Then President Uhuru Kenyatta speaking at the Chatham House in London on April 18, 2018. 


'Choices have consequences': How Uhuru endured embarrassment from Western powers

What you need to know:

  • In his book, A Moving Horizon, Francis Muthaura lifts the lid on an incident when then UK Prime Minister David Cameron isolated then President Uhuru Kenyatta from a meeting with other African leaders.

Former Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura has revealed the embarrassment then President Uhuru Kenyatta endured from the Western powers due to the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment.

In his just released book, A Moving Horizon, Mr Muthaura has lifted the lid on an incident when then UK Prime Minister David Cameron isolated Mr Kenyatta from a meeting in London with other African leaders. The meeting was convened by Mr Cameron to discuss the Somalia and South Sudan crises.

It was after the African Union (AU) threatened to boycott the meeting that Mr Kenyatta was invited. He was, however, given a lukewarm reception in London, according to Mr Muthaura.

This, even, as he exposed attempts by two witnesses to extort Mr Kenyatta Sh50 million over an alleged incriminating evidence that linked him to the outlawed Mungiki sect’s killings at the height of 2008 post-election violence.

The two witnesses are said to have first approached Mr Kenyatta’s defence team with an offer of information that would help them defeat the charges against him. They asked for Sh30 million, which the defence team declined, according to Mr Muthaura.

The two later prepared a document in an attempt to blackmail Mr Kenyatta, Mr Muthaura and Major General Ali into giving them Sh50 million.

In the document, they linked the trio to Mungiki, and how former Cabinet Minister John Michuki allegedly gave out many weapons to be distributed to the members of the proscribed group. The witnesses wanted Sh50 million or else they would provide the evidence to ICC Chief Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo.

They alleged that Mr Michuki had, in mid-January 2008, given out many weapons to Mr Gitau – a human rights activist.

The document stated that Mr Gitau was murdered by unknown persons after he had already distributed the weapons to his Mungiki network. They claimed that the weapons were still hidden by the Mungiki sect and would be availed to the ICC investigators as evidence to nail them.

“After the first appearance of the suspects at The Hague, where the charges against each of the suspects were preferred, we came back to prepare our perspective defences. It was during this time, that two individuals, who later became Prosecutor Witnesses 11 and 12, approached Kenyatta’s defence team to volunteer information in support of Uhuru’s defence. They wanted to be paid Sh30 million to provide the information,” Mr Muthaura reveals in his memoir.

“The two witnesses increased their tariff by preparing another document, which was seeking to blackmail Kenyatta, Maj General Hussein Ali and myself to pay Sh50 million, failure to which the two would go to the prosecution with the evidence,” he discloses.

On December 15, 2010, former ICC prosecutor Ocampo named six Kenyans suspected to have masterminded the 2007/2008 post-election violence that left 1,133 people dead.

Among those named were Mr Kenyatta, Mr Muthaura, Mr William Ruto, former Police Commissioner Ali, former Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey and radio journalist Joshua Sang.

Mr Ocampo applied for two cases before the ICC on the post-election violence and included Mr Ruto, Mr Kosgey and Mr Sang in the first case accusing the trio of crimes against humanity, including murder, forcible transfer of population and persecution.

In the second case, Mr Muthaura, Mr Kenyatta and Major Gen. (Rtd) Ali were also accused of related offences.

The 456-page book talks about how Western diplomats ganged up against Mr Kenyatta and his then running mate Ruto’s 2013 presidential bid.

“They literally campaigned against the election of Mr Kenyatta as President and Dr Ruto, for Deputy President-both on trial at the ICC. They made every effort behind the scenes to have the two barred from running for the offices during the March 2013 General Election,” says Muthaura.

In the run-up to the polls, then US Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson warned Kenyan voters that “choices have consequences” in reference to electing Mr Kenyatta and Dr Ruto over the charges related to the 2007/08 post-election violence.

“We as the United States do not have a candidate or a choice in the elections. However, choices have consequences; we live in an interconnected world and people should be thoughtful about the impact their choices have on their nation, economy and the world,” he added.

Then British Prime Minister David Cameron. 

Then British Prime Minister David Cameron. 

Photo credit: File | AFP

Mr Muthaura’s account of frustration of the candidature of Dr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta have in the past been corroborated by other political players.

In his book, Soaring above the Storms of Passion, Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi revealed how Dr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta approached him in the run up to the 2013, offering to back him for presidency. The two wanted Mr Mudavadi to be their joint presidential candidate against ODM leader Raila Odinga.

“In short they were asking me to join them in the election effort. They were concerned that the ICC saga could come in their way. A quick one-page memo of understanding was drawn. We agreed to dialogue further and flesh out a detailed memorandum,” Mr Mudavadi recalls in the book.

Mr Kenyatta would after two days recant the deal through the famous ‘Madimoni’ (demons) remarks.

He writes: “We understood we were the demons. I have often wondered how we became demons when we never invited anybody into our space to ask them to step down for us.”

Dr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta had also approached Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka with a similar deal, where the former vice president would be the presidential candidate and Mr Kenyatta his running mate.

"Mr Musyoka by nature is very casual in his talk, so he just said your case is not that bad, I have studied ICC's case and evidence and I confirmed that you people will be jailed for around ten years," Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale said in a recent interview.

Dr Francis Muthaura receives a portrait at Serena Hotel in Nairobi

Dr Francis Muthaura receives a portrait at Serena Hotel in Nairobi during a celebration of his contribution to public service on July 22, 2022. 

Photo credit: File

According to Mr Muthaura, the West kept Mr Kenyatta at arm’s length after winning the elections.

“The position taken by the western countries was perhaps best summed up by the British Foreign Secretary-William Hague, and former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs-Johnnie Carson, when they said after the two were elected, that diplomatic contact with the ICC suspects, would remain restricted to only essential business,” he says.

But Mr Kenyatta during his swearing-in would state that his ‘government would deal with governments and leaders who wanted to work with him and his government as equals for the mutual benefit of Kenya and their respective countries.’

He would later visit friendly countries including Russia, China and Japan in June 2013.

He said when UK Prime Minister David Cameron invited African leaders to London for a meeting to discuss the Somalia and South Sudan crises, Mr Kenyatta was not invited.

“Initially, the invitation did not include the Kenyan President. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, who was the chairman of the African Union (AU), responded by informing the UK Prime Minister that the African leaders would not attend the meeting without the Kenyan leader,” he recalls.

Mr Muthaura says he would later initiate engagement with three critical Western envoys in Nairobi – the US Ambassador Robert Godec, the UK High Commissioner Christian Turner and the German Ambassador Margit Hellwig-Boette.

Subsequently, the diplomats went quiet about the ICC case and started warming up to Mr Kenyatta’s administration even before the cases were withdrawn.

Mr Kenyatta would later charm his way into the international scene by morphing from a near-pariah to a darling of the Western powers, hobnobbing with world leaders at global conferences and assuming major regional roles.

In December 2014, then ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda withdrew the charges against Mr Kenyatta, freeing him from the yoke that had dented his reputation on the international scene.

He went on to be hosted by his counterparts in the United Kingdom and United States, among other superpowers that had shunned him, opening a new chapter in his presidency that saw him make frequent overseas trips to either represent Kenya or the region.

Mr Kenyatta was first hosted by former US President Barack Obama in August 2014, way before his ICC cases were dropped.

He would later host President Obama in 2015. Both ex-President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden have hosted Mr Kenyatta at the White House.

During his tenure, Mr Kenyatta also held talks on several occasions with Queen Elizabeth II and former UK Prime Ministers Theresa May and Boris Johnson, in efforts to improve ties between Nairobi and London.

International relations experts hold that the West had to re-evaluate their position to maintain ties with Kenya, a very strategic partner in the region.

They describe Mr Kenyatta as warm and charming, attributes that made him gel well with other heads of state.

“Once he was sworn as the President, the western countries had to deal with him; and when they met him, they found him charming,” says Prof Macharia Munene, a professor of History and International Relations at United States International University - Africa.

Experts observed that Washington and London could not afford to shun Kenya in its international engagements due to the immense security and business interests.