Archive for November 2010

The Star - American embassy cables on Kenya to be leaked on Wikileaks


A total of 1,821 diplomatic cables from the US embassy in Nairobi are among the more than 251,000 documents that the website Wikileaks started releasing over the weekend.

The first 250 cables to be released do not include any from the American embassy in Kenya.

However they are expected to start coming out in the next few days.

The Kenyan diplomatic cables go back to 2005 but the majority cover the 2007 elections and the period of the coalition government. There is one cable from May 14,1996.

Diplomatic cables are confidential reports sent by ambassadors to their superiors in Washington.

The cables have only been partially released but have been given in full to the New York Times, Der Spiegel, the UK Guardian, France's Le Monde and Spain's El Pais.

"America's ambassadors can be merciless in their assessments of the countries in which they are stationed. That's their job.

Kenya? A swamp of flourishing corruption extending across the country. Fifteen high-ranking Kenyan officials are already banned from travelling to the United States, and almost every single sentence in the embassy reports speaks with disdain of the government of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga," states the international edition of the German magazine Der Spiegel.

Julian Assange, editor of the Wikileaks, described the cables as a "diplomatic history of the United States" that would cover "every major issue" as governments across the world braced for damaging revelations.

The cables contain confidential communications between 274 American embassies across the world and the State Department in Washington DC. Over 15,000 are classified "Secret".

It is expected that as the cables will shed light on the thinking behind Michael Ranneberger's swift congratulatory message to President Kibaki following the December 27, 2007 elections and the subsequent American turnaround to put pressure on the PNU to accept a coalition government.

On one day alone, January 2, 2008, as violence was raging in Kenya, the Nairobi embassy sent five cables to Washington.

"Cablegate" has so far unflattering views of world leaders Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi described as "just strange" by an adviser to Sultan Qaboos of Oman; Gaddafi's penchant for a voluptuous Ukrainian nurse; Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe President, branded "the crazy old man" by Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa's international relations and cooperation minister; Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi described as "feckless, vain, and ineffective as a modern European leader", and a "physically and politically weak" leader whose "frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest."

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Five obstacles Raila should overcome before 2012 - Bob Mukhwana - The Star

Successive opinion polls have consistently showed that Prime Minister Raila Odinga is enjoying a commanding and comfortable lead in the run up to the 2012 presidential elections. Raila's lead is not accidental. His struggle for the democratisation of this country is exceptional and his firm and principled stance on important national issues has resonated well with the Kenyan public, endearing him to a majority of the masses.

In addition, Raila is a charismatic leader, a pragmatic political strategist and an exceptional campaigner. With all these credentials and public support, one would expect that Raila's journey to statehouse to be easy and smooth.

Unfortunately, this is Kenya, where political competitors are not judged by the content of their character, but by their ethnic orientation and 'corrupt credentials'. Raila should therefore carefully and wisely overcome five obstacles before 2012.

Re-branding ODM: The popularity of ODM is pegged on the fact that it is a party of change, yet, since it entered the government, it appears to have no radically different policy agenda from its coalition partner, PNU. As a result, ODM is increasingly losing popularity as more and more of its supporters get disillusioned.

As a matter of urgency, ODM must re-brand and re-invigorate itself as a party of change, for it to consolidate its support and retain its popularity. It should be able to convince the people that its options are currently limited given the coalition arrangement it has to operate within, but it will deliver its promised fundamental change, once it ascends to power in 2012.

To achieve this, ODM needs to be reformed by restructuring its policy framework, as well as changing its secretariat leadership. With the new constitution now in place, the party must develop new policies that would effectively address poverty and unemployment, and proactively sell them to the public to recapture its support, particularly among the youth.

Similarly, ODM urgently needs a vibrant and dynamic leadership at the secretariat, which would reconnect it to the grassroots, as well as spearhead positive policy transformation. Furthermore, the party must internally democratise to accommodate a diversity of opinions and party dissidents.

The running mate dilemma: Perhaps the biggest challenge to the PM would be to select a suitable running mate that can deliver to him large support in 2012. Naturally, one would expect that the PM would settle on Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi as his running mate, given that he is his deputy, and hails from the Luhya community, the second most important political base for him, after the Luo community.

Yet, choosing Mudavadi may be misconstrued as the 'westernisation' of his government, and consequently provide a basis for the formation of an 'Eastern alliance' led by the Gema and Kamba politicians, to counter the politically imagined and socially constructed 'Western alliance'.

But dropping Mudavadi for a more favourable running mate may not auger well with the Luhya
community, and as result, it may cost the PM the significant Luhya support, which is crucial to his quest for the presidency. Faced with this dilemma, the PM must carefully and wisely evaluate his options, and ultimately make the right choice.

Reaching out (or replacing) the Kalenjin community: If the 2012 presidential race polarises between the 'Western alliance' led by Raila and Mudavadi (Luo-Luhya alliance) verses the 'Eastern alliance' led by Kalonzo and Uhuru [Kamba-Gema alliance], it is the Kalenjin vote that might be the swing vote; the ultimate decider. If the Kalenjin back Raila as they did in 2007, he might emerge victorious. But if they tilt their support to Kalonzo, in the spirit of the KKK alliance, Raila will definitely have it rough. It's important therefore that Raila reaches out to the Kalenjin community before it's too late.

Given that in politics, there are no permanent enemies or friends, Raila should acknowledge Ruto's influence among the Kalenjin, swallow his pride and make peace with him. Though possible, it is hard for Raila to get the Kalenjin vote through an alternative tribal kingpin such as Sally Kosgey or Henry Kosgey. It will also be difficult to replace the Kalenjin vote with the Gema and Kamba vote, given the widespread anti-Raila and anti-Luo sentiments among these communities.

Containing 'Railaphobia': There are people who would do anything to stop Raila from ascending to the presidency. These groups of people range from those who merely dislike him or differ with him ideologically, to those who feel he betrayed them at one point or another, to corrupt individuals who fear prosecution under his regime. These groups are working hard to scuttle Raila's presidential ambitions. Raila should reach out or contain such individuals, as well as avoid creating unnecessary political enemies by re-building trust and confidence among his allies.

Taming 'Luophobia': A Kikuyu friend told me that though he likes Raila and would want to vote for him in 2012, he fears the behaviour of Raila's kinsmen if he ascends to power. According to him, Raila's kinsmen are the biggest obstacle to his presidential ambitions because they behave as if they own him, occasionally getting over¬excited and over-proud, even arrogant, about him. As a landlord in Kibera, my friend actually fears some of his tenants might even refuse to pay rent under a Raila regime.

Luophobia is a reality Raila should seek to address. He must appeal to his kinsmen to stop behaving as if they own him and stop heckling and throwing stones at his opponents. He must convince his kinsmen as well as his critics that he seeks not to be a Luo president, but a Kenyan president.

In trying to address Railaphobia and Luophobia, Raila might seek an alliance with the Kikuyu community in 2012. Or alternatively, he can sit back and pray that ICC prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo comes for his major political opponents. This will definitely destabilise the KKK alliance.

Bob Mukhwana is a political commentator and post-graduate student.

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The Star Corridors of Power Political Gossip

A sister of one of the grand coalition's top leaders stormed the offices of the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority last month demanding an explanation as to why an application for an air service license by an airline associated with the family had not been granted. Despite her drama and threats to bring the power of her family to bear on the hapless officials, the authority deferred its decision until next year.


A judge who wants to succeed Evan Gicheru as Chief Justice is leaving nothing to chance. He is so confident of getting the job that he has started upgrading his wardrobe so that it can conform to what he thinks befits the Chief Justice. What he seems to have forgotten is that the outward show is nothing compared to his judicial rulings and knowledge of the law which will count more when the vetting is done.


Twenty eight MPs! That is the number of legislators that Kenya has despatched to Southern Sudan to assess the situation there ahead of the January referendum when that country is supposed to decide whether or not to break from the North. As a guarantor of the Comprehensive Peace Plan, Kenya was expected to send a delegation. The Kenyan taxpayer will have to foot the bill for the huge delegation which is expected to be in Juba for four days.


The son of a prominent grand coalition official who has been putting up a block of six residential houses is shocked that his real estate development has been stopped, Reason? Unlike other mortals, the man expected he would go ahead to develop the houses without paying heed to environmental concerns including details such as waste water disposal systems, power lines, etc.


A potential 2012 presidential candidate may have his chances blighted after one of his very close associate has been found to be a central figure in a corruption scandal being investigated by a parliamentary committee. The wheeler dealer in trouble is known to be the link man in the transfer of huge sums of money from foreign accounts to local accounts for use by the prospective presidential candidate.


Members of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs and Administration of Justice are reportedly gathering evidence against one of the people nominated to the Judicial Service Commission. The committee has reportedly put together boxes containing complaints against the nominee alleging his involvement in land grabbing and other ills.


A daughter of a well known political activist almost fainted when she was told that a huge contract she had been brokering for some investors had already been signed and given to a company from China. The lucrative contract, worth Sh1.2 billion, was floated by a government agency and those bidding for it offered huge commissions. One bidder offered all those involved Sh100 million in kickbacks and secured the contract. The young woman who had promised to deliver Sh80 million in kickbacks was confident she would get the tender for her clients. The shock was so great that she loudly confessed in the presence of par-astatal CEO's secretary, "I nearly slept with him to get the contract!"


Deputy PM Musalia Mudavadi reportedly lost his phone during the ODM retreat at the Great Rift Valley Lodge in Naivasha. According to those present, the Local Government minister placed the phone on the table during a plenary session only for it to disappear mysteriously. Those attending the workshop were ODM MPs and other members of the National Executive Council.


The Prime Minister's office has written to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour Beatrice Kituyi alerting her that a senior official at the National Social Security Fund has been using the PM's name. Our mole says the official uses Raila's name to intimidate his colleagues.


Still on NSSF, how is it possible for an employee to acquire property worth Sh200 million within
a year? We are told that a senior manager has been buying property in Karen and Kitisuru and
yet his salary is not enough to qualify for a Sh200 million loan! PLO Lumumba, isn't this an obvious case for you?


Infighting has erupted at the Treasury over delegation of responsibilities to senior staff by a top official. A lady with dubious professional credentials has been assigned four key dockets in the Ministry of Finance and she has literally pushed out qualified technical staff. The lady pokes her nose into any docket with huge sums of money. Rumour has it that the lady's arrogance is due to her being related to a man in the ministry.


An ODM-K MP from Ukambani is behaving badly. He approached a group of clergy who are battling a city speculator to reclaim a grabbed plot and asked them to accept a Sh5 million token to drop the case. The first-term MP was shocked when the men of the cloth told him off and decided to battle on. The clergy had sought the MP's political intervention in the matter which has dragged on in the corridors of justice.


An accountant at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reportedly gone underground after the KACC widened its investigations over the foreign embassy purchase scandal. The man is said to have switched off his cell phone and is believed to have changed numbers. The accountant is said to have been a confidant of PS Thuita Mwangi and minister Moses Wetangula who have since stepped aside to allow further investigations.


The PS who had imported seven new cars and had some of them moved from his backyard to some unnamed locations has now covered the remaining vehicles with black plastic sheets to conceal them from the 'elements?' The man reportedly moved some of the vehicles following the zeal shown by Parliament and KACC to deal with corrupt civil servants.


Kenya Wildlife Service director Julius Kipng'etich may soon have to deal with some of his senior wardens who are now behaving like some of the predators his organisation is committed to protect. The senior wardens are preying on their juniors who have been allocated houses in areas they consider bigger and better than the ones they have been assigned. Afraid of losing their jobs, the junior staff have been keeping quiet hoping their seniors will not turn their attention to them. Those hounded out of their homes have to watch as their seniors take them over or have them allocated to their friends.


Several judicial officers who are celebrating the election of one of their own to the new Judicial Service Commission have now decided to throw a celebratory bash. The catch is, they are expecting judges to cough out Sh5,000 and magistrates to pay Sh2,000 to finance the bash which is also going to be used to console two judicial officers who recently fell victim to carjackers. The thanksgiving get-together is set for next Friday in a yet to be decided venue in the city.


Did Court of Appeal judges 'elect' or 'select' Justice R.S.C. Omollo to represent them in the Judicial Service Commission? Word doing the rounds is that the good judges refused to allow officials from the Interim Independent Electoral Commission to supervise the "elections" and the judges reached a consensus selecting the good judge to be their representative in the JSC.

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