How President Uhuru Kenyatta fell out with UDF leader Musalia Mudavadi

NAIROBI, KENYA: Jubilee coalition sources reveal they had done an internal poll with several scenarios with a combination of  three candidates; Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto and Musalia Mudavadi. The numbers were not appealing when Mudavadi was on top of the ticket, we can now report.

But there were powerful forces pushing Mudavadi into the front line. It had not been lost to many that Mudavadi had curiously began representing retired President Kibaki in public functions and reading his speeches.

Says the source: “The ICC case had made it clear Uhuru would have difficulties running as President. State House operatives were convinced he would have to give way to Mudavadi and they succeeded in convincing him as much. The problem was; how do we market Mudavadi in Central and Rift Valley?”

Post-poll strategy

Within State House, they believed Kenya’s post-election stability lay with Mudavadi and not another Kikuyu as President. Both Uhuru and Raila were seen as polarising, says the source. They believed initially that the race for the alliance would come down to between Mudavadi and Kalonzo. But in politics, times change very fast.

But not everyone bought into this theory. TNA deputy chairman, Lydia Mogaka, felt the ICC issue would not be an obstacle to Uhuru running. “Kenyans are not foolish, they know what happened with the post-election violence in 2008. We knew Uhuru was already a tested brand having run in 2002. He was passionate about youth economic empowerment so it was easy to sell him to young people even with the ICC tag hanging.”

On December 17, UDF operatives leaked a document to the media indicating that Uhuru had conceded that Presidency to Mudavadi even though Jubilee was insisting that there be would a national delegates conference and the that the two would slug it out.

It would take a crime scene investigator to figure out who leaked the document, but UDF insiders were convinced Mudavadi would on paper be guaranteed a lock on western, central and rift valley votes. The leak had generated a kerfuffle.

UDF Party Secretary General Dan Ameyo declines to comment on whether the agreement was leaked or discuss the secret MOU at all. But he says:” Our party goal was not form ethnic blocks. We never saw blocks but wanted to appeal to the entire country and have a national outlook.”

Ameyo would not comment about how Mudavadi felt about the MOU or how he reacted to Uhuru change of mind except to say:” Our view on the agreement has been very consistent.” Key Jubilee team players who finally opened up to talking about the behind the scene intrigues of the elections reveal that Uhuru had indeed been prevailed upon by State House operatives to step down for Musalia Mudavadi and had accepted not to run.  But He was furious when UDF operatives went around town leaking information and gloating that he had accepted to give the Presidency to Mudavadi through a secret memorandum signed by both.

 Says the source: “Uhuru was upset when Mudavadi called the famous press conference to divulge details of the agreement and how he felt shortchanged. It was the critical moment that he decided against pulling out and getting back into the race.”

 “The gloating by Mudavadi’s team caused a furor especially in Mt. Kenya. We were facing a backlash; the voter registration numbers in central province and upper eastern were dwindling. It was not looking good and add to that the press conference that was called by central province MP’s.” Says a Jubilee Government source in confidence.

In the press conference, Central Kenya MP’s read the riot act to Uhuru. He must run and they were not going to compromise. A week earlier, former Nithi MP Kareke Mbiuki had warned that if Uhuru was not given the Jubilee ticket “all roads would lead to Bondo.”  Reveals the source:”Uhuru was tormented and in a dilemma, He had given his word to Mudavadi that he would let him run. Now he was facing pressure to run. But when he heard about the leak regarding the agreement, and the subsequent press conference by Mudavadi in which he revealed about the agreement, Uhuru was furious.”

It was that singular moment, according to our source, that propelled Uhuru to change his mind.

He was going to run.

Uhuru considered Mudavadi’s action as perfidy, a pure act of treachery. Firstly, he had given his word. Secondly, the boasting by Mudavadi’s team that he was giving up the Presidential ticket rubbed him the wrong way. The secret MOU was snowballing into spell binding theatre.

When Uhuru addressed his supporters about what came to be known as the madimoni speech, a Jubilee source reveals that what Uhuru meant to say was a direct translation in gikuyu meaning: ndiraminya ni ngoma iriku cianyitire (I don’t what demons possessed me to sign the MOU.”

His intention and statement was however lost in translation and interpreted later to mean he had called Mudavadi and UDF demons, which the source strongly disputes as not true. Mudavadi was not interested in going for a delegates conference, since he had an agreement. He wanted the ticket handed to him on a silver platter, says the source.  Hence, Mudavadi’s impatience with the talk of an NDC instead of a quick coronation was causing ripples in Jubilee and central province.

“UDF did not want an NDC because they knew Mudavadi did not stand a chance. We knew that Uhuru would floor him at the NDC, but remember Uhuru had given his word not to run,” the sources maintain.

Mudavadi and his team probably assumed that attending the NDC was akin to walking into a gunfight carrying a knife.

He continues:” What Mudavadi and his team did not know was that the NDC would be a choreographed affair in which the delegates would support Uhuru, and he would in turn stand and declare that he could not run because he had the matter of the ICC to attend to. Uhuru would implore the delegates to stand behind Mudavadi.”

By all measures, Uhuru was ready to re-enact the late VP Prof. George Saitoti at the 2002 Kanu delegates conference where he declared those famous words – there comes a time when the nation is more important than any individual. This time he would do it for Mudavadi’s sake at a Jubilee delegates conference.

The source argues that Uhuru intended to keep his word: “That’s who he is, if Uhuru tells you we have a deal, he will keep his word.”

Facing revolt

Which is why, analysts argue, Charity Ngilu and Najib Balala are in the cabinet, Uhuru had given his word they would be part of them team no matter what happens at the polls. Facing a near revolt in central province, with registration numbers dwindling and angry at the leaked memo about his decision to give way to Mudavadi, Uhuru decided he was back in the race. The NDC slated for Tuesday December 18 was abruptly cancelled. Feeling betrayed, Mudavadi opted to abandon Jubilee and form his own coalition. It was Uhuru and Ruto on the ticket. The push for the western province vote had come to abrupt end.

The jubilee ticket was firmly in place, the scion of privilege and family fortune had teamed up with a former hustler who had worked his way up from selling peanuts on the Eldoret road to a successful political and business career. Ngilu and Balala were supporting cast members.

The source says registration numbers in central and rift valley picked up again with a bigger momentum. :”We were surprised at the numbers we were getting, they by far exceeded our expectations. So we doubled our efforts to get voters to register in big numbers before the December 18 deadline,” says the source.