Cablegate: Kenya Elections: A Guide for the Perplexed

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1. (SBU) Summary: The protagonists in Kenya's election drama
have known one another for decades. At various times they
were both allies and rivals. Incumbent President Mwai Kibaki
will present himself as a stable, mature and dependable
leader who reversed Kenya's downward spiral under Moi and is
above tribalism. Challenger Raila Odinga will present
himself as the champion of the common man against the forces
of the elite. He (or his lieutenants) will also play on
anti-Kikuyu resentments, especially in vote-rich districts
where Kikuyu "settlers" are resented by "locals," such as
Kalenjin areas of Rift Valley Province. Third place Kalonzo
Musyoka will strive to capture all of the ethnic Kamba vote
(8 percent of projected voters) and have his allies elected
as MPs from Kambaland, but is unlikely to register
significant support elsewhere in the country. The election
may be closer than many observers expected. This calls for
even closer scrutiny of the process and intense advocacy for
free, fair and peaceful conduct of the elections. End

2. (U) Ref A provides a projection of likely voters and
references for previous election-related messages.

Changing Dance Partners

3. (SBU) In 2002, President Daniel arap Moi, in his 24th year
of rule and recently term-limited, announced to startled
leaders of his party that Uhuru Kenyatta, a relative
political newcomer and son of the founding President, was his
chosen successor. This led to a walk-out of the party by
those who insisted that the ruling party candidate be chosen
by a secret ballot at a party convention. The leader of the
walk-out was Raila Odinga, then one of Moi's ministers and a
former Moi regime political prisoner. In the 1960s, Odinga's
father had served as a prominent minister in Kenya's first
post-independence government, alongside Moi, before the elder
Odinga had a bitter falling out with the elder Kenyatta.
Among those who followed Odinga out of the party was Kalonzo
Musyoka. Earlier, Musyoka had made his name in the ruling
party by vociferously defending Moi and calling for Odinga's
imprisonment for subversive activities, a reference to
Odinga's agitation for multiparty democracy and against
Kenya's one-party constitution in force at that time.

4. (SBU) Late in 2002, Odinga helped unite the opposition
behind a single candidate: Mwai Kibaki. The opposition had
lost Kenya's first two multiparty elections, in '92 and '97,
largely due to their failure to unite (and Moi's willingness
to use violence against entire communities of presumptive
opposition supporters). Kibaki had served in parliament
since independence in '63. He had served as a minister under
both Jomo Kenyatta and Moi. He spent 10 years as Moi's
Vice-President. In 1982, he gave an impassioned speech in
parliament about the necessity of moving Kenya from a de
facto one-party state to a de jure one-party state, and then
formally made the motion in favor of the one-party amendment
to the constitution. Nine years later, Kibaki left the
ruling party to enter opposition politics. On occasion he
was beaten by police while leading anti-Moi, pro-democracy

5. (SBU) Fast forward to 2007: Former 2002 allies Kibaki,
Odinga and Musyoka are now running for President against one
another. Their opponents from 2002, Moi and Uhuru Kenyatta,
are now allied to Kibaki. Odinga and Musyoka (along with
their allies) fell out with the President when Kibaki reneged
on promises he had made to them about the positions they
would hold in government. The moral of the story is that
while Kenya's senior politicians all know one another quite
well, there are no permanent allies or enemies, only
permanent interests, particularly when it comes to preserving
or improving one's position within the ranks of the
traditional political elite.

Unspoken Political Motivations

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6. (SBU) Among Kenya's politicians, the three largest land
owners, according to widespread public perception, are
Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki, in that order. The Kikuyu and
their close socio/linguistic/political allies and Mount Kenya
neighbors, the Meru and the Embu, together make up about
one-third of registered voters. The next largest group of
registered voters is the Kalenjins, at only 13 percent of
registered voters. The Kikuyu are Kenya's best educated,
most commercially active and most dispersed community. They
have a strong cultural imperative to acquire land. They are
often resented by "locals" when they acquire land, businesses
and jobs outside their home districts. Kikuyus have a
linguistic and cultural affinity with Kenya's other Bantu
ethnic groups. Together, the Bantus make up 67 percent of
Kenya's population. Anti-Kikuyu sentiments are less
pronounced among their fellow Bantus than among the Nilotes
(Maasais, Luos, Kalenjins and others).

7. (SBU) Kikuyu interests are 1) retain control of the
government, 2) maintain social peace (good for business and
necessary to protect Kikuyu minorities living throughout
Kenya), and 3) improve the business climate (through better
government services and infrastructure). Many Kikuyu were
dispossessed of their lands in the 1990s through violence and
intimidation organized by President Moi (an ethnic Kalenjin),
yet there is very little appetite among the Kikuyu political
elite to redress this injustice. Elites fear an
across-the-board review of the land issue, such as in the
commissioned, but never implemented, Ndungu Report. Several
Kikuyu land barons, whose acquisitions date back to the
Kenyatta era, could be threatened by such a legal review.
Revisiting the land issue is widely considered by the Kenyan
elite to be "dangerously destabilizing."

8. (SBU) Odinga is the uncrowned King of the Luos. He has
committed and nearly universal backing from his community.
The Luos are a highly homogenous group (as distinct from such
heterogeneous groups as the Luhyas, Kalenjins and Mijikendas)
with a strong identity and cultural features that distinguish
them from the rest of Kenya. They see themselves as
chronically oppressed underdogs whose leaders are
assassinated (Tom Mboya, Robert Ouko) or chased from power
(Jaramogi Odinga, Raila's father). Raila presents himself as
a national leader with a vaguely social democratic agenda,
ready to fight the traditional elite on behalf of ordinary
Kenyans. He is linked to the failed '82 coup attempt against
Moi. He played an important role in the fight for multiparty
democracy in Kenya and is closely associated with the high
hopes and expectations for dramatic reforms that
characterized the Kenyan public after the 2002 election.
However, he is also viewed as an untrustworthy political
opportunist. He has a strong motivation to play on
anti-Kikuyu resentments, especially among the Kalenjin, the
coastal communities and among his own Luos.

9. (SBU) Kalonzo Musyoka has seen his political standing and
poll numbers tumble over the past year. He began his
political career in KANU under Moi. He then switched to the
Liberal Democratic Party alongside Raila Odinga in 2002. He
joined the victorious NARC coalition and was made a minister
in Kibaki's first cabinet. He joined Raila Odinga and other
fellow ministers in campaigning against the draft
constitution backed by the government he was serving in.
When the draft constitution was voted down in the referendum,
handing Kibaki a demoralizing defeat, Musyoka, Odinga and
others were dismissed from government. Following their
referendum victory, Musyoka and Odinga formed a new party,
the Orange Democratic Movement of Kenya (ODM-K). (Uhuru
Kenyatta of KANU initially joined up with ODM-K, but later
switched to Kibaki's coalition at Moi's insistence.) Musyoka
sought the ODM-K presidential nomination, but saw that
Odinga's supporters had captured all the party machinery.
His attempt to block Odinga's nomination for the ODM-K
presidential candidacy, led Odinga and nearly all other
prominent ODM-K leaders to decamp to yet another party, the
Orange Democratic Party (ODM). That move left Musyoka
holding onto ODM-K, which was reduced to a regional/ethnic
party consisting only of his own Kamba ethnic group (8
percent of projected voters). It is assumed Musyoka plans to

NAIROBI 00003969 003 OF 004

elect a slate of members of parliament loyal to him, whom he
can then use to bargain for a prominent cabinet position from
either Kibaki or Odinga. No objective observers are
predicting a Musyoka victory at this point.

The Two Major Campaigns: Narratives & Strategies
--------------------------------------------- ---

10. (SBU) Noting that a presidential candidate need only
obtain a plurality of the vote plus at least 25 percent of
the vote in five of Kenya's eight provinces to win, here is
how we see the campaigns:

Kibaki and his Party of National Unity coalition

Strengths: Growing economy, introduction of free primary
education with promise of free secondary education as well,
appreciation for Kibaki's dismantling of Moi-era abuses (cult
of personality, systematic torture, political detainees,
etc.), expansion of democratic freedoms, traditional Kenyan
cultural deference toward elders (at 76, Kibaki is by far the
oldest of the three candidates). Allegiance of the largest
ethnic voting bloc, Kikuyus and their close allies, at about
one-third of registered voters.

Weaknesses: Widespread perception of favoritism toward fellow
Kikuyus, indulgence of high-level corruption, continued high
rates of violent crime, poor infrastructure.

Campaign narrative: When my government came to power, the
national economy was shrinking, the treasury was empty and
the country had suffered years of social and political
turmoil. I have revived the economy, brought stability,
greatly increased revenue collection, introduced free primary
education and improved the incomes and living standards of
the eighty percent of Kenyans who live in rural areas. I am
well known to you. I am moderate, stable and honorable. You
can depend on me to maintain our country's stability and keep
the economy growing. Mine are a safe pair of hands. Some of
my ministers may have said or done things that offended some
of you. They did not take these positions at my instruction.
Note that these hardline, controversial figures (all
Kikuyus) are not among my leadership team in the Party of
National Unity coalition. (This team features balanced
regional/ethnic representation and does not include such
controversial figures as Internal Security Minister Michuki
or Justice Minister Karua. This public re-election committee
does not necessarily reflect who actually has the president's

Strategy: Begin with the 40 percent of the vote from the
November 2005 referendum (Kikuyu, Embu, Meru, principally),
add KANU's residual support, which polls at about 3 percent.
Increase support from Coast Province by recruiting small
regional parties to the coalition and through distribution of
land titles to squatters. Increase support in Western
Province through vigorous campaigning. Minimize the number
of Kikuyu faces in the campaign team. Attempt to undermine
Odinga's position among Coast and Western Province Bantus.
Count on Moi (an ethnic Kalenjin) to increase support for the
presidential coalition among Rift Valley province Kalenjins.
As long as Musyoka stays in the race, a score of at least 47
percent would do. A Musyoka switch to Kibaki ensures
victory. Do not name a running mate, hold the slot open for
Musyoka in case he can be enticed to serve as Vice-President.

Odinga and his Orange Democratic Movement

Strengths: Inspiring orator, brilliant campaigner,
represents for many Kenyans the high hopes of the 2002
election, compelling campaign biography of "lifetime of
struggle for democracy and justice," natural pick for Kenyans
who resent perceived Kikuyu commercial and government

Weaknesses: Anti-Luo sentiments are nearly as common as
anti-Kikuyu sentiments. History of changing parties and
supporting 1982 coup attempt leave image of recklessness,
untrustworthiness and opportunism. Strongly distrusted by

NAIROBI 00003969 004 OF 004

the private sector. Country's largest ethnic community, the
Kikuyu/Embu/Meru, is opposed to him.

Campaign narrative: My father was one of the leaders who made
Kenya independent. He was betrayed by President Jomo
Kenyatta (a Kikuyu), thrown out of the government and the
party and persecuted all of his days. He taught me to fight
for the people. I suffered imprisonment under the Moi regime
as a result of my leadership in the fight for multiparty
democracy. My team is made up of leaders from every part of
the country. I am a Kenyan nationalist, a reformer and a
champion of the common man against the traditional elite. I
will right all the wrongs, without causing instability. I am
young and energetic. I am ready to lead the country to the
next level of development. Kibaki's economic gains are only
enjoyed by the rich. I will fight to bring prosperity to all

Strategy: Begin with the 60 percent "Orange" vote in the
November 2005 referendum. Subtract those who have now
publicly switched to the Kibaki camp (principally KANU, 3
percent), and also subtract Musyoka's Kambas (8 percent).
That comes to 49 percent, more than enough to win in a three
way race. (Evidence indicates that the 60 percent "Orange"
vote in 2005 also included pro-Kibaki voters who disliked the
draft constitution due to perceived privileges granted the
Muslim community. These voters can be expected to line up
with Kibaki during the election.) Undermine Moi's position
in Kalenjin-populated regions of Rift Valley Province by
fanning traditionally high anti-Kikuyu sentiment and calling
into question his reasons for supporting a Kikuyu government
that has "chased the Kalenjin from power." (The Kalenjin
account for 13 percent of projected voters, the second
largest group after Kikuyu/Embu/Meru). Keep Musyoka in the
race, since his voters would likely otherwise vote for Kibaki.

Comment: Shifting Alliances

11. (SBU) In 2002, the election did not come into focus until
about one month prior to voting, once the pro-Kibaki
coalition was formed. Apparent bitter political rivals
becoming close allies overnight is a common occurrence in
Kenyan politics. Over the next few weeks we will see
defections and reunions aplenty, especially following the
fights over who gets the nod to compete for parliamentary
seats on behalf of each coalition. The election may be
closer than many observers expected. This calls for even
closer scrutiny of the process and intense advocacy for free,
fair and peaceful conduct of the elections.

12. (SBU) Our greatest concern at this point is that ethnic
rhetoric will get out of hand and lead to serious violence.
We are taking a number of initiatives to discourage this,
including a youth-centered concert series on the theme of
peaceful political participation. We are also speaking out
against every prominent act of political violence that occurs
(ref B).


© Scoop Media

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