African Press International (API)

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Kibaki’s secret plan for 2012 succession

Posted by African Press International on August 10, 2008

President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga. The two are said to have a “warm and respectful friendship”. Photo/FILE

By MUGUMO MUNENE and BERNARD NAMUNANE

In Summary

  • Kibaki has changed his routine and now works at Harambee House at least three days a week.
  • Kibaki sees his working relationship with Prime Minister Raila Odinga as key to his legacy.
  • Source says President has no Kitchen Cabinet as men perceived to be close to power have not seen the President this year

President Mwai Kibaki has frozen out the so-called Kitchen Cabinet as he positions himself to establish his legacy and secure the country when he retires in 2012, a senior government official has told the Sunday Nation.

The Muthaiga set, a group of wealthy friends, have not been granted a State House audience this year, the official, who is conversant with the goings-on in the heart of power, said.

Such is the Presidents determination, the official said, that he will not be burdened by lesser politicians, an apparent reference to Mr Kibakis penchant for never defending loyalists who get caught up in scandals or run afoul of the law.

Stepped aside

Former Finance minister Amos Kimunya, of whom Mr Kibaki is said to have been fond, stepped aside after a meeting with the President following the controversy over the sale of the Grand Regency Hotel to Libya.

For starters, Mr Kibaki has changed his routine and now works at Harambee House at least three days a week. Previously, all business was conducted at State House Nairobi.

The person he works closest with is a civil servant, Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura, whose job is to carry out the Presidents instructions.

Because of his National Security docket and the proximity of his office to the Presidents, Prof George Saitoti frequently drops in on the Head of State and unobtrusively sits through some meetings.

The official, who would not agree to be named discussing confidential matters, said Mr Kibaki sees his working relationship with Prime Minister Raila Odinga as key to his legacy. The space that the President gives the Prime Minister to operate freely will be his true legacy, the official said.

He denied that the relationship between Mr Odinga and Mr Kibaki is distant, saying that the two, who consult in private for at least two hours a week, is a warm, respectful friendship.

Probably reflecting top-level regret at the bungled MOU power-sharing deal during Mr Kibakis first term, the official said if the two had had the kind of working relationship they have today, history would be different.

He said the Prime Minister and others were beginning to understand the President better.

An agreement was signed between Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga to share power after the 2002 election, which Mr Odingas Liberal Democratic Party accused Mr Kibaki of breaching.

The allegations of betrayal soured the relations between the two men, leading to an outright rebellion during the campaign for the 2005 constitutional referendum which the government lost. Mr Kibaki immediately sacked Mr Odinga and the politicians allied to him.

The comments, from the normally cautious and tight-lipped official could be an indicator that Mr Kibaki does not share the Raila-phobia normally associated with his allies.

Behind the scenes

It might also be an indicator of a behind-the-scenes mending of fences between Mr Kibaki and ODM, possibly intended to smooth the Kibaki succession and ward off violence in the country at the next election.

Responding to the allegation that Mr Kibaki is a hands-off and legs-off type of president, the official countered with the observation that he gets things done. There is shrewd politician beneath the veneer of political disinterest, the official said.

The President is not in the habit of carrying unnecessary political baggage, the official pointed out, citing the finality with which he cut links with former loyalists Chris Murungaru, Matu Wamae, David Mwiraria, Matere Keriri and most recently, Mr Kimunya.

The President has no Kitchen Cabinet, the official emphasised, adding that the men perceived to be close to power, including University of Nairobi Chancellor Joe Wanjui, Kenya Airports Authority managing director George Muhoho, KenGen managing director Eddy Njoroge, prominent businessmen Nat Kangethe and Peter Kanyago have not seen the President this year.

The official said the possibility of a Kibaki and Odinga-led succession plan, similar to the arrangement between founding President Jomo Kenyatta and his successor Daniel arap Moi, according to which the latter was supposed to take care if the formers allies, is not out of the question.

Forays

Explaining Mr Kibakis recent and out–of-character forays into party politics, the official said the President is concerned that a weak Party of National Unity would make negotiations in a future coalition difficult and is also aware that the Orange Democratic Party has the potential to become a political monopoly to the detriment of his allies.

He said the President is disinclined to spend too much time on many, smaller parties which are costly and have no strong grassroots support. In the view of the official, in the long run, Ford-K, Narc-K, the Democratic Party and others will have no option but to join PNU.

In the officials thinking, Mr Kibaki wants to create a strong party for his Central Kenya constituency and his allies which can credibly negotiate with other parties and personalities, possibly Mr Odinga, and act as a counterweight to ODM.

The official said the Presidents Gema allies seem to be waking up to the reality that a stab at the presidency in 2012 is a long shot and that it may make better sense for them to settle for the premiership.

On Justice Minister Martha Karuas quest for the presidency, the official said he did not think that the President would be so ungrateful as to sack her for expressing presidential ambitions but said the thinking is that she should first deliver a new constitution and then use that as her ticket to national leadership.

He said the mood at the top is that there are genuine fears that the Justice minister might be acting spoilt after failing to get the position of Deputy Prime Minister.

Ms Karua could not be reached for comment on Saturday although she has said in the past that theres nothing to stop her from aiming her sights at the presidency, and theres no set time when a candidate should begin his or her campaign.

The Justice minister has increasingly cut an independent figure away from the President by directing her Narc-K political wheel away from the latter who wants to see a more united and stronger PNU.

Holds the key

But he said that Ms Karua holds the key to Mr Kibakis legacy because Mr Kibakis presidency will be remembered depending on the way that justice over the post-election violence is delivered, how cohesion and the dissipation of ethnic tension is handled and the writing of a new constitution is completed.

An aide to Mr Odinga, who did not agree to be named because he is not authorised to comment on confidential discussions, claimed that a plan has been worked out between Mr Odinga and the President in preparation for Mr Kibakis retirement in 2012.

He said Kenyans should not imagine that the two still habour a grudge against each other following the disputed Presidential election results which the ODM candidate claimed to have won.

That is why a recent story about the stolen election infuriated the Prime Minister. He could not imagine that such utterances could come out of his mouth when he knows how much lee way the President has decided to give him in preparation for 2012, said the aide.

The aide said the leaders were concerned about the blood-letting to which they drove the country during the last elections and were working together to prevent its recurrence.

He said the reason the President has taken personal charge of organising his allies and PNU is in order to strengthen his hand in negotiations with Mr Odinga.

He was referring to the recent drive by the President to unite all affiliate parties of PNU to form one strong party.

Another ally of the PM said it was significant to note that when Mr Odinga led a Cabinet delegation to the UK recently, he heaped praise on the President whom he described as a democrat who cannot be compared to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

You cannot just describe as a democrat a man who a few months ago you were fighting for taking away what you believed was your victory. The two have struck a rapport, and Kenyans had better become accustomed to what is likely to happen in the lead up to the next polls, he said.

He said Mr Odingas motivation was that in order to be accepted and respected internationally, he must be seen to be overcoming ethnic boundaries, forgiving those he sees as having denied him electoral victory and uniting all Kenyans.

This is why nowadays you see the Prime Minister everywhere; seeking solutions to thorny issues like the Mau Forest and coming up with a working relationship between the government and the private sector, he said.

The aide further said that due to the development, there were some people who were not happy with what the PM is doing. He said that their expectations were so high that they do not understand why the premier is not pushing the President to accommodate most of the policies that ODM held.

The problem with these people is that they have not learnt to live with the times. The Prime Minister is not just the ODM leader now. He is a leader of this country who has to close ranks within government for tomorrows sake, he said.

—————

API/Source.nation.ke

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