Prime Minister Raila Odinga accused intelligence service boss Michael Gichangi in November 2009 of misleading President Kibaki and and "poisoning" his ears with anti-US and anti-reform information.
In a meeting with US envoy Michael Ranneberger, Raila said the NSIS director had been withholding information which Kibaki “might not want to hear.” “He (Raila) claimed that National Security and Intelligence Service Director Gichangi (whose stature with Kibaki has been damaged by a number of missteps) is poisoning Kibaki’s ear about U.S. efforts to promote reform, alleging that the U.S. is stimulating pressure rather than telling Kibaki the truth that he might not want to hear, which is that there is growing grassroots domestic pressure,” says a diplomatic cable sent by Ranneberger on November 10, 2009 and just released by Wikileaks.Raila and Ranneberger met on November 3, 2009 at the diplomat’s request.
Ranneberger said he sought Raila’s help after Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, Internal Security minister George Saitoti and Foreign Affairs colleague Moses Wetangula attempted to block US embassy from organising a National Youth Forum.
According to the cable, Ranneberger said Raila claimed Mudavadi had been pushed to join up with the PNU ministers in blocking the youth forum.“Odinga said Mudavadi, Odinga’s ally, had been pressured into attending and that he, Odinga, was not opposed to the holding of the Forum,” said Ranneberger.
The meeting between Ranneberger and Raila came a day after the diplomat met with Mudavadi, Saitoti and Wetangula on November 3 during which they warned against the embassy organising such a forum. Ranneberger said the ministers were among the local politicians who "felt threatened by a meeting of several hundred youth".
Ranneberger said the ministers "ambushed" him shortly after his meeting with President Kibaki on November 2, 2009 to deliver a letter from US President Barack Obama. “At the end of my November 2 meeting with President Kibaki to deliver the letter from President Obama, Kibaki raised for a couple of minutes in a general way our involvement with youth, saying vaguely that it had raised some concerns,” wrote Ranneberger.“Before a discussion could take place, the President’s permanent secretary (Francis) Muthaura jumped in to say the President had another meeting, and the President left the room. Muthaura then told me that some of the government ministers wanted to talk with me,” the envoy added.
He said Mudavadi, Saitoti and Wetangula, who has since stepped aside as the foreign affairs minister, entered the room accompanied by several other officials.“They were entirely focused on the planned National Youth Forum. In essence, they described such youth activities as unhelpful and warned that troublemakers could seek to disrupt the meeting,” he said.
Ranneberger told Washington that he “pushed back hard” admitting that the US was supporting the meeting but its agenda and participation were being organized by the youth organisations.“I emphasized that the meeting would be peaceful and made it clear I did not appreciate the veiled threat through the reference to troublemakers,” he said.
After the meeting, Ranneberger said he received a telephone call from Wetangula who insisted that the forum should not take place. Ranneberger said that is when he decided to meet with Raila and raise the issue of the ministers. It is during this meeting that Raila attempted to absolve Mudavadi and instead accused Gichangi.“The increasing activism of youth is one of the most important dynamics at play to threaten the edifice of the culture of impunity. That the political class (as reflected by those in the meeting with me) is so threatened by a meeting of several hundred youth indicates that this edifice may be weaker and less resilient than anyone suspects,” said the envoy.
The youth forums went ahead as planned despite the concerns expressed by the ministers. The first meeting was held on November 17, 2009 and subsequent ones held between November 10 and 12 last year.
Ranneberger blamed the NSIS for breaking into the offices of the DAI (Development Alternatives Inc) a consulting firm which is the primary contractor providing the funding and support to the youth organisations that were holding the forum.The DAI offices were burgled on November 9, 2009.“In what was clearly a targeted operation, only 3 laptops containing information related to the National Youth Forum were taken (despite the presence of much expensive equipment and valuables),” said Ranneberger.He said a police report had been filed. “The operation has the hallmarks of the National Security and Intelligence Service, which is often used to intimidate civil society activists,” added the envoy.
It is in a subsequent cable that Ranneberger said the US government needed to continue working on breaking the grip of power and economy exercised by the old guards.
He said Kibaki, Raila and members of their Cabinet were part of the political and economic elite supporting impunity, lack of accountability for state resources and the rule of law.
The US is currently spending Sh3.8 billion (US$47 million) on its ‘Yes Youth Can!’ initiative to help Kenyan youth to achieve a greater voice in national reform and create new employment opportunities.
It includes a $12 million (Sh1 billion) fund called "Youth Innovate for Change" to provide young people with capital for investment. In recent months Ranneberger has travelled around Kenya meeting with youth groups.