Cablegate: Kenya On the Eve of National Elections

P 241112Z DEC 07



DEPT FOR AF/E S, D, P, G, DRL, and AF A/S Frazer from the

E.O. 12958: N/A

Subject: Kenya on the Eve of National Elections

4745, E. NAIROBI 4827, F. NAIROBI 4826

1. Summary: On balance, the Kenyan elections set for December 27
will likely be credible, but determining this will require careful
reading of what is likely to be a messy process. Although President
Kibaki and his Party of National Unity (PNU) could eek out victory,
many observers see a win by opposition candidate Raila Odinga and
his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) as more likely. The contest is
too close to call. With Kenyan politics still tribally-based, the
stakes are high, and influential members of the teams around each of
the candidates are likely planning actions to undermine their
opponent's chances. While there are scenarios which could call
into question the credibility of the outcome, the efforts that we
and others are making - and the credibility of the Chairman of the
Electoral Commission -- increase prospects for an acceptably free
and fair result. Both candidates are friendly toward the U.S. End

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Tough Test for Kenyan Democracy
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2. The elections will probably yield what most observers will view
as an acceptably credible result. The elections will be a tough
test for Kenya's still fledgling democracy (multi-party elections
were held under Moi, but they had no credibility given the
authoritarian nature of his government). There are serious concerns
that we are addressing. Significant flaws should be expected in
what will be a messy process. Putting the upcoming election in
perspective, it is important to recall there has been only one truly
democratic election in Kenya, which took place in 2002.

Tribal Politics and Issues

3. The stakes are very high in the elections, particularly because
Kenyan politics are still tribally-based. The Kikuyu tribe of
President Kibaki, Kenya's largest tribal community, has dominated
Kenyan society since the departure of the British administration 44
years ago. The Kikuyu ruled Kenya under Kenyatta and Kibaki, in
both instances ensuring that key ministries and the economy were in
Kikuyu hands. Although Moi was a Kalenjin, his vice presidents were
Kikuyu, and the Kikuyus extended their presence in the professions
and the private sector. Kikuyus own land and run businesses
throughout the country, engendering resentment in some quarters.
Kibaki's main opponent, Raila Odinga, is the leader of the second
largest tribal group, the Luo. While it is generally assumed that
the tribe of whoever wins will receive economic spoils, tribal
politics in Kenya is, fortunately, not entirely a zero-sum game.
Kikuyu represent only around a quarter of the population and Luo
less than 15 percent of the population, so they must cultivate
spport from several other significant communities, among the 42 in
the country. The prevailing anti-Kikuyu sentiment gives Odinga the
advantage in that regard. A not uncommon refrain from average
Kenyans is that "it's time to give another tribe a chance."

4. The third major presidential contender, Kalonzo Musyoka (who
leads the Orange Democratic Party - Kenya), is from the Kamba tribe.
The Kamba have traditionally close ties to the Kikuyu. Kibaki and
his team have been working hard to persuade Musyoka to throw his
support to Kibaki, even if at the last minute (including hinting at
a deal in which Musyoka would become vice president and receive a
promise of Kikuyu support for 2012). In this close contest, winning
Kamba support would assure Kibaki's victory. Even without a signal
from Musyoka, it is possible that a significant segment of Kambas
may realize they are throwing away their vote on Musyoka (who cannot
win more than about 10 percent of the total vote) and switch to

5. Interestingly, the Parliament will likely be divided among the
three parties regardless of the presidential outcome. Musyoka at
this point still believes maintaining his independence gives him the
most credibility and positions him to be the kingmaker in the new

6. Tribalism and issues were both submerged in 2002, when Kibaki,
with Odinga's support, led the National Rainbow Coalition - all
united to bring down the long-ruling KANU party and to deny former
President Moi his chosen successor, Uhuru Kenyatta (who now supports
Kibaki). It is positive that, alongside tribal politics, issues
have been discussed at length during this campaign: corruption,
devolution of revenue and authority to the provinces, the issue of
marginalized areas and groups (including the Muslim community that
comprises 10 percent of the population), and infrastructure, among
others. Part of the focus on issues reflects the high literacy rate
and intense popular interest. Kibaki has run on his impressive
record, which includes making primary education free and universal,
a 7 percent growth rate (compared with under 1 percent when he took

over), anti-corruption efforts (Kenya won the UN award this year for
best civil service reform in the world), affirmative action for
women, and youth programs. However, the strong anti-Kikuyu feeling
tends to overshadow the record.

---------------- ---------------------------
Too Close to Call As Campaign Teams Scheme
---------------- ----------------------------

7. Kibaki, Odinga, and Musyoka are all members in good standing of
the traditional political class - none of them with clean hands.
Radical new departures are unlikely if Odinga wins. Odinga is,
however, younger than Kibaki (63 to Kibaki's 76) and a more
effective orator and campaigner. Many observers believe that the
tide has swung inexorably in his direction. Polls over the past
several months have consistently put Odinga ahead, but recent polls
show the race as too close to call. The methodology of the various
polls is also open to question, so too much weight should not be
given to them. Though the odds seem stacked against him, Kibaki
could still pull out victory. Odinga has made some crucial errors
during the campaign, including signing a controversial secret
memorandum of understanding with Muslim leaders; advocating radical
devolution to local authorities; rigging the primaries of his Orange
Democratic Movement Party to oust parliamentary candidates not
hand-picked by him; and at one point showing that he apparently was
relying on outside help by bringing in U.S. political consultant
Dick Morris. Odinga also appeared to peak relatively early in the
campaign. Kibaki, on the other hand, in recent weeks has shown
himself to be an energized campaigner. The impact of the Kibaki
campaign's greater financial resources and organization are also
being felt in the final days of the campaign. (This undoubtedly
involves some degree of mobilization of provincial administrations
and state resources, though this has not been so egregious as to
have a significant effect on the campaigns or to call into question
the nominal neutrality of civil servants.) Even given the intense
scrutiny of a vibrant civil society and a remarkably free media,
questions like alleged misuse of government resources and alleged
vote-buying by both sides remain gray areas that are hard to prove.
Public scrutiny has constructively exposed incidents of violence
and, by spotlighting them, helped to restrain broader violence.

8. In terms of Kenyan politics, unseating Kibaki after one term in
office would be virtually revolutionary. This makes many observers
nervous. That said, Kibaki himself has signaled publicly and
privately that he will accept the results of the election. Odinga
has done the same, and both have presented the right messages to
condemn violence and to emphasize respect for the democratic

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Messy, But Probably Credible Elections
-------------- ------------------------

9. Election day will almost certainly be messy, meaning some violent
incidents, and a fair amount of allegations of interference with the
voting process. Both Kibaki and Odinga have senior people around
them who are desperate to win, and who are willing to do whatever it
takes to achieve that. While the potential for dangerous actions
must be taken seriously, the track record of the well-run elections
in 2002 and the national constitutional referendum in 2005 (which
the government lost) bodes well. The Chairman of the Electoral
Commission, Samuel Kivuitu, is highly respected and determined to
run a clean election. Elaborate procedures are in place to assure a
credible and transparent process. The large number of international
observers will also help to limit misconduct. The EU has about 120
observers, the U.S. Mission is fielding almost 200 observers plus
funding an observer mission of the International Republican
Institute led by former A/S Connie Newman, and there will be over
17,000 Kenyan domestic observers. Finally, as we have traveled the
country, average Kenyans have emphasized their determination to
participate in a free and fair election (even if this is mixed with
underlying tribal sentiment).

10. If Kibaki loses, Odinga supporters will be riotously happy. At
the same time, most of the Kikuyu elite, with their business
interests, will want to work out accommodation with the new
government (many have already launched feelers). The greater danger
is if Odinga loses. He and his supporters will be very tempted -
even if the Electoral Commission and observers deem the process
credible -- to declare the election fraudulent and to resort to
violence. In that case, there could be significant violence and
several tense days while things calm down. While there is no likely
scenario that would lead to generalized instability, substantial
violence along tribal lines would be a setback for Kenyan democracy.

11. We have credible reports that some within the Kibaki camp could
be trying to orchestrate a defeat of Odinga in his constituency of
Langata, which includes the huge slum of Kibera. This could involve
some combination of causing disorder in order to disenfranchise some
of his supporters and/or bringing in double-registered Kikuyu
supporters of the PNU's candidate from outside. To be elected

President a candidate must fulfill three conditions: have a
plurality of the popular vote; have at least 25 percent in 5 of the
8 provinces; and be an elected member of Parliament. Thus, defeat
of Odinga in his constituency is a tempting silver bullet. The
Ambassador, as well as the UK and German Ambassadors, will observe
in the Langata constituency. If Odinga were to lose Langata, Kibaki
would become President if he has the next highest vote total and 25
percent in 5 provinces (both candidates will likely meet the 25
percent rule).

---------------- -------------------
U.S. Efforts, Interests, and Impact
---------------- -------------------

12. The outside chance that widespread fraud in the election process
could force us to call into question the result would be enormously
damaging to U.S. interests. We hold Kenya up as a democratic model
not only for the continent, but for the developing world, and we
have a vast partnership with this country on key issues ranging from
efforts against HIV/AIDS, to collaboration on Somalia and Sudan, to
priority anti-terrorism activities.

13. Because of these important interests, we have worked hard to
support a transparent and credible electoral process. Assistant
Secretary's Frazer's constant support and the Secretary's calls to

Kibaki and Odinga on December 22 have been very helpful. Reftels
have reported on our support for specific programs and our
leadership of donor efforts. Last May I laid out in a major speech
at the University of Nairobi the importance the U.S. attaches to
free and fair elections. I then joined with other ambassadors to
present a non-paper of "principles for free and fair elections" to
the government and publicly. My team and I have traveled throughout
the country to get out this message, and I have used the media
extensively to encourage a positive process. (Our efforts have
included specific support for the right of women candidates to
compete without suffering violence and intimidation.)

14. As long as the electoral process is credible, the U.S.-Kenyan
partnership will continue to grow and serve mutual interests
regardless of who is elected. While Kibaki has a proven track
record with us, Odinga is also a friend of the U.S. We will seek an
early meeting with the winner to review priorities in the bilateral
agenda. We have been in close touch with Kibaki and his team, and
Odinga and his team, to hammer home the importance of credible
elections and the need for the loser to work with the winner to
facilitate a smooth transition in the interest of all Kenyans.

15. It is likely that the winner will schedule a quick inauguration
(consistent with past practice) to bless the result and,
potentially, to forestall any serious challenge to the results.
There is no credible mechanism to challenge the results, hence
likely recourse to the streets if the result is questionable. The
courts are both inefficient and corrupt. Pronouncements by the
Chairman of the Electoral Commission and observers, particularly
from the U.S., will therefore have be crucial in helping shape the
judgment of the Kenyan people. With an 87 percent approval rating
in Kenya, our statements are closely watched and respected. I feel
that we are well-prepared to meet this large responsibility and, in
the process, to advance U.S. interests.

© Scoop Media

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