The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Split in Central Deepens

PRESIDENT Kibaki yesterday denied that he was forcing Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta to drop his presidential bid in favour of Sabatia MP Musalia Mudavadi.

There is widespread speculation that the Central Province elite is bitterly split between those who back Uhuru and those who want Mudavadi as a compromise presidential candidate who could save Kenya from international sanctions.

"We wish to state that President Kibaki remains focused on his service to the nation and peaceful elections and transition and should not be dragged in ongoing political activities," said presidential spokesman Isaiah Kabira in a statement yesterday.

"President Kibaki is a democrat and will respect the wishes of the Kenyan people now and after the March 2013 general elections," he said.

"Elections come and go, what's indeed fundamental is that Kenyans continue to enjoy better and greater development, peace and security now and after 04/03/2012," said the presidential statement.

Kibaki was reacting to remarks by Nominated MP Rachel Shebesh who claimed that he was forcing Uhuru to step aside for Musalia.

On Tuesday Mudavadi suddenly dropped his proposed pact with Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth and joined the coalition of Uhuru and Eldoret North MP William Ruto.

Reportedly Uhuru and Ruto invited Mudavadi on Tuesday morning to be the presidential flag bearer of their coalition before he agreed to join them.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was in Kenya earlier this week warning of dire consequences if Kenya elected a president who was facing charges of crimes against humanity. Annan indicated that Kenya would face diplomatic isolation and could be disconnected from the international financial system.

In mid-week a State House official rang the Star to deny that Kibaki held a private unreported meting with Annan.

The trials of Uhuru and Ruto in the Hague start on April 10 and 11, the same date as the scheduled second round run-off for the presidential election.

Shebesh claimed that "some mandarins" in State House were subjecting Uhuru to "immense pressure" to drop out of the presidential race when she spoke to Citizen TV news on Thursday night.

"I want to tell those people who reside in State House who are threatening Uhuru to stop. Let them call his supporters instead and we shall tell them that we shall never support their candidate they are so keen to impose on us," she said.

She specifically mentioned Kibaki's private secretary Nick Wanjohi along with Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni and assistant Industrialisation Minister Nderitu Mureithi.

"We keep seeing the hands of Nick Wanjohi and other mandarins who reside in State House attempting to make us reverse the decision to pick Uhuru and William Ruto as leaders of our alliance," she said.

Mureithi is President Kibaki's nephew. By dropping his name, Shebesh was insinuating that the Kibaki is behind the pressure on Uhuru to step down.

Kibaki reportedly began pushing a Mudavadi presidential candidacy more than a year ago.

Late last year Kibaki pulled Mudavadi aside after a Cabinet meeting and asked him if he wanted to be president one day, according to two PNU ministers and one ODM minister.

Kibaki's close confidants, including Professor Wanjohi, had decided that the Kikuyu needed an alternative candidate because Uhuru was facing ICC charges, according to multiple sources.

"Wanjohi and group then convinced the President that their best bet was Mudavadi and that the Kikuyu would vote for him. The president then raised the issue again with Mudavadi early this year and told Mudavadi that he could not support him if he was in ODM," a senior PNU minister told the Star.

Wanjohi had already formed the UDF party through his associates. Mudavadi joined UDF in May shortly after he finally left ODM.

"A few weeks before Mudavadi left ODM, the President asked Uhuru not to contest and instead back Musalia but Uhuru did not like the idea. He then told the President's associates that he would rather lose at the ballot," said an ODM minister.

On Thursday 40 TNA MPs angrily rejected the suggestion that Uhuru should step down for Mudavadi.

"It is not possible that the MPs could reject Mudavadi without the blessing of Uhuru," said a political analyst from Nyeri yesterday.

"This is the biggest mistake Uhuru has made. He may now have lost the support of all the Luhya, and that may cost him the election," the analyst said.

Yesterday Shebesh told the Star that Mudavadi's presence in Uhuru and Ruto's Jubilee Alliance was "sabotage at its best."

She said it was meant to reverse the decision by TNA and URP to pick Uhuru and Ruto as their ticket for the March 4 election..

"For supporters of Uhuru Kenyatta, Mudavadi is not and shall never be a done deal," she said.

However Mathira MP Ephraim Maina yesterday said that central Kenya is committed to the Jubilee Alliance, whoever is on the presidential ticket.

Addressing the media in Nairobi, the MP distanced himself from the 40 TNA MPs.

"The impression created is that the Kikuyu community cannot vote for other people. This is not true as we saw in the Kamukunji and Kajiado North by-elections," he said.

He claimed that the 40 MPs only said was that Mudavadi would have to win the alliance nomination against Uhuru if he wanted their support.

Yesterday former minister Mutahi Kagwe and former Nyeri Town MP PG Mureithi applauded the efforts by Uhuru, Ruto and Mudavadi to come together.

Kagwe is a close adviser to Mudavadi and is standing on a UDF ticket for Nyeri senator.

"Each of them at some point or other has had to give up something for the benefit of the country. The people who show loyalty to Uhuru do not do so through proxies but they support him directly. We support his decisions, what they have agreed among the three principals and whether they go for nominations or consensus," the two said.

Kagwe and Mureithi urged the TNA MPs to relax their hardline stance and allow Uhuru, Ruto and Mudavadi to agree among themselves on how the joint candidate should be selected.

"Each of the three is capable of becoming the president of the republic of Kenya and consequently, since they had given a way forward of going for nomination or consensus there should be no reason for anyone to panic. Whatever decision they come to, the public will support," they said.

Kagwe and Mureithi urged the three coalition partners not to retreat from the decisions they have made.

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