Raila, Ruto clash not surprising at all

Deep ideological differences between Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Agriculture Minister William Ruto are responsible for the split in the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

raila_rutoIn their eagerness, or perhaps desperation, to win power in the 2007 General Elections, Raila and Ruto disguised their personal differences to unite under the ODM party. Both men knew that they could not get into government by themselves. This was more the case when Kalonzo Musyoka left ODM in mid 2007.

Immediately after Kalonzo’s exit, Raila and Ruto got into a very strong alliance that helped bring the Luo and Kalenjin votes directly to Raila’s presidential candidacy. Come the elections, the Luo and Kalenjin voted for Raila en-masse. When President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner, the Luo and Kalenjin were at the forefront in protesting the election results. The Prime Minister himself has acknowledged the role of Kalenjin warriors in forcing Kibaki to the negotiating table.

Today, that alliance lies in tatters. Raila and Ruto have inevitably parted ways and are both seeking alternative allies in readiness for the 2012 elections. While Raila is an obvious candidate, Ruto sees himself as presidential material for Kenya’s future. He will either run for the office or support somebody else in exchange for the Vice Presidency or the Premiership. Those mentioned as Ruto’s possible allies in 2012 are current Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta. Meanwhile, Raila is talking to politicians from Central Kenya in a bid to woo Kikuyu, Embu and Meru votes.

Raila and Ruto come from opposing schools of political thought. Raila is a socialist who learnt politics from his father, former Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Due to Communist leanings, Jaramogi fell out with President Jomo Kenyatta in 1966 and became a perpetual opposition to the Kenyatta and Moi administrations until his death in 1994. Jaramogi inculcated socialism in Raila by sending him to study Engineering in the former East Germany which was a Communist state. In the 1980s, Raila was tortured for involvement in the 1982 coup attempt. It was almost as though President Daniel arap Moi was deliberately targeting Raila in order to cause psychological anguish to Jaramogi.

Ruto, on the other hand, was an ardent student of the Moi brand of politics. Picked from obscurity before the 1992 General Elections, Ruto was appointed second in command of a new organization called “Youth for KANU 1992” or YK92 in short. YK92 had only one goal: to use any means necessary to ensure the victory of Moi and the KANU party. YK92 received an unlimited amount of funds to buy support for KANU. The source of the cash was a mystery but it is believed that the government engaged in massive printing of money. The Goldenberg scandal could have provided more slush funds.

Moi and KANU managed to win the 1992 elections but, needless to say, the operations of YK92 had flooded the economy with paper money. The years 1993 – 1994 witnessed the highest inflation in Kenya’s history as prices of basic commodities doubled and trebled. This was when the Shs500 currency note was introduced.

Come the 1997 elections, Moi supported William Ruto’s candidacy in Eldoret North constituency against the late Reuben Chesire. The interesting angle is that Reuben Chesire was related to Moi. However, friendship counts for little in politics and Moi is the master of use-and-dump strategies. With Moi’s backing, Ruto won the elections and was appointed to the cabinet. By 2002, Ruto was a powerful Minister for Internal Security and an ardent defender of Moi.

In a sense, Ruto symbolized the arrogance and corruption of Moi’s last years of office. He displayed a great deal of single-mindedness when defending Moi’s choice of Uhuru Kenyatta as successor in the 2002 elections. Ruto virulently opposed the constitutional review process led by Professor Yash Pal Ghai and which culminated in the Bomas conference. Often, Ruto appeared on national television frothing at the mouth as he dismissed constitutional reforms as an attack on the Moi presidency. To Ruto’s credit, Kibaki ally John Michuki confirmed in 2003 that constitutional reforms were meant to remove Moi and KANU from power.

Ruto has never subscribed to Raila’s populist approach to politics. Ruto is a hardcore conservative more comfortable with Mwai Kibaki than with Raila Odinga. It was naked opportunism that brought Raila and Ruto together. Raila needed the Kalenjin vote and Ruto wanted to get back into government after KANU’s loss in 2002.

Ruto is among politicians who believe that Raila is a reckless activist who cannot be trusted with leading Kenya. Ruto is certainly not a socialist. He is an extremely wealth man who made lots of money through his connections to Moi. Apart from unlimited access to YK92 funds, Ruto was allocated government land which he afterwards sold to state-owned corporations at a huge profit. For instance, Ruto made hundreds of millions of shillings selling land to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). Ruto’s companies won tenders to supply government departments and state corporations.

In 2007, Moi decided to support President Mwai Kibaki’s candidacy and told Ruto to follow suit. Ruto was convinced that Raila had the best chance of winning and refused to heed Moi’s calling. Now, it looks like Ruto is going back home to Moi and Uhuru Kenyatta as Raila’s political fortunes dwindle by the day.

One final point to consider: Did Ruto really fall out with Moi in 2007 or was it part of Moi’s political strategy of ensuring he had a stake in government regardless of who won the election? The hard fact is that if Raila had won the presidency, Ruto would have taken care of Moi’s interests.

Today, with Moi firmly on Kibaki’s side, Ruto doesn’t seem to be doing badly either. Early this year, Ruto survived a no-confidence motion in Parliament thanks to support from pro-Kibaki legislators.

Mau Forest politics: a detailed explanation

It is estimated that there are 25,000 people who either legally or illegally have settled in both Mau East and Mau West forests. The Government plans to resettle them elsewhere and fence off the water tower, one of the five in the country.

Destruction of the Mau Forest. Picture source: (see below)

Destruction of the Mau Forest. Picture source: (see below)

The Kipsigis community, the main occupants of the water-catchment area, oppose the eviction, saying they settled in the forest legally. Elders say their community is being punished by the coalition Government following their stand in the 2007 General Election. The elders have warned the Government over the evictions, saying the move was causing panic among residents, some of whom were threatening to disrupt peace.

On the other hand, Maasai community leaders say there should not be any compromise over the evictions. Maasai leaders say that the illegal extension of ranches bordering the forest in 1998 by the Narok County Council was the genesis of the threat to the water-catchment area. They say the area was allocated to powerful individuals in Government who are now opposed to the evictions.

There are fears that the Maasai and Kipisigis ethnic groups, both of whom have stakes in the Mau Forest Complex, might clash violently.

The more than 25,000 settlers, who are mainly farmers, have totally degraded and destroyed the environment to pave way for their settlement and farming. These combined activities have caused several rivers to dry up permanently.

Origins of the current situation

The encroachment and destruction of Kenya’s forests is closely related to many controversial land issues. In Kenya, as in many African countries that experienced colonisation, the issue of access to land is complex and emotive.

During colonialism, white settlers were allocated the most productive and fertile 20 per cent of Kenya’s land mass. When Kenya was declared a British Protectorate in 1895, forest cover was estimated at 30 per cent of total landmass. At independence in 1963 this figure was just 3 per cent. Following independence, there was popular expectation of increased and more equitable access to land for ordinary Kenyans.

However, post- independence governments failed to put in place a land program that met popular expectations. Instead, land was systematically used as a tool of political patronage. Huge tracts of public land were allocated to political elites and to political supporters. Since independence forest cover in Kenya has further shrunk to just 1.7 per cent of the total land mass.

Lack of alternative livelihood opportunities in these areas has left land as the only resource to mine for people’s basic needs. Without a comprehensive approach to sustainable livelihoods, rural communities are degrading the very environment on which they depend.

Specifics of the Mau forest problem

Since 1993, the Kenyan Government has systematically carved out huge parts of Mau Forest for settlement of people from other communities. It is said that local leaders condone the destruction by using land as a political tool, oblivious to the consequences. Even members of the provincial administration were involved in the plunder.

For politicians and senior government officials, the settlement scheme was a political arena in which they promised their people land in return for votes. The majority of people who were settled were supporters of the [former] ruling party, the Kenya African National Union (KANU). They view the land as a political reward for voting their party into power.

On 16th February 2001, the Environment Minister, Mr Francis Nyenze, gave 28 days’ notice of the excision of more than 167,000 ha of forest land from the Mau. This decision caused a serious uproar from a cross-section of Kenyans opposed to the excision.

Recent actions

In 2003, the government set up a commission to investigate land grabbing. The Ndungu Commission, as it is known, reported to the government in June 2004, and the report was made public in December 2004. The report catalogues a staggering level of illegal and irregular allocations of public lands under the administrations of both Presidents Kenyatta and Moi, for largely patronage purposes.

For example, 1,812 ha of forest in Kiptagich, which is part of the Mau Forest complex, was cleared to resettle the Ogiek community, which has traditional rights to the forest, but the Ndungu reports states that the main beneficiaries were not the indigenous Ogiek but prominent individuals and companies.

The Ndungu Commission recommended that the large majority of the land grabbed should be revoked, stating in relation to forests that:

  • All excisions of forestland which were made contrary to the provisions of the Forests Act and the Government Lands Act should be cancelled.
  • All titles which were acquired consequent upon the illegal excisions and allocations of forestland should be revoked. The forestlands affected should be repossessed and restored to their original purpose.

However, the Commission made provision for addressing situations where forest land had been set aside in order to settle landless people. In such cases, where genuine landless people had been settled, the Commission recommended that while the titles should be revoked (given their inherent illegality), the Government should – subject to compliance with other legislation – issue new titles to the landless settlers.

Early efforts to remove people from the forest were stopped, among others, by a High Court injunction granted to seven individuals on the strength of their title deeds. It later appeared that the injunction applied only to the seven applicants. Later, based on increasing consensus among the Cabinet on the need to conserve the Mau, the Government decided to move ahead, evicting 10,290 people in May and June 2005.

In 2007, the decision to evict settlers from the Mau Forest suffered a setback due to the General Elections of December that year. The government of President Mwai Kibaki succumbed to pressure from opposition politicians who were using the Mau Forest evictions as a campaign platform to woo the Kalenjin ethnic group. In a bid to recover lost popularity, the government promised to issue title deeds to the settlers.

After the elections, and with the formation of the Grand Coalition, the government resumed its campaign to evict settlers from the Mau. The Sondu Miriu hydro-electric power station in Nyanza Province was unable to produce at full capacity because the Sondu Miriu River – whose source is the Mau Forest – is drying up. Opposition arose from within the coalition as majority of the Kipsigis settlers had voted for Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) which capitalized on local discontent created by the 2005 evictions.

The conflicting positions of cabinet ministers, especially opposition from Kipsigis legislators backed by their Kalenjin compatriots, paralyzed planned evictions. If anything, degradation of the Mau Forest intensified as settlers and loggers sought to make the most of their remaining stay.

Outlook

Protection of the forest and protection of human rights are not mutually exclusive, and in the case of the Mau Forest evictions, the failure to address human rights has undermined protection of the forest. The overall consensus amongst environmentalists in Kenya is that the forced evictions have largely failed to protect the forest – in many cases people have simply returned to their former homes because they have nowhere else to go.

Without an adequate resettlement plan in place, evictions not only violate international human rights law; they fail to provide a solution to forest protection. The Government’s argument that the title deeds are illegitimate fails to recognise that many poor people acted in good faith when they obtained title. Moreover, where people are suspected of having obtained title deeds through corrupt or illegal practices, the burden of proving this rests with the government.

The pressure on land, water, and forested ecosystems is a function of population growth, urbanization processes, increased per capita consumption of forest resources and the failure of previous interventions to adopt approaches aimed at achieving both social and ecological goals. Equitable and sustained poverty alleviation is contingent upon the pursuit of environmental sustainability in the context of implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which can be said to have mediated Kenya’s new generational laws.

In truth, the problems being experienced in the Mau Forest complex are a product of the government’s own making. This, therefore, necessitates the humane approach advocated by civil society, scientists and some politicians. There’s no doubt that the settlers must be relocated but considerations regarding the acquisition of title deeds must be kept in mind. While there’s no denying that the settlement was done by previous administrations and a political party which is today at the fringes, government actions supersede individual occupants of high office. A government decision does not become illegal just because the person who made the decision is no longer in office.

As political leaders and elders have noted, the issue of settlers in the Mau Forest must be handled with extreme sensitivity and through a just mechanism. Unless justice and compensation are handled to the satisfaction of the settlers, the government could easily be laying the grounds for armed conflict that could have major repercussions on the stability of the Kenyan state.

All over the world, the mishandling of problems similar to what we see in the Mau has led to rebel movements and possibly the toppling of government. The Mau Mau crisis of the 1950s was in large part attributed to the manner in which the British colonial authorities mishandled Kikuyu land grievances. We must learn from history so as not to repeat similar mistakes.

Sources

  1. Amnesty International (2007). Nowhere to go: Forced evictions in Mau Forest, Kenya.
  2. Kemei, Kipchumba (2004, February 25). Plunder of Mau Forest a Threat to 3m People. East African Standard.
  3. Masibo, Kennedy. (2008, November 25). Destroy Mau Forest and forget L. Nakuru Park. The Daily Nation.
  4. Nkako F, Lambrechts C, Gachanja M, & Woodley B (2005). Maasai Mau Forest Status Report 2005. Narok. Ewaso Ngiro South Development Authority.
  5. Sang, Joseph K (2001). The Ogiek in Mau Forest.
  6. Sayagie, George (2008, November 9). Groups differ on Mau forest evictions. The Daily Nation.

Raila in tough battle over Mau forest

As with everything else in Kenya, the conservation and destruction of the Mau forest is proving an intractable matter for one simple reason: too many vested political interests will ensure that nothing will change despite ongoing destruction of the forest and which can only be described as a looting spree.

A tea plantation (foreground) bordering part of the Mau forest. Excisions of the Mau forest have been driven by demand for farmland.

A tea plantation (foreground) bordering part of the Mau forest. Excisions of the Mau forest are driven by demand for farmland.

Many people wish for the Mau settlers to just pack up and leave to let the forest regenerate itself. With intensified settlements in the past 20 years, the weather patterns in Western Kenya have changed for the worse. Rivers have dried and timber has become a scarce commodity as vast swathes of indigenous forest were cleared for settlements. It is believed that restoring the Mau forest could improve water supplies and help attract rainfall.

Unfortunately, its not easy asking tens of thousands of people to leave a place they have called home for more than a decade. It is a political tinder-box with the capacity to not only ruin careers but also to spark instability in a part of Kenya notorious for ethnic clashes. It gets worse when politicians are the cause of the problem.

Excisions of the Mau forest began during the British colonial era. Tens of thousands of acres of land were cleared to make way for tea plantations and white settler farms. After independence, most white settler farms were allocated to Africans (for a fee) while the tea plantations remained in the hands of multinational corporations.

Between Independence in 1963 and 1990, there were several excisions done to create room for an growing population. However, the excisions responsible for the current controversy were done in the 1990s by former President Daniel arap Moi.

Faced with opposition to his rule after grudgingly accepting to register opposition parties in 1991, Moi needed support. As a practitioner of patron-client politics, this meant dishing out gifts in exchange for votes. That is how the Mau forest complex began getting sub-divided as a means of rewarding Moi’s cronies.

Initially, the beneficiaries of the plots were top government officials, senior security officers and members of Moi’s Kenya African National Union (KANU) party. Provincial Commissioners, District Commissioners, Permanent Secretaries, KANU branch chairmen, military commanders as well as clergymen benefited from the allocations. Of course, Moi did not forget himself and his land parcel was big enough for him to establish a tea estate.

The initial allottees subdivided their parcels and sold to tens of thousands of other people, mostly from the Kipsigis dialect of Moi’s Kalenjin tribe but also some Kisii. The politicians are believed to have made millions from the scheme as most of them were allocated the land almost for free.

Today, the politicians who made so much money selling forest land are at the forefront resisting the eviction of their settlers. That is to be expected considering their role in the saga. President Mwai Kibaki has, for long, wanted the settlers evicted and ordered an operation in 2005. However, Prime Minister Raila Odinga finds himself in a difficult position as most Kalenjin legislators are from his ODM party.

As a matter of fact, Raila himself used the Mau saga in his campaigns against Kibaki during the 2005 Referendum and the 2007 elections. Kibaki became unpopular in Kalenjin districts largely due to the brutality of the 2005 evictions. Raila capitalized on the Mau saga to win Kalenjin votes by promising that he would not evict them.

Reality was to come crashing on Raila in 2008 when the new Sondu Miriu hydro electric plant in his Nyanza home turf could not operate as the Sondu Miriu River was drying. Reason? The river’s source high in the Mau forest was affected by settlements. Faced with the spectre of a failed project, Raila quickly changed tune and began demanding for the eviction of settlers from the Mau.

Raila is having a difficult time with Kalenjin legislators because of his abrupt change of political stance regarding the Mau settlements. Only two years ago, Raila promised their continued stay in the forest but now, he appears to have sided with President Kibaki. The Kalenjin community sees the stance as the ultimate political betrayal considering the fanatica support they gave to Raila’s presidential candidacy back in 2007.

The Kalenjin were the most militant during post election violence, where they made it very clear that they did not recognize President Kibaki. For Raila to turn against the community is something that has not been taken kindly by the Kalenjin.

Certainly, the Kalenjin will never forgive Raila for the treachery and there will be major political ramifications on Raila’s political future as far as Kalenjin support is concerned.

For the settlers though, it appears their fate is sealed. Public opinion for their eviction is running high, largely due to water shortages caused by dying rivers. Even the international community has said that it would support the restoration of the Mau forest.

As debate rages on what to do with the settlers, illegal loggers have taken advantage of the confusion to engage in massive looting of timber and other forest resources. From reports coming out of the Mau, it would seem that by the time a hard decision is made, there will be very little forest left to conserve.

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Picture of the Mau forest by sll627

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Moi makes comeback as Kenyans yearn for sober leadership

Despite contributing to the mess in Kenya, former President Daniel arap Moi has wormed his way into the public confidence by carving a niche as the only sober politician around.

ntimamawithmoiin1999

Former President Daniel arap Moi (right) with his ministers in this 1999 photo. William Ntimama can be seen at the centre pointing something out to Moi.

He is not called the Professor of Politics for nothing: Moi has an amazing ability to revive his political fortunes long after everybody has written him off. During the 2007 elections, it appeared that Moi’s Kalenjin ethnic group ignored his advice and followed his former protege William Ruto into Raila Odinga’s ODM party. Political analysts talked of the end of an era in Kalenjin politics, where youthful personalities led by William Ruto had forcibly snatched the mantle of leadership from the old order.

For sure, Kalenjin politics – and that of the Rift Valley at large – has irredeemably changed. Moi is no longer the only voice but, as the younger politicians are beginning to realize, it would be foolish to dismiss him entirely. Moi has been in politics longer than most of the current leaders have been alive. Indeed, most – if not all – Kalenjin political leaders owe everything they have to Moi.

As Kenya’s second president for 24 years, Moi molded and transformed politicians into his own image. The fact that the same personalities now claim to have rebelled against their Grand Master is laughable. They simply do not know any other political ideology other than Moism. The likes of William Ruto, Isaac Ruto, Franklin Bett, Margaret Kamar, Zakayo Cheruiyot, Hellen Sambili, the late Kipkalya Kones plus many others are Moi stooges.

What is Moism? Moism is a political system characterized by a permanent state of intrigues that involve shifting alliances that never result into anything tangible. The behaviour of Moi’s proteges best illustrates the lasting effects of Moism on the political landscape. Political bigwigs and greenhorns alike are constantly forming alliances with each other but nothing ever comes out of those moves.

You will hear of a Ruto – Uhuru alliance, then an Uhuru – Kalonzo movement, followed by Raila – Karua talks. Within a matter of weeks, these alignments cease to exist and you hear of Kibaki – Uhuru alliance, Ruto – Mudavadi ticket and so forth. None of these alliances succeed in the long-term.

Since the violence of 2008, ex-President Moi has traversed his Rift Valley region preaching peace. The Rift Valley was worst affected, with hundreds killed and thousands of homes destroyed. Entire trading centres were razed to the ground in an orgy of looting, killing and rape. Tit for tat ethnic killings sparked worldwide fears of a Rwanda like scenario forcing the international community to intervene.

However, Moi is largely responsible for ethnic clashes in Kenya and especially in the Rift Valley and Coast provinces.

For thirty years after independence, Kenya’s people had lived peacefully with each other. Migration within the country was so common it was taken for granted. The fertile lands of the Rift Valley attracted settlers from all over Kenya. People from different ethnic groups intermarried and did business with each other. All this came to an end with the return of multi-party politics in 1990.

As Moi had predicted while opposing multi-partyism, every ethnic group supported a candidate from its own party. Naturally, Moi had the full support of the Kalenjin ethnic group while the Kikuyu, Luo, Luhya and Kisii had their other preferences. Political differences among ethnic groups in the Rift Valley turned into violent clashes that worsened in the period before and after the 1992 General Elections.

Moi supporters, led by William Ntimama, the late Kipkalya Kones, late Paul Chepkok and late Francis Lotodo demanded that non-Kalenjin ethnic groups in the Rift Valley either vote for Moi or leave. Militias intimidated non-Kalenjins by burning homes, looting and killing. The Luo, Luhya, Kikuyu, Kisii and Kamba were attacked mercilessly.

Because the violence was largely state-driven, there was little that the victims could do. Security forces were accused of shielding the perpetrators instead of stopping the clashes. In one notorious case, trucks of the Kenya Police forcibly removed families from a conflict zone and took them to their “ancestral homes.” The families were dumped at a football stadium in Kiambu. Eyewitnesses reported seeing government helicopters assisting the raiders. There were reports that the militias had received specialized training in North Korea.

Ethnic clashes in the Rift Valley and Coast raged for much of the time between 1992 and 1999. There is no way that Moi could fail to know what was going on. Moi was a micro-manager of government affairs who used to call Provincial and District Commissioners in the middle of the night for security updates. During the Moi era, cabinet ministers used to rubber stamp Moi’s decisions. Therefore, Moi is responsible for the ethnic clashes of the 1990s

Nobody was ever prosecuted for participating in the Moi era ethnic clashes. This impunity largely contributed to the 2008 post election violence. Many of the people implicated in the Waki Inquiry into Post Election Violence had also been mentioned in previous inquiries into tribal clashes, including the Akiwumi Commission.

Moi corrupted Kenya’s political system through patron-client relationships that ensured that his loyalists got state funds, government contracts and top jobs. As an entire generation of leaders matured under Moi, these corruption networks came to be seen as normal in politics.

Kenyans are famous for short memories. It is less than seven years since Moi left office but most people have forgotten the kind of person he was. These days, Moi gets cheers whenever he attends public gatherings. Moi has become a celebrity speaker at university graduations, weddings, funerals and state functions. As a keen manipulator of human emotions, Moi knows the right things to say to leave the crowd roaring in applause.

Kenya’s current politicians, led by President Mwai Kibaki are to blame for Moi’s growing popularity. The coalition of President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga is so inept that it makes the Moi years look like the “good, old days.” Kibaki and Raila can hardly give a coherent speech without tearing into each other.

This is why Moi seems like a much better alternative.

Raila ties fate to constitution reforms

There is no doubt that Prime Minister Raila Odinga has decided to champion the cause of reforms in Kenya. At every opportunity, Raila cannot help expressing his desire for change in government, in the economy, in the security forces and the judiciary as well as in society.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga in traditional dress

Prime Minister Raila Odinga in traditional dress

As a high ranking government official in a coalition where he considers himself equal to the head of state, Raila feels he has an opportune moment to implement his vision for Kenya.

Long considered an outsider by Kenya’s post-colonial elite, Raila has no qualms about upsetting the status quo. He wants land reforms, he wants to redistribute wealth, he wants the poor to gain access to cheap housing. Critics say Raila wants to take from the propertied classes and give to the poor. The fears that Kenya’s elite have about Raila stem from his late father’s communist leanings back in the 1960s.

Former Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga made sure his son was educated in the former East Germany. In turn, Raila named his first born son – Jaramogi’s grandson – after Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro.

Though currently a member of Kenya’s exclusive club of billionaires, Raila hasn’t lost his pro-reforms bearing. He has been among the leading proponents for constitutional reforms. However, Raila’s reform agenda is frustrated by the kind of people he has been consorting with.

After the 1997 elections where he performed poorly, Raila joined the KANU party of ex-President Daniel arap Moi in a move that quite predictably ended in disaster. Moi is an avowed enemy of everything that Raila stands for and only courted Raila to give KANU a parliamentary majority. Raila’s alliance with Moi helped improve the Odinga family business but did not achieve the reforms he sought. If anything, Moi trapped Raila in a land scandal that is yet to be resolved to this day.

In 2002, Raila joined Mwai Kibaki to defeat Moi. Kibaki is a known conservative who served as Moi’s Vice President for eight years. Kibaki is more comfortable playing golf with the rich and famous than consorting with the average Kenyan. Infact, it is said that Kibaki’s conservative leanings are more hardline than Moi’s. On winning the Presidency, Kibaki replaced Moi’s portrait on Kenya’s currency with that of first President Jomo Kenyatta. Kibaki is Kenyatta’s protege.

After Mwai Kibaki won the 2002 polls, the reforms process hobbled from crisis to crisis. In 2003, Kibaki ally John Michuki announced that the purpose of constitution reforms had all along been to remove Moi and since the goal had been achieved, it was no longer necessary to proceed with the reforms.

Realizing that Kibaki was never going to change anything, Raila joined forces with former Moi elites who were shunted to the opposition after 2002. These included Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto and a bevy of politicians from the Rift Valley, Western Province, Eastern and Coast. Many of these characters had spent the Moi years denying the need for reforms but were now using the same against Kibaki. Whether Raila was aware of this reality is difficult to say.

Interestingly, Raila and the ex-KANU elites campaigned hard for the rejection of a draft constitution championed by Kibaki. The 2005 referendum marked the death and burial of constitution reforms in Kenya.

With the formation of the Grand Coalition in 2008, the Moi elites found themselves back in government with Kibaki. They are now one big, happy family where Raila’s insistence on reforms is like a lone voice in the wilderness. Nobody was ever interested in reforms. The clamour for constitutional change was a weapon used in winning popularity. And it certainly worked like a charm!

Characters that were nationally despised during the Moi years suddenly became champions of democracy thanks to the reform agenda. Of course, they learnt their lessons well from the Kenyatta remnants who used the clamour for reforms to hammer ex-President Moi. Now that the Kenyatta remnants and the Moi stooges are enjoying the trappings of power together, why should they care about reforms? Ironically, Raila played a huge part in bringing them together.

For sure, Raila has pegged his political life on reforms in Kenya. Unfortunately, he is going to end up sorely disappointed. The truth is that nobody in Kenya really wants to change the system. Even the international community will be happy with piece-meal reforms that don’t alter the overall political and economic equation in Kenya. Yet, for all the signs, Raila keeps harping on the constitution review agenda.

Time is already running out. The next General Elections are scheduled for 2012: just about three-and-a-half years from now. The team running the Interim Independent Electoral Commission does not have support staff. They need to recruit tens of thousands of staff and train them within three years. Kenya does not have a voters register. Constituency boundaries are yet to be reviewed. The spectre of violence looms large as memories of the 2008 post election violence remain etched in the national psyche.

President Kibaki is serving his last term in office and has no incentive to bring about reforms. The government is packed with people from the Kenyatta and Moi eras all of whom lack the will to enact meaningful changes.

With these factors in mind, Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s dream for reforms may remain as elusive as it has been for a long time. He should work to win over the stubborn minds in Kenya’s political and economic system. Appealing for public sympathy only portrays him as a dangerous populist who must be stopped at every turn. The business classes still distrust Raila.

Yes, the Kenyan system sucks. But Raila cannot change it by himself and that’s the harsh reality.

Political earthquakes as Uhuru and Ruto get cosy

Though there have been rumours about it, there’s now confirmation of an alliance between Agriculture Minister William Ruto and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta in readiness for the 2012 General Elections.

Uhuru Kenyatta

Uhuru Kenyatta

By any standards, campaigning three years before an election is premature at best and callous at worst. It does appear that Kenyan politicians learnt nothing from last year’s near civil war and the political chess game continues.

Amidst these moves, the plight of Kenyans is hopelessly forgotten. Alignments are shifting like the ocean waves as political heavyweights weigh their options. Millions of shillings are exchanging hands as people who struck billions in previous administrations gear up for the big race.

The likes of Martha Karua, high in ideals but low in finances, can only hope to cut a deal with the big boys. Will she be satisfied with the post of Prime Minister or Vice President in a Uhuru-Ruto or Saitoti government? Or will she link up with current Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka?

Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were on opposing sides during the 2007 General Elections. In reality, they have more in common with each other than with anybody else. They were both mentored by ex-President Daniel arap Moi in the KANU party. They are both approaching middle age and wish to seize the reigns of power before old age catches up. And to achieve their goals, they are willing to do whatever it takes.

Bearing in mind the enmity between Ruto’s Kalenjin tribe and Uhuru’s Kikuyu ethnic group not so long ago, the alliance has been received with disbelief. Both Uhuru and Ruto are implicated in ethnic massacres, with Ruto linked to Kalenjin warriors and Uhuru accused of planning reprisal attacks in Nakuru and Naivasha. Both of them are likely to face the International Criminal Court to answer charges of crimes against humanity. Today, the move by the two not-so-youthful politicians to join forces has rocked the country’s leadership from State House to the grassroots.

Luo Nyanza, long considered Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s backyard, has not been spared the onslaught of the Uhuru – Ruto alliance. Already, several Members of Parliament from Raila’s Luo tribe have responded amiably to overtures from Uhuru – Ruto. Politicians who lost their seats in the last election, and who blame Raila for their predicament, have seen an opportunity to hit back at the Luo titan.

The rapprochement between Uhuru and Ruto has perplexed ordinary people from the Kikuyu and Kalenjin tribes. It was just the other day that the two tribes were butchering each other with machetes, bows, arrows and stones. Churches were burnt, homes looted, women raped and children killed. In some places, hostility is so high that the two tribes dare not live together. This may frustrate the works of Uhuru – Ruto.

It is highly unlikely that Ruto can get Kikuyu votes because they believe Ruto incited the Kalenjin against them. Hundreds of Kikuyu were killed in Ruto’s parliamentary constituency as he insisted that there would be no peace until his preferred candidate, Raila Odinga, assumed the presidency.

While the Kikuyu have a vast array of presidential candidates to choose from, including Uhuru, Prof Saitoti, Vice President Kalonzo and Martha Karua, the Kalenjin can only choose between Raila and Ruto.

Though they voted massively for Raila in 2007, the Kalenjin are disappointed. Grievances include the Mau Forest issue, failure to shield Kalenjin militants from prosecution and failure to provide top jobs to the Kalenjin elite. Rising costs of farm inputs coupled with plunging prices for farm produce have forced the Kalenjin to explore other leadership options. Currently, they have Ruto, or a person close to Ruto such as Uhuru Kenyatta. However, Uhuru does not inspire much confidence among Kenyans.

As the Uhuru – Ruto axis of evil shapes up, other presidential candidates are not taking chances. Professor George Saitoti is currently on a behind-the-scenes campaign to recruit leading politicians from Central, Eastern and Coast provinces. With immense financial reserves, Saitoti has no problem inducing followers with gifts. His current position as Minister for Internal Security is also serving him well, as it grants him access to President Mwai Kibaki.

Martha Karua is however not doing well. She simply lacks the financial clout of Uhuru, Ruto and Saitoti. She is fighting a brave campaign traversing all provinces in Kenya but, short of cataclysmic change, the most she can expect is to bargain for a seat from the top guns.

As events unfold, where is Kalonzo Musyoka?

Kalonzo is said to be playing it cool. Despite vilification from Raila’s ODM, Kalonzo’s cards are looking pretty good. Kalonzo is not tainted with corruption scandals or ethnic massacres. A trained lawyer, Kalonzo is diplomatic, smooth talking and amicable. In the 2007 campaigns, Kalonzo talked of getting to the presidency through a miracle that will take him past every other challenger. Perhaps, Kalonzo is taking a back seat knowing that in Kenya, anything is possible.

After all, if Uhuru and Ruto can come together in spite of everything, who knows what the future has in store?

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Previous article: Why Uhuru and Ruto will face The Hague

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Saitoti’s elusive presidency

He is undoubtedly a brilliant, well accomplished personality who oozes power wherever he goes. With lots of help along the way, he has worked hard to get where he is. He is a formidable political strategist in possession of vast financial reserves. But somehow, the presidency eludes him.

Professor George Saitoti. Picture by Tom Maruko

Professor George Saitoti. Picture by Tom Maruko

The latest obstacle to Saitoti’s presidential bid is the damning report by United Nations Special Rapporteur Mr Philip Alston, which blames the Kenya Police for killing thousands of youths. As the Minister for Internal Security since January 2008, Prof Saitoti was firmly in charge as police battled protesters and ethnic militias following the disputed elections of December 2007.

Unfortunately, Prof Saitoti has vowed to continue police operations against the Mungiki sect. This is likely to worsen the kind of illegal police executions that have attracted the wrath of the United Nations.

Incidentally, Saitoti is taking the flak for widespread torture and executions that began when fellow cabinet Minister, John Michuki, was in internal security. Back in 2007, Michuki promised death for anyone suspected of belonging to Mungiki. Today, Michuki is earning accolades as Environment Minister while Saitoti takes the blame for Michuki’s ruthless orders.

Perhaps that is the problem with Saitoti: he is just too loyal to the ruling establishment in spite of his tribulations on their behalf. As Minister for Finance from the 1980s up to 1993, Saitoti looked the other way as personalities appointed by President Daniel arap Moi shamelessly looted state coffers.

The Goldenberg scandal, where the government paid billions of shillings for fake gold and diamond exports, is a blot on his career. Indeed, most Kenyans associate Saitoti with Goldenberg even though it was Moi’s baby in cahoots with the intelligence chief and close allies. Saitoti’s successor at the Ministry of Finance, Musalia Mudavadi (now Deputy Prime Minister) inherited the Goldenberg affair and paid billions but little mention is made of this fact. So interlinked is Saitoti with Goldenberg that he might as well change his first name from ‘George’ to ‘Goldenberg.’

Despite being Vice President for 12 years, Professor Saitoti never captured the popularity of Kenyans. His fortunes were tied to ex President Daniel arap Moi in ways that made him appear like Moi’s puppet. Saitoti was actually doing quite well as Professor of Mathematics at the University of Nairobi but Moi took him by the hand, introduced him to politics and elevated him at astounding speed.

A common political story says that Saitoti was so poor that he drove an old, beaten up Volkswagen Beetle. After his encounter with Moi, he suddenly crossed the valley of poverty and therefore owes his riches to Moi. The story was probably encouraged by Moi, whose meagre formal education made him insecure with Professor Saitoti. It is because of inferiority complex that Moi gave himself the title, “Professor of Politics,” to counter Saitoti’s Professor of Mathematics.

Moi appointed the mathematics professor as Finance minister in 1983. According to Kenya’s constitution, a cabinet minister must be a member of parliament, so Moi gave Saitoti a direct nomination into the legislature. At the next elections in 1988, Moi prevailed on the Member of Parliament for Kajiado North constituency to step down for Saitoti.

In 1989, Moi fell out with Vice President Josephat Karanja and appointed Saitoti in his place. Saitoti eventually became Moi’s longest serving Vice President until he was considered a potential successor. Saitoti survived so long under Moi because of his unswaying loyalty. Saitoti never said a bad thing about Moi and even when the opposition posed a serious challenge in 1992, Saitoti stuck with his political mentor.

As it turned out, Saitoti had bet on the right horse and Moi won multi party elections in 1992 and 1997. However, Moi began seeing Saitoti’s loyalty as a pain. After the 1997 elections, Moi refused to re-appoint Saitoti and the Vice Presidency remained vacant for 14 months. In early 1998, while Moi was shopping for vegetables in Limuru, he suddenly announced that he was reappointing Saitoti as Vice President.

To add salt to injury, Moi told the crowd that a Vice President was not important and that it would not add food to peoples’ plates. Moi’s exact words were:

“I have given you a Vice President like you have been asking … now I will wait to see whether it will increase the amount of maize meal in your kitchens.”

Later, Moi told a rally that there was no presidential material in his cabinet. This was a humiliating blow to Saitoti and other KANU stalwarts, including Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi.

In 2002, Moi turned his attention to his latest catch – Raila Odinga. Raila had joined KANU from the opposition after a dismal performance in the 1997 polls. Saitoti felt betrayed that, despite his loyalty, Moi was cosing up to an opposition defector. But this was not the end of the story: for in the same year, Moi abandoned Raila and chose Uhuru Kenyatta as presidential successor. Moi argued that Saitoti was not fit for the presidency.

The KANU front runners including Saitoti, Raila and Kalonzo jumped ship and joined opposition leader Mwai Kibaki in an alliance, At the 2002 polls, KANU was resoundingly defeated by the Kibaki, Raila, Saitoti and Kalonzo alliance. Saitoti shifted his loyalty from Moi to Kibaki.

In 2009, after 6 years of dedicated service to Kibaki, Saitoti was elected head of the largest pro-Kibaki outfit, the Party of National Unity (PNU). However, a United Nations report might kill Saitoti’s ambitions.

According to United Nations Special Rapporteur Mr Philip Alston, the Kenya Police created death squads to exterminate members of the outlawed Mungiki sect. The death squads reportedly received orders from senior police commanders. Alston recommended the dismissal of the country’s Attorney General and Police Commissioner but his report did not question the extent to which the political leadership was involved. Saitoti’s vow to continue the war on Mungiki will surely cast him poorly in light of the Alston report.

Will Saitoti ever make it to the presidency? He has several advantages in his favor. He is hungry for it. Nobody makes it to power without a burning ambition and sense of calling. He has the financial capabilities to mount a long-drawn campaign. He has the right contacts among Kenya’s business, religious and political elite. Saitoti has also made good friends across the world.

However, Saitoti is unpopular among the Kenyan masses. Little is known about his family while his personal history is rather hazy. Saitoti is too stiff: he is rarely seen in public without a suit. His statements are measured, designed to show loyalty rather than provoke debate. Saitoti does not appear on television or radio talk shows.

Kenyan politics is filled with characters who have done much worse than Saitoti. The present 42 member cabinet is a collection of convicted fraudsters, thieves, killers and sex predators. Saitoti has never been convicted of theft let alone other heinous crimes perpetrated by his colleagues who, interestingly, are hugely popular.

Saitoti needs to talk more to the Kenyan people about his presidential bid. He needs to become his own man and shake off the image of aloofness that he is known for. He needs to give more information about his family and about his past.

If he doesn’t do these, he will not connect with the voters.

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