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Viewing cable 09NAIROBI1296, UHURU KENYATTA - PRESIDENTIAL AMBITIONS AND THE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09NAIROBI1296 2009-06-26 12:12 2011-02-27 23:11 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Nairobi
Appears in these articles:
http://www.the-star.co.ke/
VZCZCXRO9757
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHNR #1296/01 1771213
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
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FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0005
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM PRIORITY 6607
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 3251
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 3123
RUZEFAA/CDR USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA  PRIORITY
RUZEFAA/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 NAIROBI 001296 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/26/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL KE
SUBJECT: UHURU KENYATTA - PRESIDENTIAL AMBITIONS AND THE 
 
REFORM PROCESS 
 
REF: NAIROBI 767 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Michael Ranneberger, reasons 1.4 b,d 
 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (C) Uhuru Kenyatta appears to be working towards a 
presidential run in 2012. While many have pointed out that 
replacing President Kibaki, a Kikuyu, by another Kikuyu, 
would be unlikely due to anti-Kikuyu sentiments prevalent 
across much of Kenyan society, Kenyatta may be encouraged to 
attempt a presidential run due to shifting political dynamics 
that make potential challengers seem weak.  Interestingly, 
Kenyatta seems to appreciate the need to be seen as 
pro-reform, and we should encourage him to push for action on 
key reform issues. Alternatively, the potential for Kenyatta 
to foment violence to achieve political ends cannot be ruled 
out (he is reportedly a key figure on the list of suspected 
perpetrators of post-election violence). End summary. 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
Kenyetta Preparing For 2012 Presidential Bid 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
2. (C) Although in public and private Uhuru Kenyatta has 
avoided openly declaring presidential ambitions for 2012, he 
appears to be moving to pave the way for a presidential run. 
While conventional wisdom says that another person from the 
Kikuyu ethnic group cannot succeed President Kibaki, a 
Kikuyu, political dynamics that make potential challengers 
seem weak may be encouraging Uhuru and his potential 
supporters to rethink this. 
 
3. (C) Kenyatta is taking steps that are clearly intended to 
bolster his political standing and mobilize support. His 
appointment as Finance Minister was seen by many as an 
implicit endorsement by Kibaki; it provides a powerful 
platform for Kenyatta to pursue presidential ambitions. The 
budget which he recently submitted to Parliament (septel) has 
virtually bought many parliamentarians as a result of vast 
expansion of the funds designated for the Constituency 
Development Fund (CDF). The CDF is used to fund projects in 
parliamentary constituencies. While use of CDF funds has 
become more transparent and accountable over the past couple 
of years, parliamentarians still wield enormous influence 
over use of the funds, and employ them to enhance their 
political standing and support. No budget presentation has 
ever been greeted with such enthusiasm by 
parliamentarians.(It is important to note that expansion of 
the CDF, if used transparently ) and therein lies the rub ) 
can serve a legitimate purpose of helping stimulate the 
economy through infrastructure projects; the economy is 
suffering greatly due to the aftermath of the post-election 
violence and the world financial crisis. Through this tactic, 
Kenyatta also increases the support he is likely to receive 
in working behind the scenes to ensure that parliamentarians 
never approve an independent special tribunal to hold 
accountable those involved in post-election violence. It is 
generally assumed that Kenyatta,s name (and that of his 
prospective ally William Ruto) are on the list of suspects 
the Waki Commission gave to Kofi Annan. (The danger of being 
identified for investigation and possible prosecution is one 
of Kenyatta,s principal vulnerabilities.) 
 
------------------------------ 
Kikuyu Politics Favor Kenyetta 
------------------------------ 
 
4. (C) Kenyatta must move to ensure solid control of his KANU 
party as a potential presidential vehicle. KANU is currently 
the second biggest partner to Kibaki,s Party of National 
Unity (PNU), holding 14 seats in Parliament, mostly 
representing non-Kikuyu regions. Ex-President Moi,s son 
Gideon could compete for control, but at the end of the day 
an accommodation could be worked out.(Kenyatta was Moi,s 
designated successor and ran in 2002 on the KANU ticket.) 
Gideon Moi and other KANU stalwarts have been pressing 
Kenyatta to focus his energies on rebuilding KANU. 
 
5. (C) Kikuyu political dynamics seem to be favoring 
Kenyatta. There has been an emerging realization among Kikuyu 
professionals, progressive politicians, and others that it 
would not be healthy for the nation or wise politically to 
 
NAIROBI 00001296  002 OF 004 
 
 
seek to have another Kikuyu replace Kibaki.  That said, 
however, many Kikuyus, including the still dominant political 
class, fear the potential consequences of electing a 
non-Kikuyu (the concerns include worries about their economic 
and political interests, including the potential for another 
ethnic group to exploit anti-corruption efforts against 
them). Kenyatta is slowly but steadily emerging as the most 
likely potential presidential designee of the Kikuyus -- 
should they decide to back a candidate for president. Other 
contenders are not gaining traction. Minister of Security 
Saitoti is considered too old, not charismatic, and he is 
tainted by the Goldenberg corruption scandal.  Kikuyu 
dissident Martha Karua, the former Minister of Justice and 
head of the NARC-K party within the PNU, has not gained wide 
support in the Kikuyu Central Province. (Vice President 
Musyoka, the nominal head of the Kamba community, which is 
closely related to the Kikuyu community, remains a potential 
standard-bearer if at the end of the day the Kikuyus decide 
that they should not field their own candidate. However, that 
would be seen as a Kikuyu-Kamba condominium, which might well 
be worse than a straight-out bid by Kenyatta if he can get 
crucial support from the Kalenjin community.) 
 
6. (C) While Kibaki will not play a decisive role in 
designating his preferred successor, his standing as the 
principal Kikuyu elder and the power that State House wields, 
mean that obtaining his support is important. A number of 
sources report close contacts between Kibaki and Kenyatta, 
and between those two and William Ruto, a potential ally. 
Kibaki,s naming of Kenyatta as Finance Minister was seen as 
at least giving Kenyatta the platform to make a play for 
leadership. 
 
-------------------------------- 
Potential Kenyetta-Ruto Alliance 
-------------------------------- 
 
7. (C) Ruto has made a number of private visits to State 
House in recent months, and he and Kenyatta are in close 
contact. They worked together behind the scenes to ensure 
defeat of the special tribunal bill. One rationale for 
cooperation is the importance they attach to promoting the 
welfare of their respective ethnic communities (Kenyatta,s 
Kikuyu community in Central Province and Ruto,s Kalenjin 
community in Rift Valley) in order to avoid a repeat of what 
happened last year during the post-election violence. 
Although tensions between the Kalenjin and Kikuyu communities 
remain high and make an alliance problematic, the political 
imperatives driving potential cooperation between Kenyatta 
and Ruto cannot be dismissed.(Some of the thinking runs along 
these lines: an alliance among the Kalenjins, Kikuyus, and 
the Kambas assures a winning majority. In the event of 
violence in response to such a victory, such violence could 
be contained to PM Odinga,s Luo ethnic community in Nyanza 
Province and to his supporters in Nairobi,s Kibera slum.) 
 
8. (C) Tentative, behind the scenes cooperation between 
Kenyatta and Ruto is focused on a deal whereby Ruto uses his 
influence among Kalenjins to facilitate the reintegration of 
the Kikuyu internally displaced persons in Rift Valley; in 
return, Ruto would get a significant share of important 
economic positions for his Kalenjin political allies. What is 
particularly problematic in a potential Kenyatta-Ruto 
alliance is who would get top billing on the presidential 
ticket, but there is some sense that Ruto might accept the 
position of vice president or prime minister, and thus 
prepare the ground for a presidential run in 2017.(Ruto is in 
his 40s.) 
 
9. (C) Most observers, rightly in our view, believe that 
attempting to have another Kikuyu succeed Kibaki is a recipe 
for serious instability ) perhaps for a meltdown much more 
severe than that experienced last year. While some sort of 
arrangement could emerge between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin 
communities, this seems a distant prospect given what 
happened last year.  (Importantly Moi, rather than Ruto, is 
still seen as the head of the Kalenjin community and there is 
bad blood between those two. If Moi supports Kenyatta, Ruto 
could decide to stay with Odinga, which would mean a split of 
the Kalenjin vote.) 
 
---------------------------------- 
Politicians Compete For Youth Vote 
---------------------------------- 
 
 
NAIROBI 00001296  003 OF 004 
 
 
10. (C) Yet another indication that Kenyatta may be preparing 
the ground for a presidential run is his tacit support for 
the creation of a national youth movement. Struck by U.S. 
outreach efforts to grassroots youth movements in support of 
the reform agenda, parliamentarians and other politicians are 
scrambling to try to co-opt the youth.  One of the most 
important of these efforts is the plan underway by Kibaki,s 
son Jimmy and several parliamentarians to launch a national 
youth movement on July 4. Although Jimmy has publicly claimed 
this is intended to push for change across the political 
spectrum, this is a ridiculous assertion given Jimmy,s 
position as a charter member of the vested interests. 
 
11. (C) There are some indications that this new youth 
movement is intended to co-opt and destroy the grassroots 
youth movements which have been emerging across ethnic lines 
to push peacefully and in a non-partisan manner for change 
(see reftel on our efforts to encourage this). Jimmy and 
those behind establishment of this new youth movement 
attempted to get the Ambassador to attend the launch, which 
he declined to do. One of those heavily involved in setting 
up this youth movement made clear that it is intended both to 
bolster Jimmy,s eventual political prospects (probably to 
run for his father,s parliamentary seat in 2012) and 
potentially to serve as a source of support for Kenyatta. 
 
------------------------------------------ 
Kenyetta Election Could Push Reform Agenda 
------------------------------------------ 
 
12. (C) Kenyatta,s potential ambitions could be helpful in 
pushing the reform process.  During a recent conversation 
with the Ambassador, Kenyatta claimed that he is privately 
pushing Kibaki to carry out key reforms, particularly with 
respect to the police and judiciary. It seems possible that 
) given the clear public frustration with the slow pace of 
reform and our stated concerns -- Kenyatta appreciates the 
need for him, KANU, and PNU to be seen as more pro-reform. 
He claimed to the Ambassador that he is urging removal of 
Police Commissioner Ali and Attorney General Wako. 
 
13. (C) If he decides to pursue the presidency, Kenyatta has 
several major strengths, but these are balanced and 
potentially offset by important weaknesses. Kenyatta is 
bright and charming, even charismatic. He is enormously 
wealthy, and therefore has not had to engage in corruption. 
Although his wealth is the inheritance from his father,s 
corruption, the Kenyatta family still holds a special status. 
Kenyatta,s liabilities are at least as important as his 
strengths. He drinks too much and is not a hard worker 
(though he surprised everyone by the acuity of the budget, 
which reportedly resulted from some tough work over long 
hours). Perhaps most importantly, Kenyatta has been closely 
linked to the Mungiki (which emerged in the aftermath of the 
Mau Mau and began as a movement in defense of Kikuyu 
traditional values, but which has long since morphed into a 
well-organized mafia-style criminal organization). The reason 
that Kenyatta is assumed to be on the Waki Commission list of 
suspected perpetrators of post-election violence is his 
fund-raising to support Mungiki violent actions against 
Kalenjins during the post-election violence. Some reports 
indicate that Kenyatta has tried to distance himself from the 
Mungiki. (The links between the Mungiki and various Kikuyu 
politicians are at best murky.) Ironically, Kenyatta,s links 
to the Mungiki make him one of those who feels strongly that 
extrajudicial killing must stop (since many of the 
extrajudicial killings have been carried out by the police, 
under Commissioner Ali,s direction, against the Mungiki). 
 
14. (C) Kenyatta may see shifting political dynamics as 
opening the way for a presidential run.  Odinga is 
increasingly perceived as feckless, unable or unwilling to 
govern effectively and move forward the reform agenda. There 
is growing disillusionment within his camp (as conveyed by 
key interlocutors of Odinga,s Orange Democratic Movement, 
ODM, party to the Ambassador).  Odinga,s being seen as in a 
weakened position may be wishful thinking given his political 
resilience and the fact that he could yet emerge as a 
reformer, but he has clearly lost significant popular 
support. The ODM seems both directionless and less united 
than before. 
 
15. (C) Comment: Although talk of calculations with respect 
to the 2012 presidential election seems very premature, the 
reality is that politicians are already maneuvering with that 
 
NAIROBI 00001296  004 OF 004 
 
 
in mind. Those considerations will influence their 
calculations with respect to the reform agenda.   The popular 
dynamic in favor of reform will influence politicians, 
behavior in a positive direction to some degree, but this 
will be weighed against considerations of ethnic alliances, 
fund-raising, and personal politics. Continued intensive U.S. 
pressure for implementation of reforms will help drive 
considerations in the right direction towards reform steps. 
End comment. 
RANNEBERGER