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Citizen Weekly

Tuesday 7 October 2014


As President Uhuru Kenyatta faces one of the most crucial periods of his life this week, a lot is happening behind the scenes and below the radar, politically, diplomatically and in geostrategic security and investment circles, to both assist him in his hour of need.

For Uhuru, under the new constitution, a second term is crucial to securing a presidential legacy and, as retired president Mwai Kibaki unforgettably showed Kenyans just over a year ago, influencing the course of his succession and the early safeguarding of your legacy.

It is interesting that ICC summons for Uhuru to appear before the ICC judges at a status conference is designed to show that the government of Kenya, which he leads, is not cooperating with the ICC. In early August, Uhuru attended President Barack Obama’s first US-Africa Leaders’ Summit. In late September he was back in the States, this time to deliver his first address to the United Nations General Assembly.

On both occasions, Uhuru got to meet Obama and to pose for photographs with him and First Lady Michelle Obama. On the second occasion Uhuru was accompanied by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta. This produced interesting  photographs with Obama and Margaret, who are both bi-racial (Kenyan black father and American white mother and Kenyan black father and German white mother), standing together and the pure black Kenyan Uhuru and Black American Michelle not only standing together but holding each other by the waist.

The days when Obama and Uhuru used to transact only through intermediaries, over the phone and at Nelson Mandela’s pre-funeral service are over. Those were the days when one of Raila Odinga’s most dramatic claims to fame was that he had a “special relationship” with “Cousin Barry” in the White House.

In fact, the closer Uhuru has gotten to Obama, the more Raila has become distrusted by his traditional boosters in the West, including in the British, German and some EU capitals and embassies in Nairobi.

Impeccable diplomatic sources inform Weekly Citizen that the Kenyan and American presidents opened back channel communications and consultations more than a year ago after Washington quickly realised its blunder in making Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete its pointman in the region. It has emerged to them, Kenya is an economic superpower in the region and with Uhuru a key player in the coalition of the willing cannot be underestimated. But what is said to have surprised the Americans is how just days in office Uhuru used his diplomatic strategies to bring the entire African Union presidents together in denouncing the International Criminal Court that almost led to grippling its activities.

The furore has been on over controversial step by Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda sideline their two fellow EAC members: Tanzania and Burundi.

 The so-called “Coalition of the Willing” comprising Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda has been at the centre of discussion both internationally and regionally. It has been boosted with a defence and security pact.

The three countries have started issuing a single tourist visa whereby Kenya would take 40pc of revenues, with Uganda and Rwanda splitting the rest between them.
Under the arrangement, tourists wishing to visit Kenya, for example, will be required to pay Sh160,000 for a 90-day visa that will also enable them to tour Rwanda and Uganda.
The scheme is aimed at making the three countries a single tourist destination.

Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda also began using their respective national identity cards as official travel documents that would enable their citizens to travel among the three countries.
Travellers just have to present their identity cards to immigration officers at border posts to verify their validity before being issued with a stamped coupon to cross the border.

Defence ministers and top security officials from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda meet regularly. They have signed an agreement to jointly fight transnational crime, especially terrorism.
Uhuru is emerging as America’s blue-eyed boy in the region with Kagame and Museveni being accused of authoritarianism, abuse of human rights and graduating to dictators by manipulating the constitution to hang to power.

America is aware that Kikwete does not have the political muscle to propagate their ideals in the region.
That Uhuru was able to lobby and have African Union  members to “speak with one voice” against criminal proceedings at the International Criminal Court against sitting presidents was interpreted to mean Uhuru has leverage continentally. It just happened when he was barely two months in power compared to Sudanese strongman Omar Bashir who has been in power for decades and has been unable to marshal the continent behind him on the ICC warrant on him. In diplomatic terms Uhuru had scored big time.

The 54-nation organisation said it was disappointed that a request to the United Nations Security Council to defer the trials of Kenya’s leaders had not yielded the “positive result expected”.
Only Botswana opposed the AU’s position, which was made in a statement on Saturday following an Ethiopian summit attended by 34 leaders.

Uhuru  and his deputy, William Ruto, face charges of crimes against humanity at the ICC in The Hague for allegedly orchestrating post-election violence in which more than 1,000 people died. Last November, the Security Council rejected an AU demand to suspend the ICC trial of the two leaders. Guatemala’s UN ambassador Gert Rosenthal said the attempt to suspend the trial was an act of “contempt” against countries that had sought to help Africa with peacekeeping troops and efforts to boost justice in the continent.

Eight Security Council nations, all ICC members or supporters, including Britain, France and the United States, abstained to ensure the failure of the resolution.

The resolution got seven votes, two below the number needed to pass in the 15-member body.
It was the first time in decades that a Security Council resolution failed in such a way without a veto by one of the permanent members. Analysts say as things stand, if the matter reappears at the security council anything is bound to happen.

The African Union summit in Ethiopia had demanded a deferral of The Hague trial of Uhuru.
It was agreed a resolution stating no sitting African head of state should appear before an international court.
With both Kenyan and Sudanese presidents facing ICC cases, African leaders have long complained that the court unfairly targets them.
The AU had discussed withdrawing from the ICC, but failed to get support. Senior figures including Kofi Annan have criticised plans to quit the ICC.

  Uhuru has always said he will co-operate with the court and argues that he should however be treated as president of the republic of Kenya.
If he resists going to The Hague until the end of his presidential term, it will cost him his second bid to defend his presidency.

The AU leaders, meeting in Addis Ababa, agreed to back immunity for any sitting African head of state. They also asked Kenya to write to the UN Security Council seeking a deferral in the International Criminal Court against Uhuru. Addressing the summit, Uhuru accused the court of bias and “race-hunting”.

In perhaps his most memorable speech ever, Uhuru made the West miss a heartbeat as he put a spring to the gait of disillusioned Panafricanists thus: “The ICC has been reduced into a painfully farcical pantomime, a travesty that adds insult to the injury of victims. It stopped being the home of justice the day it became the toy of declining imperial powers.”

Ethiopian Prime Minister and AU chairman Hailemariam Dessalegn said the summit was not a crusade against the ICC but a call for the court to address Africa’s concerns seriously.
He said the ICC’s cases against the Sudanese and Kenyan presidents could hamper peace and reconciliation efforts in their countries.

“The unfair treatment that we have been subjected to by the ICC is completely unacceptable,” he said.
The ICC issued a warrant in 2009 for Sudanese strongman al-Bashir over alleged war crimes in the Darfur region, but he has not been arrested. ICC relies on the authorities of national governments to hand over suspects, but  Bashir has avoided arrest despite travelling to countries that have signed up to the ICC statute.

Kenya’s parliament has already passed a motion for the country to withdraw. All eight of the cases currently open at the ICC are in Africa but it is also investigating possible cases elsewhere.
Uhuru is said to have worked on various options in handling the ICC headache. Apart from lobbying from the continental he also engaged his lawyers to punch holes in the prosecution and ICC investigation team. At the same time was applying diplomacy to endear himself to the powerful forces calling shots at ICC and he seems to have now influenced happenings.

His decision not to withdraw Kenyan forces from Somalia despite pressure from opposition and fight against terrorism won the hearts of Americans. It has even been said in certain quarters that his uncharacteristically adamant stance to remain in Somalia against the wishes of Kenyans was to honour a deal with West whereby the court would go clear him. The West considers an al-Shaabab-controlled Somalia a security threat internationally hence its decision to work with Uhuru after all.

Uhuru last month addressed the UN Security Council a privilege ordinarily enjoyed by the heads of state of permanent UN Security Members only known as the G8. Uhuru had earlier hosted African leaders in Nairobi including chief spymasters in a meeting of Intelligence experts to brainstorm on how to fight terrorism. Uhuru further endeared himself to Britain when he awarded Safaricom, which is British-owned, a multi-billion security tender.

He is also pushing for direct flights to Nairobi from America to promote business not only in Kenya but within the Great Lakes region. Americans are also said to be comfortable with Uhuru handling of South Sudan crisis. Already, the rebel camp in South Sudan crisis wants peace talks moved to Kenya on groumds Ethopia is partisan.

For a long time, America has been accused by South Sudan government of sponsoring the rebels to counter Chinese influence in the newest African country. Insiders say the battle of Western capitals and China over Africa resources has worked in favour of Uhuru and his decision to lean towards the Eastern bloc has forced America to think twice on how to handle his government. They are aware he is to rule for 10 years which could be costly to them if they are not in good terms with Nairobi.

When First Lady Margaret, whom diplomats have noted and are discussing, visited Mama Sarah Obama, the US president’s granny, a new door opened. Margaret landed in a Kenya Air Force chopper at Kogelo Primary School in Siaya county and was received by Mama Sarah and a team of local politicians.

Margaret was in Kogelo to flag off the inaugural Sowo-Kogelo Marathon, in aid of 2,000 children infected with HIV-Aids. Margaret and Mama Sarah walked hand-in-hand as the grandma of the world’s most powerful politician hosted her jovially.

Raila and his strategists had never reckoned with Margaret’s soft power dimension, dramatically addressing ignored but burning social issues dear to millions of Kenyans. When Margaret stood next to Mama Sarah and made the following statement, the global PR and diplomacy tides began to turn: “I would like to see all barriers that hinder children’s education removed – whatever their status, gender, physical or mental condition. I strongly believe that every child should be given a fair chance to succeed in life as you never know what they might become in the future.”

The diplomats are correct. Margaret’s carefully chosen and administered goodworks projects (including running two marathons to promote her Beyond Zero campaign) soon caught the eye of the UN Secretary General, Ban-Ki-Moon, who invited her to deliver a keynote address at the Every Woman, Every Child initiative. This was in recognition of her initiatives to save women and children from avoidable disease and death. Ki-Moon has influence on ICC matters.

Uhuru and Deputy President William Ruto long ago decided to fight the stigma of being ICC suspects with crimes against humanity charges by not avoiding the global VIPs, whether UN, US, EU, AU or others. In the run-up to their election on the UhuRuto ticket, a number of top operatives in the diplomatic field, among them Kofi Annan, some say biased mediator of the 2007-08 post-election violence crisis, Johnnie Carson, then of the US State Department, and Ambassador Michael Ranneberger organised stiff resistance against the two.

 They were joined by Christian Turner, the British High Commissioner to Kenya. Carson warned Kenyan voters that “choices have consequences” and Turner hissed something about only “essential contacts” would happen between Kenya and Britain if Uhuru and Ruto were elected.
In the midst of politics, Obama invited Uhuru to the US-Africa Leadership Summit, despite and in spite of the ICC case something analysts were left wondering loud about.

There is another factor which cropped. Obama’s father was taken to the USA by the John Kennedy-Tom Mboya student airlifts of 1959-61. The Obamas were always more Mboya-compliant than Odinga-compliant and the late Jaramogi and the late Obama had no history together worth going into. Late Mboya’s son-in-law Nairobi governor Evans Kidero is emerging a force in the country’s political terrain with suggestions he succeeds Raila in Luo Nyanza and be ODM presidential candidate. Kidero gets on well with both Uhuru and Raila.

As Uhuru jets out to The Hague for his date with destiny, Raila and the opposition that he leads for now  will keenly monitor as events unfold.

Analysts say it is almost certain the president’s case is headed directly for collapse. A Uhuru triumph at The Hague would make him strong in his bid for a second term with or without Ruto. Continuing troubles at The Hague would further unite his considerable home base and win over the hearts and minds of others in other areas.

When The Hague affair is finally over, opposition will realise, to their total shock, that Obama and other Western leaders (including inside the UN system) whom the Cordists had done their best (and worst) to turn against Uhuru have in fact been quietly moving mountains to help Kenya’s Fourth President.

The end of Uhuru’s Hague tribulations would coincide with a time when Cord affairs are not in the best of repair. The Okoa Kenya referendum drive has lost steam considerably, with the three principals finally realising that a public vote is not a one-way street. The governors push for pesa mashinani has complicated the referendum affair confusing voters whether they can sign twice.

As we reported last week, Kalonzo is already at an advanced stage exercising his options to let Raila down one more time. One clear sign of this was the political assault mounted by, among others, Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior against now totally besieged Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana. Add to this the anti-referendum onslaught in Ukambani led by Yatta MP Francis Mwangangi and Okoa Kenya might before long be breathing through a pipe in that region.

Kibwana is one of the ideologists behind the Okoa Kenya strategy but he finds himself in deep trouble and the people of the larger Ukambani do not seem to care.
Also quietly considering his options is Wetang’ula, as it becomes increasingly clear that there may well be no Plan B if the referendum does not fly.

A week from now when President Kenyatta is back from The Hague, all eyes will be on how he deals with the governors’ Pesa Mashinani referendum campaign, without which Okoa Kenya cannot stand and be guaranteed of success. Insiders say, a plan to have a homecoming rally-cum-prayer meeting at Uhuru Park upon Uhuru’s return from the Hague are being considered. Here, Jubilee allied governors backing the referendum will be invited. They will by circumstances be forced to be present and have those who have denounced the process make it public.

To further split Cord, rebel MPs from Coast will be invited to the function and allowed to make speeches.We have information, MPs in Amani alliance will be recognised including those in Cord who accompany Uhuru to Hague.

At the end of the day, the former PM might want to remember the famous quote: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.”

This is because, no matter how well and how often Raila has planned Uhuru’s undoing, repeatedly thinking that he has done all that is required to achieve that result, he has serially been defeated. Has the Man from the Lake finally run out of Plan Bs against the Man from the Mountain?
From where President Obama is seated, this would indeed appear to be the case. Obama has come to deeply regret not having visited Kenya as president, a tour that would be among the most iconic and symbolic of his historic presidency. Obama must by now have realised that if he waits for Raila to be in charge in Kenya, he will never come to the home of his own father as president. Obama while on his African tour said sometimes back he will visit Kenya before his presidency comes to an end and hinted the ICC saga has been his hinderance.

Obama has also reckoned that it would be great to come to Kenya when Mama Sarah is still alive and well (airlifting her to the White House is not the same thing as enjoying her hospitality in Kogelo and visiting his father’s grave).

With the case against Uhuru at The Hague over and done with, President Obama knows he and Michelle have every reason to come visit Kenya and the Kenyattas when both men are still president.

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