious violence. He also condemned the ODM candidate for campaigning for majimbo (federalism), saying it could promote intolerance.