Raila wanted Moi to extend term for six months

Former President Moi (right) and Opposition leader Raila Odinga (second left) during the Kanu-NDP delegates conference in 2001. [File, Standard]

ODM leader Raila Odinga’s ‘reformist’ team ahead of 2002 General Election wanted former President Moi to extend his term by six months to allow completion of the constitutional review agenda.

In revelations triggered by the memoir of former Vice President Musalia Mudavadi released earlier this week, former Head of Civil Service Sally Kosgei told Sunday Standard that Raila broached the extension idea to Mzee Moi before they fell out.

At the time, the former prime minister had been elected the Kanu secretary general at the Kasarani National Delegates Conference in March 2002. Over the cooperation years, he had emerged as Kanu-NDP’s focal point person in the constitutional review process, which was concluding the draft constitution.

Review was a ploy

Dr Kosgei says Moi objected to the idea, saying he did not wish to create the impression that he wanted to hang on to power after the lapse of his time. The Americans through Ambassador Johnnie Carson also flatly rejected the proposal.

“They wanted six more months so that the Constitution could pass. In their reasoning, Moi was the best bet to deliver the Constitution given that he did not have a personal stake in the proposals that were flying around. Mzee wouldn’t have it,” Kosgei recalls.

Raila, alongside a band of Kanu rebels, would later join Kibaki and cut a prime minister deal which clouded the initial post-2002 review days. In the end, late Cabinet Minister John Michuki cut to the chase and announced that the law review had all along been a ploy to get Moi out.

“We did not want the politicians to confuse Moi. As the technical wing running the transition, we kept the focus and Mzee was determined to leave. You will remember that in his 1997 inauguration speech which I drafted, he himself kept repeating that he would be serving his last term,” says Kosgei.

The former Head of Civil Service notes that Moi was a firm stickler for his word. In all his dealings that year, private and public, Kosgei says the former President made it clear he would be leaving. He had given the assurance to US President George Bush and before him, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

At the Washington meeting with Bush, the former diplomat recalls the US president asking Moi whom he would be handing over power to, and he responded: “May the best man win.” Kosgei had covertly planned the meeting.

“We worked all year round to deliver a transition. If there is one thing I would ever want to take credit for in my life, it was the steering of the transition process. We had countless meetings with electoral commission chief Samuel Kivuitu to deliver a credible poll. We met almost every day,” she says.

“We could have interfered if we wanted to. We had the power and the means. Every single person in charge of instruments of power is capable of achieving that end was sitting in that meeting. We never broached the idea,” Kosgei says.

She admits that it was clear to everyone, including Moi, that Kibaki was winning poll.

Kosgei reveals that she had already drafted two speeches for the Kanu candidate, a losing and a winning speech. They also kept off politicians from the transition plans.

She reveals that from early on when Mudavadi made an about-turn, she knew his goose was cooked. Kosgei disclosed that she called him and told him that she would lose the Sabatia seat.

“He may have been the Vice President at the time, but he never participated in our transition plans. He was not party to it as a politician,” Kosgei says of Mudavadi.

In his memoir, the ANC leader says that at the height of the campaigns, they began hearing rumours that Moi was averse to Kibaki taking power from him. But Kosgei says Moi had no qualms with Kibaki.

“He knew him very well. They had worked together for many years,” she says.

When Moi visited Kibaki at the London hospital where he was recovering from the road accident, he left his entourage at the hotel.

On the swearing-in debacle described by Mudavadi, the former head of civil service concurred that it went awry. She says the lunch invitations for the event were issued in Moi’s name as he was still the president.

Preferred surprises

“I worked closely with Kibaki’s people to organise all this. It is unfortunate that many things did not go as planned. The misconception that Moi could hang on was bizarre because he had given every indication, including a military send-off a few days earlier, that he was leaving. He was not even on the ballot for heaven’s sake.”

Besides, Kosgei says, Moi’s word would be his bond, especially when issued out publicly, or to his age mates. He hated leaks and preferred surprises.

She disclosed that long before Moi agreed to the repeal of Section 2A, he had given his word to British Premier John Major at a Commonwealth meeting in Harare that he would be repealing it.

“He told him we are definitely repealing it. And later after the meeting he sternly looked at me, and said, you didn’t hear that. I kept my word and went about the script we had at the time on the matter. Later on, he announced to a stunned Kanu NDC that the section would be repealed,” she recalls.

She says that Bush was to come to Kenya in 2002 but it was postponed to the following year to avoid creating the impression of interference with the transition. Kosgei reveals that when Kibaki took over, Bush’s advance party came to Nairobi to plan the nitty-gritty of the visit.

“I met them because I was still in office. They wanted a situation where Bush met Moi and Kibaki at State House in a show of how transitions could work in Africa, but it never happened. When he came this way, he overflew Kenya and went to Tanzania. The visit never happened,” she recalls.

She bemoans the current confusion in the working relationship between politicians and civil servants in government. Kosgei recalls that during their days, the civil service was divorced from politics and that Moi would discuss certain things with civil servants, but would not discuss the same with politicians.

Just turned 70 but with a razor sharp memory and a skin tone of a 30 year old, Kosgei says she is tired of reading memoirs which misrepresent facts. She faults, among others, former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka’s memoir for misinformation about a certain incident in former Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko’s Gbadolite palace.

“He says I choked at the opulence of the palace. He has no clue. What he doesn’t appear to know is that by that time, I had been inside out of all the major palaces of the world - Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, White House and many others in Swiss and Irish capitals,” she says with a chuckle, and adds: “He’s perhaps the one who was bamboozled by the fake gold coatings of the palace. I wish he asked me before he wrote that down. My so-called choking had got nothing to do with the fake gold.”

The fact of the matter, she says, is that they had been served a peppery meal which she found too hot.

Secretive but pleasant

“On my side, Franklin Bett’s eyes were almost popping out. We couldn’t wait for the break to cool ourselves. When I dashed out for tea, I found my colleagues had spirited the entire jug away, and were taking turns to cool themselves off it.”

Always armed with a book or two, Kosgei was reading Steve Richards’s The PM Reflections on Leadership, from Wilson to May when we met. She says this has been her habit since her university days when she read the Communist Manifesto to the shock of her peers.

“Even in the Moi days, as I waited on him to finish with politicians, I would be clutching onto a book.” She admits that Mudavadi has a nice personality, but adds: “I found him very correct, a little bit secretive but very pleasant.”

He also credits him from saving education from being devolved at the Naivasha constitutional talks of 2010.