KIBAKI HEALTH A WORRY-WIKILEAKS
Seven months before the 2007 elections, the ODM partners Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka held a poor view about President Kibaki’s health. In May 2007 with both still ODM-K leaders, they told US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger that Kibaki had to be medicated before he appeared in public and would “shut down” whenever the drugs wore off.
Kalonzo told the envoy Kibaki was “suffering from memory loss”. “Assessments of Kibaki’s health varied widely. Odinga insisted Kibaki could not appear in public without being medicated, and shuts down when the drugs wear off,” Ranneberger told Washington in a cable dated May 25, 2007 which has just been made public. “Musyoka said Kibaki’s health had improved, but that the President suffered from memory loss,” Ranneberger added.
Kalonzo and Raila would later be rivals in the 2007 presidential race. Unable to agree who between them would be the ODM-K’s presidential candidate, they parted ways and Raila formed ODM.
Ranneberger claimed that then Kanu chairman and opposition leader Uhuru Kenyatta said the Kibaki government at the time was in “disarray” and that within the president’s inner circle there was “instability.” “During the Moi era, at least, he (Uhuru) added, there was a clear authority and as a result, stability. President Kibaki needs to organize his house, because right now, with no one in charge, ministers are making their own decisions, Kenyatta stated,” Ranneberger reported in his cable to Washington. “He (Uhuru) also criticized the Kibaki administration for doing little to mitigate ethnic animosities,” the envoy added.
The four have since found themselves in the same government after the disputed 2007 results led to the negotiated creation of the coalition government.
In his cable titled Robust Recluse or Sick at State House? which discusses Kibaki’s health among other issues, Ranneberger sought the opinions of various politicians, civil society and religious leaders, many of whom disagreed with Raila’s and Kalonzo’s opinion about the President’s health.
Attorney General Amos Wako described Kibaki as a man who kept a “punishing schedule” and who held meetings until late into the night. Gachoka MP Mutava Musyimi, then the general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, described Kibaki as a formidable man who had turned the country’s economy round. “Describing him as a formidable man and an economist to the core, Reverend Musyimi was certain Kibaki has the energy and passion to serve a second term. This time around Kibaki, whom he described as institutional not personal, and very nationalistic, will let his economic record do a lot of the campaigning for him, Musyimi added,” Ranneberger.
The condition of Kibaki’s health was discussed in conversations that US assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs ambassador Johnnie Carson held with Raila, Kalonzo, Musyimi and Wako when he visited Kenya.
Carson also met with the then Internal Security minister John Michuki, the chairman of the now defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya Samuel Kivuitu as well Uhuru who supported Kibaki’s PNU during the elections.
Ranneberger said Raila— buoyed by opinion polls that indicated he was more popular than Kalonzo — preferred to have ODM-K reach a consensus on its presidential nominee instead of holding party nominations given the challenges, both financial and political, of running a primary. Raila was confident his bid for State House was very well but also noted that Kibaki’s popularity ratings had improved.
Kalonzo told the diplomat that he believed President Kibaki was helping Raila to get the ODM-K nomination ticket so that Kibaki did not face him during the general election. “Musyoka commented that the government was helping Odinga because Kibaki supporters would rather the President faces him, than Musyoka,” said the cable.
Ranneberger quoted Kalonzo as saying: “Kibaki will not have to leave State House to win against Odinga, Musyoka remarked. If I am the ODM-K candidate, he added, Kibaki might not run.” Kalonzo said he would try to make a deal with Raila, but was aware that it was going to be “difficult.”
In his meeting, Musyimi dismissed the ODM-K saying it was not a party, but “a vehicle to power: a vehicle that is making noise, but not moving and probably has no wheels!”
Musyimi explained his skepticism saying that while Kibaki had “favoured his own Kikuyu tribe” he had also achieved a strong record of economic growth. Musyimi said that the economic success recorded by Kibaki would ensure that an ODM-K campaign against would not work.
Michuki told Ranneberger that people had a tendency of misinterpreting the rights guaranteed in the constitution as being “unlimited”. This was the time when Michuki had issued a shoot to kill order to the police to deal with Mungiki thugs blamed for a series of murders, mutilations, running matatu extortion cartels and kidnappings. Michuki warned that people would soon start attending funerals. Subsequently, the police mounted ruthless raids in areas suspected to be Mungiki strongholds and arrested scores of youth and suspected leaders. “The African mind does not accept authority, he (Michuki) continued, explaining that while citizens have rights, they must also follow procedures,” Ranneberger reported on the conversation with Michuki’s that he described as “Michuki’s typical tough-guy rhetoric”.