Kibaki's troubled rule

President Kibaki

President Kibaki's car accident on the campaign trail, an assortment of bad luck including the deaths of some of his strongest supporters, and his own character traits – as a man who fears to hurt anyone – have combined to create a leadership that has stumbled from crisis to crisis for the past three years.

President Kibaki

And now the war against corruption at the heart of the Government is the latest grim chapter in the story of an administration that looks more shaky by the day.

Mr Kibaki's Vice-President, Mr Moody Awori, is under intense public pressure to resign after being adversely mentioned in new tapes by former anti-corruption czar John Githongo in connection with the Sh2.7 billion Anglo Leasing passports scandal.

Two corruption scandals – the Sh20 billion Goldenberg affair he inherited from the Kanu regime and the Anglo Leasing style schemes which have seen some Sh.6.7 billion looted from the public purse under his own administration – have shaken Mr Kibaki's Government to the core.

They have already forced the resignations of ministers David Mwiraria (Finance) George Saitoti (Education) and Kiraitu Murungi (Energy), and seen Mr Kibaki's loyal Transport minister Chris Murungaru dropped when the Cabinet was rebuilt following the Government's defeat in last November's referendum on a new Constitution.

Now the President faces an uphill task as he enters the home stretch of his first term in office, with elections barely 19 months away.

A chronology of events over the three years of his administration so far, demonstrates the dramatic change in his fortunes.

First a strong National Rainbow Coalition sweeps into power on a wave of public euphoria.

Yet all too soon Mr Kibaki reneges on the Memorandum of Understanding which set out power sharing with his coalition partners.

Mr Kibaki then tries to form a Government of National Unity, which leads to cries that he is trying to revert to a one-party Government with no effective Opposition.

Next he tries – and conspicuously fails – to introduce a new Constitution. In spite of the draft having his authority behind it, it is overwhelmingly rejected in the national referendum held last November. And to rub salt in the wound, opposition is led by the very people he had brought into his Cabinet as part of his election-winning coalition.

To cap it all, the his big coalition partner – the Liberal Democratic Party – walks out of Government and announces it will fight him at the next General Election.

Throughout the past two years the Government has been bedevilled by accusations of grand corruption: by MPs, foreign envoys – notably those from the United Kingdom and the United States – and finally, and most damning of all, by the very man the President appointed as his ethics watchdog, Mr John Githongo.

Untimely deaths

Also along the way the President loses a series of key allies through their untimely deaths: ministers Mohamed Khalif (Labour), Geoffrey Parpai (Office of President), Vice-President Michael Wamalwa, and Emmanuel Karisa Maitha (Tourism).

The series of tragedies began just a few days following the announcement of his first Cabinet and after the swearing in of the President on December 30, 2002 before a mammoth crowd in Uhuru Park.

Basking in the glamour of a Narc victory that ended 40 years of Kanu in power, ministers and Narc MPs staged feasts, popularly called homecomings, in their constituencies – normally to take bendera (flag) home.

Mr Khalif was killed on January 24, only three weeks into his administration following a plane crash in Busia. The chartered aircraft was to fly ministers and Narc MPs back to Nairobi after attending a homecoming victory party at the home of Vice-President Moody Awori.

Mr Khalif was a key member of the original united Opposition, the National Alliance (Party) of Kenya and the President's pointman in North Eastern Province. He had played a pivotal role in marshalling support in the region ahead of the 2002 General Election.

The deaths of Mr Maitha and Mr Parpai, both through illnesses, left the President without strong pointmen in Coast and the South Rift.

The loss of these three key pointmen was seen in the swing against the Constitution in these areas in the national referendum.

And even before Vice-President Michael Wamalwa died in a London hospital, he was already sensing cracks within Narc.

During a retreat for the party's MPs in Nanyuki he warned that if the same team were to be subjected to another General Election, voters would not elect them.

Mr Wamalwa said then: "I am speaking very frankly today because I want us to be frank with each other, not to be clever with each other by playing some cards above the table while hiding dangerous ones below the table."

The death of Mr Wamalwa, one of the Big Three NAK founders with the President (the other was Health Minister Charity Ngilu) left a big dent in the Government.

Besides being President Kibaki's deputy, Mr Wamalwa was widely regarded as a moderator and someone who could have been a peacemaker to heal the rift emerging between LDP and NAK politicians.

But Mr Kibaki's troubles had begun even before the General Election. His car was involved in an accident with a matatu, in which the matatu driver was killed, as the then Opposition leader was returning from a campaign tour of Ukambani.

Mr Kibaki, who suffered head and leg injuries, seemed to take a long time to recover.

Both his friends and political foes agree that the accident was a set back but they also say the President's hands-off style of administration has contributed to a lot of his troubles.

Lang'ata MP Raila Odinga, one of the strong pillars who helped propel the President to power with the declaration "Kibaki tosha " (Kibaki is suitable) at an election rally said: "Some of Kibaki's misfortunes have to do with his character traits while some are self-inflicted."

He went on: "Those who know him say he fears taking difficult decisions because he does not want to hurt anybody and that has cost him some of the strongest friends who helped him get the Presidency."

Mr Odinga added that the campaign crash had taken a toll on his health.

"The Kibaki we signed an MoU with is not the same Kibaki who was sworn in as President and that cost him friends too," he said.

And because Mr Kibaki fears taking difficult decisions, he said, the President's close associates might have misled him by encouraging him to renege on the pre-election MoU between the Liberal Democratic Party and the National Alliance (Party) of Kenya.

Mandera Central MP Billow Kerrow, now the shadow Finance minister, commented: "The President is a very unlucky politician. If you look at his political history, he was once popular as the Finance minister and was at one time contemplated for a World Bank job but did not make it."

Mr Kerrow recalled that the President's star rose after the death of founding President Jomo Kenyatta, when his successor, President Daniel arap Moi, had no choice but to make him his V-P, but then demoted him before taking the top job.

That, he said, forced Mr Kibaki into opposition and he remained in the cold for a long time before helping to create Narc and sweeping to power in 2002.

Wheel chair

The leader of the official Opposition, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, acknowledged that everyone in the country sympathised with the President when he suffered his car accident and was confined to a wheel chair.

Thereafter, he said, he became well and should have taken the mantle as Head of State and led firmly from the front.

"After everything is said, he is the Head of State and the buck stops with the President," he added.

Mr Kenyatta recalled that President Kibaki went to State House with immense good will.

"But now look at the failure of the referendum, corruption and his Narc coalition has broken up; he has simply lost it and it would be too difficult to regain," he said.

Eldama Ravine MP Musa Sirma said: "The President should move closer to his creator and that is why he is now going to church."

As to where he went wrong, Mr Sirma observed: "The President is listening too much to his friends and forgetting that Kenya is greater than friends."

Mr Sirma thinks that good luck put President Kibaki into power and that perhaps he was not properly prepared for the office.

However, Local Government minister Musikari Kombo said that although the President's tenure has been hit by misfortunes, the gains made in the last three years should not be swept aside.

"In spite of all what has happened to his Presidency he has managed to steer the economy, revive institutions and provide free primary education," he said.

Mr Kombo said the strength of a government should be gauged by the state of the country's economy which President Kibaki has boosted.

But former National Heritage minister Najib Balala said the administration had been hit by a jinx he attributed to what he called the President's own bad intentions.

"When he reneged on the pre-election MoU, he went to the enemy Kanu and Ford Perople thinking they would help him crash LDP and this has not been successful ... I can only sympathise with his plight," he said.

Mr Balala said it was a pity the hopes of Kenyans had before elections were shattered and he blamed the people around the President for not helping him to come out of it.

But he blamed President Kibaki himself for not having realised that times had changed and the country had a different generation which formed the majority of the population.

"He lived in era of the past where Kenyatta and Moi did things with impunity without realising that we are living in an era where questions must be asked and answers got," he said.

And on what President Kibaki ought to do, Mr Balala said: "He must rise to a statesmanship, be genuine and not vindictive so as to leave a legacy as having been the leader who put in place institutions to fight against corruption."

The Government of National Unity, which he formed in March 2004 has not helped the President either. Key partners Mr Odinga, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, Prof Anyang Nyong'o, Mr William ole Ntimama and Mrs Linah Kilimo walked out of the coalition with the LDP, leaving the President with a shaky coalition whose remaining partners are Mr Kombo's Ford Kenya and Mrs Ngilu's National Party of Kenya.

The task he faces is in the remaining 19 months of his administration is uphill all the way: to revitalise his National Rainbow Coalition, energise his Government, and smash corruption once and for all, to demonstrate that he has lived up to his fine words at his swearing-in as President:

"Corruption will now cease to be a way of life in Kenya, and I call upon all those members of government and public officers accustomed to corrupt practices to know and clearly understand that there will be no sacred cows under my Government."