First assessment of the Standard raid
On March 10, 2006, Ambassador William Bellamy sent a cable to Washington with his assessment of the March 2 raid on the Standard newspaper. The cable says that Standard journalists said that State House believed that they had a dossier that implicated the First Family in cocaine trafficking. The cable noted that President Kibaki confirmed he would not sack Security minister John Michuki in the presence of First Lady Lucy Kibaki, policy adviser Stanley Murage, and Police Commissioner Gen Hussein Ali.
The cable provided early confirmation of the presence of “foreign mercenaries” (later revealed as the Artur Brothers). “Opposition and media figures believe the ‘mercenaries’ were imported to suppress information on State House corruption. They assert that the foreigners arrived last December after the government got word that John Githongo, the government’s exiled corruption czar, was about to go public with his detailed accounts of State House corruption”.
The mercenaries stayed at the Grand Regency hotel whose owner Kamlesh Pattni had bugged the presidential suite, according to sacked DPP Philip Murgor. Later they moved to Runda.
After the raid, according to the cable, First Lady Lucy Kibaki twice spoke to the uncle of a Standard journalist demanding that he hand over the suspected dossier. The Standard journalist told the embassy that he had no such dossier but that recently dismissed Presidential personal assistant Alfred Getonga was suspected of having left State House “with a sheaf of incriminating documents”.
Justice Minister won’t question police raid
On March 9, 2006, Ambassador William Bellamy sent a cable to Washington summarising a meeting between himself, the Swedish ambassador, a Dutch diplomat, and Justice minister Martha Karua and her PS Dorothy Angote.
The diplomats were concerned about the government raid on the Standard on March 2. “Karua’s responses over the course of the hour-long meeting were not reassuring”, Bellamy wrote in his cable. “Although she was disturbed by the police raid, her chief concern was that it had not been coordinated in any way within government. Security minister Michuki appeared to have acted on his own. Actions as serious as this, Karua said, ought to have been the subject of Cabinet consultations”, the cable states. “Until she had more facts, she was not prepared even to admit that the police were responsible for the raid or, if they were, that they had acted outside the law”. “As for reports that police had burned thousands of copies of the Standard, Karua denied that had happened. She suspected the Standard editors had burned the papers themselves to discredit the police,” the cable states.
The Swedish ambassador then joked that maybe the opposition had staged the attack to discredit the government and “Karua stunned us by replying that she couldn’t rule that out”. “She added that Kenya had a rogue press and something had to be done to bring press practices into line with laws and regulations”, according to the cable.
The ambassador concluded that the attack on the Standard “may be only the opening move in a campaign to intimidate critics and opponents of an increasingly shaky and directionless Kibaki administration”.
Meeting with Michuki
On October 8, 2007, Political Counsellor Larry Andre had lunch with Security minister John Michuki at the Windsor Country Club. Just three months before the election, Michuki was extremely hostile to presidential candidate Raila Odinga. “He warned that Odinga, if elected, would behave like a dictator and build a Moi-style cult of personality. Michuki reminded PolCouns of Odinga’ studies in East Germany, alleging that his thesis had been on building nail bombs. Michuki claimed that the Odinga family has long harboured a scheme to create a ‘Greater Luoland’ in western Kenya, uniting Luo speaking peoples of Kenya, Uganda and southern Sudan”. “An Oginga presidency would be ethnically divisive and short-lived, said Michuki, who added that he did not think Odinga would last more than a few months in office. Given Kenya’s history of high profile political assassinations, that is not such a remote possibility”, stated the cable. Michuki admitted that the “Kibaki campaign lacked internal discipline” but said there were many more bad characters in the ODM camp.
Michuki reportedly told the diplomat that Kalonzo Musyoka could not be offered the Vice-Presidency because they need the Luhya vote provided by Moody Awori and that Nicholas Biwott would not be a minister in the next administration but Gideon Moi would be.
The cable stated that “Michuki’s Odinga bashing seemed perfunctory and lacking in conviction” but added “we do not share Michuki’s view of Odinga as a dangerous radical who would destabilise the region”. It concluded that the embassy still saw “the (election) race as too close to call despite Odinga’s current lead in the polls”.
Kivuitu promises fair election
A month before the election, on November 13, 2007, Ambassador Michael Ranneberger sent a cable detailing his meeting with Electoral Commission chairman Samuel Kivuitu.
Kivuitu was described as “feisty, determined and upbeat” despite the recent appointment of new commissioners which meant that 19 of the 22 had been “unilaterally appointed by the Kibaki government”.
Kivuitu said “they seem to be responsible. I see no signs of bias so far.” He promised the ambassador “If they make it impossible for me to run a fair election, I will not quietly resign and fade away. No. I will hold a mass rally in Uhuru Park and explain to all the world why I had to resign”.
He said he was confident President Kibaki would give him a second five year term of office.
Uhuru Kenyatta meets Johnnie Carson
On June 3, 2009 Ambassador Ranneberger sent a cable to Washington summarising a meeting between Uhuru Kenyatta, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson and National Security Council Africa director Michelle Gavin held on May 12. “Gavin delivered a tough message from President Obama: the US would not do business with Kenyans who obstructed reform or encouraged political violence”, states the cable. “Kenyatta sought to deflect concerns… He blamed an irresponsible media and a slow moving Parliament for the lack of overall progress on the reform agenda”.
Carson said the US was worried about the increasing political tensions and extrajudicial killings that carried “the hallmarks of a police hit”. “The President (Obama) is worried that Kenya is headed in the wrong direction,” said Gavin. “Kenyatta said Kenya’s current political stalemate (over whether the VP or PM leads government business) could be managed and that it was simply part of the transition from one system of government to another”. “On extra judicial killings, Kenyatta condemned the actions but said there must be greater understanding of the context in which they are taking place,” said the cable.
Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidential ambitions
On June 26, 2009, Ambassador Ranneberger sent Washington an assessment of Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidential ambitions for 2012. “He appears to be moving to pave the way for a presidential run. While conventional wisdom says that another person from the Kikuyu ethnic group cannot succeed President Kibaki, political dynamics that make challengers seem weak may be encouraging Uhuru and his political supporters to rethink this”.
The cable states that Kibaki had effectively endorsed Uhuru as his successor by making him Finance minister and that his 2009 Budget had been very popular with MPs because of the big increase in CDF funds.
The cable notes that William Ruto “has made a number of private visits to State House in recent months, and he and Kenyatta are in close contact” and speculates that a deal might be underway that “Ruto might accept the position of vice-president or Prime Minister , and thus prepare the ground for a presidential run in 2017”.
However the cable stated “attempting to have another Kikuyu succeed Kibaki is a recipe for serious instability, perhaps for a meltdown much more serious than that experienced last year”.
When Uhuru met Ranneberger, he emphasised his reform credentials, according to the cable, including pushing for the removal of Police Commissioner Ali and Attorney General Amos Wako. “If he decided to pursue the presidency, Kenyatta has several major strengths, but these are balanced and potentially offset by important weaknesses. Kenyatta is bright and charming, even charismatic. He is enormously wealthy, and therefore has not had to engage in corruption”, states the cable. “Kenyatta’s liabilities are at least as important as his strengths. He drinks too much and is not a hard worker (although he he surprised everyone by the acuity of the budget which reportedly resulted from some tough work over long hours)”.
However the same cable was also dismissive of Raila stating “Odinga is increasingly perceived as feckless, unable or unwilling to govern effectively and move forward the reform agenda… He has clearly lost significant popular support.”
Serious coalition tension
On February 16, 2006 Ambassador Ranneberger sent a cable outlining “severe tensions within the coalition government.” It referred to the maize scandal and Raila’s failed attempt that month to suspend the Education and Agriculture ministers. “Based on credible reports from multiple sources, it seems clear that the maize scandal touches the families of both President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga, and key members of their teams (although Odinga’s side is likely more culpable on the maize scandal)”. “Faced with growing pressure, Kibaki and Odinga saw joint interest in taking limited action” and so suspended various officials on February 13, the cable states.