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Kibaki succession: Tale of political intrigues, treachery

By - Juma Kwayera | December 9th 2012

By Juma Kwayera

NAIROBI; KENYA: As the dust settles on the recently formed political alliances, the intrigues and treachery that preceded the agreements are emerging.

All political parties were keen to see rivals make the first move in anticipation to countermand it.

In the end, it was mad rush to the finish line that is laden with serious legal loopholes that can rebut the masterstrokes all believe put them in strong positions to win the presidential election.

Opinion remains divided, though, on whether some of the alliances were premeditated or are outcomes of panic reaction triggered by shrinking options for the main political players.

Opinion polls carried out before the alliances suggested that in view of then crowded field, none of the nine or so presidential contenders were capable clinching the seat in first round.

None was also sure of making the cut for the second round. The alliances have reduced the number to just four – Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Deputy Prime Ministers Musalia Mudavadi or Uhuru Kenyatta, Gichugu MP Martha Karua and former education PS James Kiyiapi.

While the deal between Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Raila had been anticipated a week before it was formalised, the one involving Mudavadi and Uhuru came as a surprise least expected by even close allies, leave alone their political adversaries.

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In follow-up interviews with members of major political parties, it is emerging that deals had been in the works for a long time even as differences at times seemed to point to poisoned relations. And a pointer that a lot is still in the works behind the scenes, prominent personalities in the major parties are apprehensive to go on record on what is happening in their parties.

Asked if his party forged with Uhuru and Ruto out of desperation, Industrialisation Assistant Minister Murithi Nderitu says the execution of the deal with two parties was not a case of political coincidence.

Game changer

“We’ve remained engaged with Uhuru and Ruto for along time. The only thing we did not want to do was reveal the trump card we knew was the game changer. A lot is still happening in the background. We knew we had a formidable challenger, which is why we kept the cards close to our chest to the last minute to give our rivals little room for options once we unleashed our key card,” explains Nderitu. In an ethnically polarised country like Kenya, it has been easy since independence for political office seekers to play one tribe against another.

Against this backdrop, says Nderitu, it was going to be easy for other parties to rally around the argument that an alliance between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin, who between them have ruled the country for 50 years was politically untenable.

The URP-TNA rally in Nakuru was therefore a kind of red herring, which hoodwinked ODM into holding a rally at the Coast in an apparent show of political might.

Such was the surprise that the bringing on board of Mudavadi was made public less than two hours before the deadline provided for in the lections Act for parties to deposit instruments of coalitions with the Registrar of Political Parties. Almost a week after the political pacts that altered significantly presidential campaign strategies, details of what transpired in the countdown to the Tuesday deadline point to mastery of politics and ‘poly-tricks’ of second-guessing opponents that was characterised by suspense. Such was the rapidity of political developments that even the prime movers in the major parties sometimes would occasionally lose control of the directions of events.

However, in interviews with some of the players on how the deals were hammered out, it turns out that ODM, United Republican Party, The National Alliance and the United Democratic Forum were involved in a deadly reverse psychology or reactance games that sometimes threatened to escalate out of control for the chief protagonists.

Each wanted to trick the others into making fatal mistakes. Take for example the decision by Uhuru and Ruto to hold a rally in Nakuru at which they sealed a deal that would see the two run as presidential candidate and running mate triggered the huddling together of Raila, Kalonzo, Trade Minister Moses Wetangula and Water Minister Charity Ngilu into the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy.

There was panic as rivals set up one another. Chairman of Centre for Multiparty Democracy Justin Muturi, who was privy to some of the happenings in TNA and URP admits some of the actions were necessitated by deep-seated suspicions and fears that Kalonzo, who had been expected in Nakuru and ODM rally at Tononoka, Mombasa, was not genuinely engaged with the two, who face charges of crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court.

Muturi says the TNA-URP public signing of the deal brought out the true colours of the VP, who has since been talking about them and President Kibaki in unflattering terms.

The former Siakago MP admits that the reaction by ODM almost cast the Nakuru deal as a bi-tribal alliance (KK or Kikuyu-Kalenjin alliance). Cord is supposed to project the face of Kenya. “The bringing of Mudavadi on board was a consummation of the many political marriages,” he says, but was quick to admit that in the countdown to the zero hour, there had been fears the Sabatia MP would not accept the arrangement.

Sealing deal

This is because in the recent weeks, Mudavadi, Uhuru, and Ruto had traded barbs that made their supporters believe there relationships had been strained.  The suspicions heightened on the material when Kanu Secretary General Nick Salat was said to be at large at the time his party had been expected to seal a deal with UDF. It turns out that it was all calculated to buy time for Mudavadi to trust the URP and TNA leaders.

However, there was the risk of failing to agree with him, which would have tilted him further toward ODM that had also been sending overtures for him to be a part of their multi-ethnic political alliance. To remove any iota of doubt, the talks were held directly without the knowledge of their close allies at Mudavadi’s Riverside residence.  Muturi says Uhuru wanted to erase whatever mistrust Mudavadi harboured after recently seeming to pull in different directions. It is not clear whether Mudavadi and Uhuru will participate in nomination for the new alliance’s flag-bearer.

Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny, although clearly out of sync with what had been taking place, seemed to confirm a widely held view that there will be no contest between two and that Uhuru was the de facto presidential candidate in the group.

However, a close Mudavadi ally, who requests anonymity, says such an arrangement would hand Mudavadi’s voting bloc to ODM.

Muturi concurs, adding that Uhuru is willing to support Mudavadi. The unspoken truth in alliance building discourse is the impact of the ICC.  It is significant to note that progress toward alliance building was given impetus by the presence in the country by the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Annan and former Tanzania President Benjamin Mkapa who were in the country to assess voter registration, security situation, and ethnic reconciliation pointed that the participation and election of ICC suspects has the potential to isolate Kenya internationally.

Consequently, the two mediators who did not meet either President Kibaki or Prime Minister Raila Odinga during their four-day stay, are said to have provided the impetus toward pre-election coalition building.

Their visit took place on the back an international conference in Kampala, Uganda, which expressed concerns of the escalation of unrest in the country. The November 20-23 conference resolved to keep tabs on Kenya, with Annan being given the mandate to monitor political developments as the country heads into the March 4 elections. December 4 will go down in history as the day that shaped the course of politics in the race to succeed President Kibaki.

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