WikiLeaks Releases: Nairobi Cable No. 45: The Rumblings of Uhuru Kenyatta
Viewing cable 06NAIROBI4629, TWO MEETINGS WITH UHURU KENYATTA
- Kibaki governed not as the head of a coalition but as the head of his Democratic Party
- Kibaki went back on his word on MoU.
- Uhuru Kenyatta carries the historical baggage of KANU around his neck.
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TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM ECON KE CH
SUBJECT: TWO MEETINGS WITH UHURU KENYATTA
Classified By: Political Counselor Larry Andre per 1.4 (b,d)
Â¶1. (C) Summary: Gliding over the faults of the previous KANU government, KANU political party leader Uhuru Kenyatta sees a political landscape marred by the destruction of party discipline, with ethnic politics an increasingly attractive and dangerous option for some. The current opposition squabbling is distracting attention from real issues. Kenyan politics is about personalities more than anything else. Kenyatta remains committed to an opposition coalition against Kibaki in the 2007 elections. END SUMMARY.
Â¶2. (U) A/S Frazer, Ambassador and PolCouns dined with Uhuru Kenyatta, head of the Kenya African National Union (KANU) and official opposition chief on the eve of Kenyatta Day, which celebrates his father’s role as Kenya’s first president. Deputy PolCouns and visiting member of the Secretary’s policy planning staff Ted Craig breakfasted with Kenyatta the following day. This message reports the themes Kenyatta raised at these meetings. Note: many commentators believe this Kenyatta Day was the last: if a proposed and widely favored constitutional change goes through, the holiday will become “Heroes Day,” commemorating a variety of Kenya’s independence leaders. End note.
History as KANU sees it
Â¶3. (C) Kenyatta questioned whether the oft-cited political progress in Kenya since KANU’s departure from power was real. Political freedom, he insisted, was increasing anyway under KANU. A coalition voted out “terrible KANU,” he said ironically, but immediately the head of the coalition (Kibaki) began acting as if he had been elected as a stand-alone candidate. He governed not as the head of a coalition but as the head of his Democratic Party, which represented only one part of Central Province (Kikuyuland). Kibaki once in power decided there was no need to change the “strong Presidency” features of the Constitution he had campaigned against. Then, seeing that he had lost his Parliamentary majority, he did what even Moi never did, “poaching” members of other parties to be part of his government. After several years of this, there is no party discipline at all, Kenyatta lamented. Confusion reigns. People who fought you in the election now support you. People who were elected under the banner of your party are now standing with the government and opposing you. Kibaki was given a golden opportunity in 2002 to bring Kenyans together and take the country to the next level. He squandered that opportunity and now we are at a worse state of affairs than we were prior to 2002, especially as regards entrenched ethnic sentiments.
Â¶4. (C) Kenyatta made the following observations on political topics:
THE MOU AND PERSONALITY POLITICS: Kenyatta said he has seen the famous “MOU” (memorandum of understanding) signed by the coalition of parties that ran against him as NARC in 2002. It demonstrates that Kibaki went back on his word. (Note: it is widely accepted that the main deal of the MOU is that Kibaki becomes President, with the support of Raila Odinga and others, and in return agrees to amend the Constitution to create a weak presidency and a strong Parliament–with Odinga the obvious candidate for Prime Minister. End note.) However, Odinga and others could not produce the MOU to shame Kibaki. That is because politics in Kenya is not about policies, but personalities. Thus, the MOU is a wide-ranging deal about who-gets-what more than an agreement on a new Constitution, and publishing it would embarrass Odinga and others as much as Kibaki and his inner circle.
KIBAKI’S POLITICAL STRATEGY: The Kibaki administration has clearly accomplished some good things for Kenya, especially on the economic front. We cannot take that away from them. They have locked themselves into the mindset that re-election is assured by these achievements, ignoring the other side of the ledger. They have disappointed many. They were shocked by the referendum loss, never seeing it coming. That same arrogance will blind them in 2007.
ODM-K COALITION: Coalition politics works in many parliaments in the world. Odinga is pushing hard for a single “ODM-K” party. But why should Kenyatta and others abandon parties they have worked hard to build up? The problem is not coalitions, but rather dishonest politicians who forget their promises once elected. When Odinga keeps pushing for the dissolution of parties, with no clear reason, the question has to be put to him: what’s your real agenda? KANU will work with the Orange Democratic Movement-Kenya (ODM-K) coalition to oppose the government and win the next election, but will not dissolve. After all, we did not need to dissolve our parties to win the referendum.
ODM-K’S AMORPHOUS NATURE: What are ODM-K’s ideology, plans, principles, party platform and governing structure? As of now, we are nothing but a collection of personalities and their ethnic constituencies. We must move beyond this. Instead of focusing on who will get what post in some future government, we must agree on what we want to achieve for Kenyans. If the ODM-K leadership can work together in a spirit of give and take, then we will win the next election. If not, then we won’t. So far, no one wants to fully commit their political organizations to ODM-K unless they are first assured of getting the top seat. This is a bad sign.
CONSTITUENCY DEVELOPMENT FUNDS–GREAT, BUT…: The bill establishing these funds was actually passed before Kibaki was elected. It’s a great program–people “who never saw one copper coin” spent by the government in their communities are suddenly seeing real spending on their needs. However, there is no good oversight mechanism, as MPs are each responsible for funds for their districts. The legislative function needs to be split from the oversight function. Due to the collegial relationships among MPs, no one is going to publicly ask “is the honorable member from constituency X abusing his fund?” Until this problem is solved, the program should not be expanded.
ETHNICITY VS NATIONALISM: Kibaki has governed very much “as a member of a certain ethnic group, shall we say.” (Note: Kikuyu. End note.) The President’s raiding of other parties (for cabinet members) and destruction of party discipline, without any real set of policies to give his governing coalition identity, leaves the country more vulnerable than ever to ethnic politics. “I get called a traitor every day.” (Note: Kenyatta is an ethnic Kikuyu. End note.) We need to campaign on a theme of Kenyan unity, dropping the traditional notion of communities taking turns at the national trough. An enhanced spirit of nationalism and inclusiveness will increase accountability. Corrupt individuals can no longer hide behind their communities.
ETHNIC INCITEMENT FOR POLITICAL PURPOSES: Some of my ODM-K colleagues openly speak of how their communities have been “slighted by the Kikuyu.” This is dangerous language. They should say “slighted by Kibaki.” After all, the average Kikuyu has received no special benefit from this government, only the cronies around Kibaki have benefited. No good will come from encouragement of ethnic warfare. Kibaki with his access to state resources is in a better position to buy off community leaders and play ethnic politics than we are. It is both politically expedient and morally right for us to avoid ethnic politics. Tensions are such that sparks from any minor inter-ethnic incident can now ignite an uncontrollable fire. I am worried.
A NEW CONSTITUTION: Poloff asked if ODM-K would run on the original “Bomas” draft constitution (which was altered by Kibaki’s government before the referendum). Kenyatta demurred. Remember, he said, that different groups voted against the (government-backed) draft constitution for many reasons. What united them was the “no” vote. ODM-K needs to work through this issue very carefully, rather than engaging in its current squabbling.
WILL RAILA RUN: Raila Odinga is about 62, Kenyatta said, so this is his last real chance, and he will try with every ounce of his strength to become president of Kenya. He will push right up to the moment when he sees he simply can’t make it. If that moment comes, as a pragmatist he will look around and say, “let’s cut a deal. “MOI’S FADING
INFLUENCE: While Moi is still very active and vocal, in fact his influence is fading. This is shown in his inability to call the shots within KANU even on his own home turf in the central Rift Valley.
Â¶5. (SBU) Kenyatta also offered his views on other topics: REMITTANCES: Remittances from Kenyans in the UK, U.S., Canada and elsewhere have fueled a construction boom in Kenya. The financial community is discussing the establishment of financial instruments to entice Kenyans abroad into participating in that sector as well. Kenyatta supports a constitutional amendment to grant dual citizenship to Kenyans.
CHINA: There is a danger that Kenya’s policy of increasing cooperation with China to balance its dependence on western donors will result in overdependence on China. The award of an extensive airport upgrade contract to the Chinese will result in a “Chinese quality” airport, to Kenya’s detriment. Kenyatta averred that China’s much appreciated lack of conditions for its assistance will not last. “Once we are dependent, the conditions will surely come.” A/S Frazer pointed out the downside of Kenya closely associating with a country that does not share its political ideals.
Â¶6. (C) Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s first president, is among the most perceptive and enlightened of Kenya’s politicians, and a representative of the younger generation. However, he is a triple outsider at this point. He stands in opposition to the government, in opposition to most Kikuyus (who strongly back Kibaki) and in opposition to some of his principle colleagues within the ODM-K coalition. He also carries the historical baggage of KANU around his neck. The party is both widely recognized among Kenyans for bringing about independence and for committing many abuses against standards of good governance and human rights. Kenyatta was in fine form despite his many political woes. He delivered his views with reason, conviction and charm. We will know in coming months whether or not his plea for inclusive, issues-based politics will win over those among his ODM-K colleagues who are steeped in the traditional politics of manipulating ethnic voting blocs. END COMMENT.
Â¶7. (U) Neither Ted Craig nor A/S Frazer cleared this message.