- Jan 30, 2008
Secret letters tell why Kibaki skipped Mau
By Juma Kwayera
The Mau controversy has blown the lid off the latent wars President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga
It has also emerged that Kibaki is not a lame-duck president as alleged often. Secret letters from State House and Office of the President show he is at the centre of the feuds in his own Party of National Unity (PNU) and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).
The letters, which refer to meetings the President has held with his lieutenants at State House on various occasions, provide rare evidence of how Kibaki was using the Mau forest controversy to repay his political debts and railroad his succession by scuttling potential threats in PNU and ODM.
At the core of the meetings is the requisition of Sh1 billion through a letter signed by Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura to compensaste well-connected individuals who acquired public land unprocedurally.
Sources told The Standard on Sunday that the President is keen on repaying the political debt he owes his benefactors in the 2007 polls. Kibaki is alleged to have given priority to Uhuru Kenyatta, who stepped down for him, consolidating the Central Province vote in the last presidential poll.
Kibaki began laying the groundwork for his succession by stoking embers in PNU that saw Gichugu MP Martha Karua being sidelined. At the time of her resignation mid last year, Karua had been Kibaki's shield against adversaries in the Coalition Government.
Also relegated to the periphery is Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, whose presidential ambitions on a PNU ticket have not grown past his election as chairman of the party in 2008.
The profile of Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, who discreetly cut a pre-election deal with Kibaki to form a coalition with PNU, has also dipped as the President reportedly looks to prop up Uhuru, who is also chairman of Kanu.
No holds barred
Having peeled Agriculture Minister William Ruto from Raila, the President is now concentrating on buttressing the Kikuyu-Kalenjin (and possibly Kamba) alliance.
"His loyalty to the KKK alliance forced him out of Mau tree-planting trip as he was increasingly coming under attack for elevating Raila to prominence," the source, a member of the committee co-ordinating the restoration of the Mau forest, divulged.
Separately, sources citing intelligence reports say the President is hamstrung by his utterances on Mau that have enhanced the PM's profile.
Letters between Muthaura and Finance Permanent Secretary Joseph Kinyua, copies of which The Standard on Sunday has, illustrate how the President primed the Prime Minister for embarrassment.
Despite denials from his key supporters, the letters show in the lead up to the Mau tree planting on Friday, Kibaki held meetings at State House with Uhuru, Ruto and other Kalenjin MPs that culminated in the December 14 directive to Uhuru to set aside Sh1 billion to compensate Mau and Embobut forest landowners.
The outcome of the meetings touched off a fresh round of controversy in the Cabinet after line ministers, save for Lands Minister James Orengo, were sidelined because of their opposition to compensation.
Forests Minister Noah Wekesa and Environment Minister John Michuki are on record having told the President "not to pay a cent to people who broke the law and stole public property."
At some point, sources said, Wekesa confronted the President with a requisition for medicine by the Ministry of Health, "which Treasury had declined to honour for lack of money". The Standard on Sunday has copies of the letters.
Wekesa is saddled with more than 2,000 people in his Kwanza constituency who were evicted from the Cherangany and Mt Elgon forests and argues the decision to compensate Mau landowners would trigger a flurry of claims from other grabbers.
"Even if Kibaki wants to help Uhuru or Ruto, he is making a mistake that would saddle the next government with a huge debt burden with potential for unrest. If the Government [wants to give in] to the demands funds would be channelled to paying off people who stole public property," says Mr Kibisu Kabatesi, the spokesman for Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi.
Large landowners named in the Ndung'u Commission report and the Taskforce on Mau Forests Complex findings have also reached out to the President through their proxies in the Cabinet.
According to letter signed by Muthaura: "This group had voluntarily left forest on persuasion by local Member of Parliament Hon. Dr Linah Jebii Kilimo and the Provincial Administration with the promise that the Government was to assist them resettle at an appropriate place outside the Gazetted Forest area."
The letter, dated December 18, 2009, instructs Kinyua to set aside the money as agreed at meetings at State House. The meeting was attended by Uhuru, Ruto, Saitoti, Special Programmes Minister Naomi Shaban and Lands Minister James Orengo.
Significantly, the letter neither mentions nor shows the resolutions were copied to the Prime Minister, Michuki and Wekesa, who are charged with restoration and repossession of excised public land.
Muthaura and Kinyua could not be reached for comment by presstime yesterday.
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