30 July 2007

Kenya: Kibaki's Juggernaut Revs Up for His Second Term


Nairobi — With billions gobbled up in 2002 election, President's well-oiled war machine plans to spend even more. In this four-part series, we reveal the money and campaign machines top presidential contenders are assembling ahead of the general election.

President Kibaki's campaign strategy will be anchored on a pillar of financial strength that is likely to rattle his opponents to the core.

President Kibaki casts his ballot in his Othaya Constituency, Nyeri, as First Lady Lucy Kibaki marks her ballot during the referendum in November 2005.

If the resolve of his friends and well-wishers was so strong that they bankrolled him in 1992 and 1997 when he lost to incumbent Daniel arap Moi, then that resolve is likely to double this time round, being the tenant at State House.

Additionally, the benefits of incumbency are staggering, ranging from the State-run media to other 'quiet' resources such as the huge intelligence network and the strategic information that could be put to great use.

Between now and polling day, it will be hard to draw a distinct line between a state function and a presidential campaign rally. President Kibaki's assets include the array of political parties that are elbowing each other to have his name as presidential flag-bearer, never mind that he has had little time to even comment about parties.

There is the Democratic Party of Kenya (DP), the party he founded in 1991 when he was dropped as vice-president and handed the nondescript Health portfolio leading to his resignation.

Party top brass, including Livestock minister Joseph Konzolo Munyao, a key Kibaki ally, insist Kibaki has all along been their man despite the party remained dormant for years.

DP has constituted a resource mobilisation committee

Wealthy individuals, who will be all too willing to back Kibaki regardless of his chosen party, bankroll DP.

The DP has, in recent weeks, constituted a resource mobilisation committee, chaired by one Mr Harry Mugo, who has one eye on the Gichugu parliamentary seat currently occupied by Justice minister Martha Karua.

Members of the committee include Mr Jacob Mwirigi, a brother to former Permanent Secretary Mr Erastus Mwongera.

The co-ordinator is Ms Mary M'Mukindia, who also heads the communications at the secretariat. Mary is the wife of a former Commerce and Industry minister, Mr Kirugi M'Mukindia, who is the MP for Imenti South. Both have interests in the oil sector.

A yet-to-be launched Kibaki Foundation is expected to be a campaign fundraising machine. But there is also the National Presidential Re-Election Committee, which comprises of the wealthy, educated, and the corporate think-tank. The chairman of Equity Bank, Mr Peter Munga, chairs this committee, whose target is to raise hundreds of millions of shillings, if not billions.

The support by Defence minister Mr Njenga Karume alone represents a sizeable contribution to the President's re-election kitty. Immensely wealthy, Karume owns the country's largest beer distribution firm, which mints millions.

Kibaki will benefit from a network of friends and golfing buddies

This is in addition to other interests in real estate and landmark buildings in Nairobi, among them Cianda House on Koinange Street.

Karume's fortunes running into billions of shillings, also include the Jacaranda chain of hotels, which include the prestigious Indian Ocean Beach Club in the South Coast.

As the patron of the Kenya Gold Union, Kibaki will also benefit from a network of friends and golfing buddies, who patronise such exclusive members' clubs as Karen, Muthaiga, Limuru, Nyeri, Royal, Sigona and Nyali, where he played golf for decades.

Made up of astute businessmen and professionals controlling commerce, academia, agriculture and the transport sector businesses, their contribution to his campaign endeavour will be awesome.

Kibaki can also count on Internal Security minister Mr John Njoroge Michuki, who has assets running into hundreds of millions of shillings, which include the Windsor Golf and Country Club patronised by the who's who in politics and commerce.

Mr Peter Tirus Kanyago, a Nyeri-born businessman is another notable individual in Kibaki's ring of associates.

Kanyago is at the helm of the multi-million Express Kenya Limited, a freight-forwarding firm that has quickly become a household name in the country, and head of elevator company Otis.

He heads several other companies and has been instrumental in previous campaigns strategies. His support will come handy for President Kibaki.

Nyachae's support would translate into huge financial backing

Kengen Managing Director, Mr Eddy Njoroge, a former head of the civil service, Mr Jeremiah Kiereini, from whose name famous columnist Wahome Mutahi (Whispers) coined his term for beer (Jeremiah Waters) add to Kibaki's list of moneyed friends.

Not to be forgotten is Kenya Airports Authority Managing Director, Mr George Muhoho, who also has interests in Compuera Academies through his wife, Jean.

There is also Kibaki's policy and strategy advisor, Mr Stanley Murage, who is based at State House, Nairobi. If he backs a Kibaki presidency like he has already stated, Ford-People leader and Cabinet minister, Mr Simeon Nyachae's support would also translate into huge financial backing. The politician controls a vast business empire built during his years in the civil service and after he joined politics.

At the Coast, Kibaki's campaign machinery has for the past three general elections remained organised and formidable, financed by prominent Kenyans from the Asian community and major stakeholders in the tea and transport industry.

Copies of minutes from various meetings held in 2002 at the exclusive Mombasa Sports Club obtained by The Standard reveal that 'Narc Council of Elders' was the name given to the 2002 members of the organising team, some of whom had to part with over Sh5 million each, plus contributions from friends within and outside the country.

Kibaki's men at the Coast in 2002

Members of the council, mostly rich friends and relatives of Kibaki were 30, with an additional 21 individuals who have vast business interests in tourism, milling and the transport industry.

Kibaki's Coast campaign team, we can reveal today, spent up to Sh10 million per constituency in the 21 constituencies - for mobilisation and support strategies. This year, they are ready to spend more for his re-election.

There was also 'The Task Resource Centre', which was based in Nairobi. A 15-member team from the Asian community, under the chairmanship of transport guru Mr Shamshudin Khosla, contributed well over Sh8 million each in 2002, in logistics, organisation and public rallies to help Kibaki ascend to power.

But the current tussle between Coast MPs on one the side and the business community on the other over who should be in charge of Kibaki' campaign machinery, has thrown a spanner in the works.

Kibaki's men at the Coast in 2002 - who are expected to continue backing him - included Mr Anthony Getambo, who works for Delloite and Touche and also runs the Sewa printers, Mr George Waireri, the Managing Director of StanSand Tea, Mr Philip Ndolo, a prominent contractor who runs ITALBuild company, Mr John Mbugua, the Managing Director of Venus Tea, Mr Tom Muchura, the Managing Director of African Tea Brokers, who doubles as the chairman of the Council of Elders, Charles Karigithu, a top clearing and forwarding agent, Mr James Kahiu, the proprietor of a leading tea company at the Coast, Mr Antony Warui, the proprietor of Angelica Tea Company, and Mr James Kirathe, a director at StanSand, and Mr Patrick Munyao, a wealthy golfer.

He enjoyed the full backing of a combined opposition

But Kibaki's major advantage in 2002 was that he enjoyed the full backing of a combined opposition, whose financiers naturally threw their weight behind him.

Also, unlike in the 1997 General Election, when Kibaki's election bid at the Coast was led by a few prominent personalities, namely former nominated MP and influential figure Rashid Sajjad, former East African Legislative Assembly Member Mohammed Zubedi and business tycoon Mohammed Bawazir, the team is now bigger, expanding and becoming influential by the day.

"That is why there is a rift between sitting MPs and the business community. The MPs feel threatened by these people. These businessmen have been more helpful than the MPs themselves such that they now have the influence and capacity to change the minds of constituents on who they should vote for," an insider in Kibaki's campaign team told The Standard last week.

Regardless, the businessmen have regrouped and some have pledged up to Sh 5million for Coast Province's strategic plan to win voters, it emerged.

"The Asian community is very instrumental because they want to make sure that Kibaki goes back to State House so as to safeguard their businesses. Most of them were rewarded handsomely through opportunities, contracts and a conducive environment to work under," said the source.

Additional reporting by David Ohito and Amos Kareithi

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