23 March 2011

Kenya: State Wanted to Arrest Raila - Wikileaks

Nairobi — THE American Embassy believed in March 2007 that President Kibaki's government planned to arrest opposition leader Raila Odinga over the controversial Artur Brothers, according to Wikileaks. "Post (the embassy) has various pieces of evidence suggesting that the men are associated with either State House or one of the 'first families' and Kamlesh Pattni, the man behind the Goldenberg scandal," said the cable from ambassador Michael Ranneberger dated March 14, 2007.

Embassy officials warned State House not to rashly move to arrest Raila.

"Post has reason to believe that the threat to arrest Odinga may indeed be imminent. Given the tribal undertones and the clear sense that this is no longer 'politics as usual'. Post has urged State House not to rashly move to arrest Odinga or other opposition leaders. Presidential Policy Adviser Stanley Murage told A/DCM March 15 that the police would take statements from the Armenian accusers this week before making any arrests," said the cable.

In early March, Raila, by then Kibaki's main challenger in the run-up to the December 27, 2007 presidential election, repeatedly asked the President to come clean on the role in Kenya of the Artur Brothers.

On March 13 the Artur brothers stunned Kenya with claims at a press conference that the opposition, not the government, had hired them to bankroll a regime change. One of the Arturs claimed to have videotaped himself passing money to Raila in a Dubai hotel.

Calls then mounted for the arrests of the opposition leaders led by Raila and Kalonzo Musyoka who days before had been on the offensive.

On March 14, pro-government MPs, led by Environment Minister Kivutha Kibwana, called for the arrest of Raila and Kalonzo on charges of treason.

Raila had repeatedly accused government of hiring the Artur brothers to carry out the March 2, 2005, raid on the Standard Media Group and to assassinate leading opposition figures.

During their press event at the airport's VIP lounge, the Artur brothers claimed they were Armenians and merely wealthy businessmen. They added, "if we were mercenaries, Kenya could not afford us."

They claimed to have met with Kalonzo and Raila who wanted US$41 million to support the 'No' referendum campaign in November 2005 to bring down the Kibaki government. They claimed they had loaned Raila $1.5 million in cash."Dressed to the hilt in 'Soprano-esque' suits and dripping with ostentatious gold accessories, one even sporting gold-rimmed rose-colored glasses for the event, they denied claims that they are mercenaries hired by the Kenyan government. They claim to have just returned to Kenya after a few days in Dubai," said the cable.

At their own press conference the next day, Raila and Kalonzo denied the claims and accused the Artur brothers of laundering drug trafficking proceeds.

State House responded with a Presidential Press Service statement warning Raila against tarnishing the Office of the President with baseless "propaganda". "Forget the fiction of LeCarre's novel 'The Constant Gardener'. This real-life tale of hired thugs of questionable nationality, prominent Kenyans, massive corruption, blackmail, threats, and narcotics trafficking schemes, reads like a script that Hollywood would reject as unbelievable," said the cable."Unfortunately, the duelling accusations have sidetracked public attention from the seriousness of the underlying issues of corruption and democratic space.

Indeed, each new revelation of wrongdoing is bound to shake the public's faith in both sides' stories and their leaderships," said the cable.

The brothers claimed they were Armenians, even nephews of the Armenian Prime Minister, but the Kenyan Immigration minister said they were Czech nationals.

Even their very arrival at the airport was in dispute, the cable reported. The Arturs claimed they had just arrived from Dubai on a Kenya Airways flight.

Immigration officials stated they arrived on a charter flight. Several others including Raila insisted the pair arrived in a government vehicle at the airport hours before the Dubai flight landed."Raila and other opposition leaders believed at the time that the Artur brothers were brought into the country by a political activist, a State House official and a top CID officer in December 2005. They were accommodated at a five-star hotel in Nairobi before moving to Runda," according to the cable released by Wikileaks.

Their arrival in March 2007 coincided with high-level investigations into a huge seizure of cocaine in Malindi. They were finally kicked out of Kenya in June 2007.

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