Cablegate: Kenya Elections: Kenya Elections: The Swing


DE RUEHNR #4235/01 2991222
P 261222Z OCT 07





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: KENYA ELECTIONS: Kenya Elections: The Swing
States Part One: Rift Valley Province

1. (SBU) Summary: Rift Valley Province (RVP) is one of
Kenya's most geographically and ethnically diverse
provinces, encompassing both desperately poor arid lands
and wealthy agricultural regions. Former President Daniel
arap Moi, who is backing the re-election campaign of
President Kibaki, hails from RVP, as does MP Nicholas
Biwott, widely considered to be one of Kenya's most corrupt
and wealthy men, and MP William Ruto, a key member of
Odinga's campaign team. Despite Moi's support for Kibaki in
his home region, many areas of RVP are leaning heavily
towards the main opposition candidate, Raila Odinga.
Polling conducted on October 10 and 11 showed that 62
percent of RVP respondents would vote for Odinga for
president and 31 percent said they would support Kibaki.
During a recent visit to the region by Poloffs, the
sentiments of RVP residents appeared to affirm the polling
results, as many expressed disappointment that Kibaki had
not done more for them, and felt that Odinga was the most
likely to make good on his promises. As in other areas of
Kenya, Odinga's populist message was especially popular
among younger voters, who plan to head to the polls in
larger numbers than in previous elections. End summary.

2. (SBU) Rift Valley Province (RVP), which borders Uganda,
is one of Kenya's most populous provinces. Stretching from
arid northwestern Kenya down to the Tanzanian border, RVP
encompasses a range of landscapes and peoples, and includes
Kenya's richest agricultural land (once known as the "White
Highlands") and the country's tea-growing center. Major
ethnic groups in RVP include the Kalenjin (divided into at
least four sub-tribes), Maasai, Kikuyu, Turkana, and Pokot.
Former President Daniel arap Moi hails from RVP and owns
vast tracts of land there; one of his five sons, Gideon,
took over his father's former constituency while two other
sons (Jonathan and Raymond) are reportedly planning to run
for Parliament in the province. Prominent businessman and
politician Nicholas Biwott, linked to high-level corruption
scandals during the Moi years, also hails from RVP and
represents Keiyo South constituency. On the other side of
the contest is MP William Ruto of Eldoret North
constituency, a member of Odinga's "Pentagon" campaign team
and one of his closest campaign advisors. Ruto, a youthful
and energetic leader, seems to be getting the attention of
his kinsmen and has been instrumental in swinging large
sections of RVP over to the Odinga camp. Like Biwott,
however, Ruto has also been linked to some unresolved
official corruption cases. RVP is expected to have a
significant role in the outcome of the upcoming elections,
so Political section staff headed out to the region to take
the pulse of the voters.

Moi's Influence on the Wane

3. (SBU) During his 24 years as President, Moi was
criticized for pouring disproportionate amounts of money
into his home district and the larger ethnic Kalenjin zone.
The regional center of Eldoret, for example, boasts an
underused international airport, a university and teaching
hospital, and good roads, a rarity in Kenya. However, many
RVP residents complain that the riches bestowed by Moi
benefited very few. Despite their former political enmity,
Moi has come out in favor of Kibaki's re-election bid. Some
commentators have observed that this support is the
"payment" for a gentleman's agreement under which Kibaki
would not seek to prosecute Moi for past acts of official
corruption and would allow him to keep his millions --
millions that many Kenyans allege were stolen over the
years from the Kenyan taxpayers. Most local residents
thought Moi's influence was minimal, although they noted
that his support (and thus, support for Kibaki) is
strongest among elderly voters. If Kibaki is counting on
Moi to deliver RVP for him, residents warned, he is likely
to be disappointed.

The Moi Dynasty

4. (SBU) Gideon Moi, currently the MP for Baringo Central,
his father's former constituency, is running for re-
election. His brother Raymond is a candidate for MP in
populous and diverse Rongai constituency, running against
incumbent Alicen Chelaite. Jonathan Moi is also reported to
be standing for a Parliamentary seat. Baringo Central
residents were skeptical about Gideon's chances for re-
election. One local resident said that Moi's campaign
strategy consists of handing out 80 million Kenya shillings
(about $1.2 million) in the weeks immediately preceding the
elections. Handouts alone are not enough any more, he
added, although many residents might appreciate the irony
that a small percentage of Moi senior's ill-gotten gains
will finally be returned to the Kenyan taxpayers. We also

heard that incumbent Nicholas Biwott, MP for Keiyo South
constituency, may not be returned to office despite a
similarly generous campaign strategy. One of his three
wives, Professor Margaret Kamar, is standing in the nearby
constituency of Eldoret East. A former Vice-Chancellor at
Moi University in Eldoret, Kamar is well-respected for her
efforts in education, but will have to overcome the
handicap of being a woman candidate and of her association
with Biwott, which could prove to be unhelpful given his
relative unpopularity.

Kibaki, Breaker of Promises

5. (SBU) We heard repeatedly from Kalenjin voters that they
felt Kibaki had not kept his promises to address issues of
landlessness and to institute constitutional reform. After
independence, Kikuyu from Central province moved up to RVP
in search of work and purchased land there. In the 1990s,
ethnic clashes over land rights led to many of these Kikuyu
being displaced by Kalenjin. The Kibaki government had
pledged to resettle some landless Kikuyu in Nakuru, but did
not follow through. Many of these people are still living
in church camps or on the streets in Nakuru town. The
youth, largely unemployed and uneducated, are ripe for
recruitment by criminal gangs like the Mungiki and are no
longer interested in rural resettlement. Many residents
also commented on Kibaki's failure to pass constitutional
reform, as well as his failure to act against official
corruption and to bring about more equitable distribution
of resources. (Note: The 2005 constitutional referendum,
which proposed government-backed reforms, was soundly
defeated. End note.) Kibaki has achieved some good things,
residents agreed, but it appears that the deficits are
overshadowing the achievements in the minds of the voters
at this stage in the campaign.

Youth Voters: Take Us Seriously

6. (SBU) Odinga's message of populism and change has strong
appeal to young Kenyan voters. Kenya's demography is very
young, with 42 percent of the population under 14 and more
than 25 percent of the population between the ages of 15
and 25. Civic education and more exposure to media coverage
of the political scene are likely to result in a larger
number of young voters heading to the polls in this
election than in 2002. In the central Rift Valley town of
Iten, we passed an impromptu political rally being held by
a candidate for the local civic council. The audience of
young men, mainly unemployed and selling small items to try
and support themselves, was told that, if they voted for
him, this candidate would buy them so much beer that they
would fall down drunk in the gutter. Indignant, they asked,
"Is that all they think of us? We have serious concerns. We
want to be taken seriously." So far, the Kibaki campaign
has drawn its strongest support from older voters. Given
the importance of the youth vote, Kibaki will need to make
an effort to address youth concerns, primarily education
and employment. Kibaki will also need to overcome the
perception among many youth that it is time for his
generation to retire. "They have been in government many
years and have done very little in that time," said one
local NGO employee. "It's time for the old guys to go out."

Majimbo and Revenge

7. (SBU) One issue playing out on the national stage,
majimboism, is on RVP voters' minds, although there is much
confusion and disagreement about what it actually means.
Majimboism is loosely and confusedly defined as federalism
or devolution. Odinga has made majimbo a cornerstone of his
campaign, promising that constituencies would get to keep
60 percent or more of their locally-generated revenues
instead of handing money over to the national government
and waiting for the government to allocate it back to the
provinces and districts. Regions would also have their own
locally elected leaders, rather than being governed by the
present provincial administration system, which is
appointed by and reports to the national government.
Majimbo supporters also believe that the 40 percent of
constituency revenues that would be retained by the central
government will be redistributed from wealthy regions to
underdeveloped arid and semi-arid areas, resulting in
economic empowerment for impoverished regions of Kenya.
Kibaki supporters, however, argue that Odinga's majimbo
system would translate into divisiveness, and that it will
trigger a kind of ethnic cleansing, as tribes who have
relocated away from their traditional home areas would be
forced out in favor of "indigenous" residents. Jayne
Kihara, the MP for Naivasha constituency in the southern

Rift Valley, described majimboism as "tribalism, not

federalism." Many Kibaki supporters also express the fear
that Odinga, if elected, would use his position to seek
revenge against other ethnic groups believed to be
responsible for the unsolved killings of Luo leaders Tom
Mboya and former foreign minister Robert Ouko. A detailed
analysis of the majimbo issue will follow septel.


8. (SBU) This year's elections are expected to be hotly
contested at the Presidential level and in many of the
Parliamentary races. In many of the multi-ethnic
constituencies of RVP, candidates will have to appeal to a
broad spectrum of the local population to be successful.
The youth vote is also likely to be important, and is
currently skewing strongly towards Odinga and his message
of change and empowerment. Kibaki and his Party of National
Unity (PNU) supporters have largely been absent from the
campaign trail to date, while Odinga and his Orange
Democratic Movement (ODM) allies are aggressively
campaigning in the field. One observer likened Kibaki's
campaign to "a student who puts off studying until the week
before exams" and then wonders why he does not pass. Kibaki
is taking the voters for granted, we heard, and does not
recognize that the open democratic space he helped to
create will devour him if he does not begin a concerted and
coordinated effort to reach out to other ethnic groups and
youth voters. RVP will be a pivotal area in the elections.
Along with Western and Coast provinces, a successful
Presidential candidate will have to do well in this area in
order to secure victory. Post will continue to monitor
events in RVP and will include some key RVP constituencies
in our election observation efforts.


© Scoop Media

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