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Cablegate: Opinion Leaders Talk Politics with Ambassador

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FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
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RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 4710
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C O N F I D E N T I A L NAIROBI 002240

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/24/2027
TAGS: PREL KDEM PINR PHUM KCOR PTER KE
SUBJECT: OPINION LEADERS TALK POLITICS WITH AMBASSADOR
CARSON

REF: A. NAIROBI 220
B. 06 NAIROBI 4105

Classified By: Political Counselor Larry Andre for reasons
1.4 (b,d).

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

SIPDIS
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.)

Musical Chairs
--------------

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.

Corruption
----------

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.
RANNEBERGER

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