WikiLeaks Releases: Nairobi Cable No. 48: Raila Said Kibaki Cannot Appear in Public Without Medication
Viewing cable 07NAIROBI2240, OPINION LEADERS TALK POLITICS WITH AMBASSADOR CARSON
- Odinga predicted Musyoka would leave ODM-K to join Kibaki
- Musyoka: Kibaki suffered from memory loss
- Kivuitu Called Commissioners “Riggers”
- Wako encouraged U.S gov to treat suspected terorists as “non Kenyans”
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C O N F I D E N T I A L NAIROBI 002240
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TAGS: PREL KDEM PINR PHUM KCOR PTER KE
SUBJECT: OPINION LEADERS TALK POLITICS WITH AMBASSADOR
REF: A. NAIROBI 220
¶B. 06 NAIROBI 4105
Classified By: Political Counselor Larry Andre for reasons
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: In a series of conversations with visiting Ambassador Johnnie Carson, opposition leaders, government officials and civil society interlocutors agreed that there was still much uncertainty surrounding the strength of Kenyan political coalitions and President Kibaki’s health, that the strength of the Electoral Commission is critical, and that there is little prospect for minimum constitutional reforms before the election. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (SBU) Visiting Ambassador Johnnie Carson met recently with a variety of Kenyan interlocutors in Nairobi to discuss developments in domestic politics. From the government, the list included Internal Security Minister John Michuki, Attorney General Amos Wako and Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) Chairman Samuel Kivuitu. He also had conversations with opposition leaders and presidential hopefuls MPs Kalonzo Musyoka, Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga along with General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya Reverend Mutava Musyimi. Other meetings in Nairobi with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials focused on regional issues, including Sudan and Somalia, and will be reported septel.
ODM-K: A Noisy Vehicle Without Wheels
¶3. (C) The opposition coalition Orange Democratic Movement-Kenya (ODM-K) continues to negotiate a method for choosing its presidential nominee. Between the two choices (a national primary election or consensus among the aspirants) Presidential hopeful Odinga was in favor of consensus given the challenges, both financial and political, of running a primary. On the strength of the coalition, Odinga noted that there was nothing keeping a candidate who loses the nomination from leaving ODM-K. He hinted that there was someone (rumored to be Musyoka, although Odinga did not say so) who might quit ODM-K and join the Kibaki team.
¶4. (C) Reverend Mutava Musyimi scoffed that ODM-K is not a party, but “a vehicle to power: a vehicle that is making noise, but not moving and probably has no wheels.” Musyimi explained that while Kibaki has “favored his own,” (Kikuyu tribe) he has achieved a strong record of economic growth. As such, the ODM-K’s presidential prospects via its anti-Kibaki campaign will not work. While he thought coalition politics were the future in Kenya, and that ODM-K would be good for Kenya, he argued that the parties needed to move beyond coalitions viewed simply as a method for cobbling together various ethnicities. Uhuru Kenyatta was unwilling to speculate on ODM-K’s future. “Your guess is as good as mine,” he said, adding that the key would be a free and fair primary. Kenyatta was adamant that ODM-K is only an umbrella organization, and that KANU remains his party.
¶5. (C) Buoyed by recent poll results which showed him overtaking Musyoka in popularity, Odinga thought his bid for State House was going very well. He added, however, that Kibaki’s rating had also improved. Revealing his rivalry with Odinga, Musyoka commented that the government was helping Odinga because Kibaki supporters would rather the President face him, than Musyoka. “Kibaki will not have to leave State House to win against Odinga,” Musyoka remarked. “If I am the ODM candidate,” he added, “Kibaki might not run.” Musyoka said he would try to make a deal with Raila, but added, “he’s difficult.”
¶6. (C) Kenyatta emphasized that the government too was in disarray, noting that within the president’s inner circle there was instability. During the Moi era, at least, he added, there was a clear authority and as a result, stability. President Kibaki needs to organize his house, because right now, with no one in charge, ministers are making their own decisions, Kenyatta stated. He also criticized the Kibaki administration for doing little to mitigate ethnic animosities.
Kibaki: Robust Recluse or Sick at State House?
¶7. (C) Assessments of Kibaki’s health varied widely. Odinga insisted Kibaki could not appear in public without being medicated, and shuts down when the drugs wear off. Musyoka said Kibaki’s health had improved, but that the President suffered from memory loss. Wako, however, described a president who is “in meetings until eleven p.m.,” and keeps a “punishing schedule.” Describing him as “a formidable man and an economist to the core,” Reverend Musyimi was certain Kibaki has the energy and passion to serve a second term. This time around Kibaki, whom he described as “institutional, not personal, and very nationalistic,” will let his economic record do a lot of the campaigning for him, Musyimi added.
Michuki on Human Rights
¶8. (C) Although he focused mostly on regional issues, Internal Security Minister Michuki offered some views on human rights in Kenya. With respect to political rallies (“demonstrations”), the Minister noted that people have a tendency to misinterpret rights that are guaranteed in the constitution as unlimited. “The African mind does not accept authority,” he continued, explaining that while citizens have rights, they must also follow procedures. When it comes to political gatherings, organizers must notify the government, and officials may in turn refuse the request, in the public interest. Michuki acknowledged that citizens must be educated on their rights and the regulations as well. However, he added, the government’s attempts to work with NGOs to increase awareness have been problematic as the NGOs are the tools of “mostly opposition” individuals. (COMMENT: This is Michuki’s typical tough-guy rhetoric. END COMMENT.)
¶9. (C) A key issue in the electoral debate is the status of ECK Chairman Samuel Kivuitu and whether Kibaki will keep him in place or not when Kivuitu’s term expires on December 2 (just before the expected election). Raila repeated a widely held opinion that Commissioner Muturi Kigano, formerly Kibaki’s lawyer and an ex-convict, would be selected to succeed Kivuitu. Earlier Kivuitu had also suggested Kigano would succeed him, but he said that it now appeared two Ministers were arguing over Kigano’s selection. Musyoka was convinced the government “wants to push Kivuitu out.” Wako thought that although there will be people close to him whispering in his ear, Kibaki will “do the right thing,” when the time comes. The AG declined to speculate what that might be, however. Despite the uncertainty, Kivuitu told Ambassador Carson he would stay through the election if he was asked to, but not for another five years.
¶10. (C) Kivuitu noted among the challenges he faces the possibility that the election itself could be boycotted if the politicians thought the playing field had been unfairly tipped. One factor is the composition of the ECK itself, Kenyatta explained. The Kibaki government’s closed-door selection of nine commissioners (ref A) would damage the credibility of the election they run, in Kenyan voters’ opinion, he said. This, however, does not matter to the government, Kenyatta added. Kivuitu was also concerned about the ECK’s public image. People call the nine “new” commissioners “the riggers,” he said. He added that the results themselves could be called into question if candidates think the election is conducted unfairly.
Minimum Reforms have Minimal Prospects
¶11. (C) Odinga emphasized that the key constitutional reform needed in Kenya is the devolution of power from the executive and from the center more generally. He remarked, however, that there was little likelihood of the reforms passing before the election with Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua working to derail the process. Both Kenyatta and Musyoka blamed Karua for leading the government’s efforts to “scuttle” the reform process. Even Attorney General Wako thought there was too much suspicion all around for agreement.
¶12. (C) Wako described significant progress in Kibaki’s war against corruption. Wako explained that rather than his own lack of will it was systemic inefficiencies as well as loopholes in Kenyan law that kept the chief orchestrators of major corruption scandals out of prison. (NOTE: Wako’s comments mirrored what he told the Ambassador in September (ref B). END NOTE.) Wako cited a lack of evidence and the need for “further investigation” as obstacles in obtaining prosecutions in major corruption cases. Musyimi was less upbeat, criticizing the “architecture of the anti-corruption institutions,” and the Kibaki government for letting pass its moment to clean up. While Kenyatta conceded that the government had made gains economically, because it had not made any institutional changes, corruption continued.
Terror Suspects: Take ‘Em, Don’t Tell
¶13. (C) On terror suspects wanted for the 1998 attacks on the US Embassies in East Africa, Wako suggested it would be politically far simpler to “not know they are Kenyans,” and handle their prosecution outside of Kenya.
¶14. (U) Ambassador Carson has not cleared this message.