How Kosgei pulled strings to block US from endorsing Kibaki presidency

President Kibaki with Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Photo/FILE

What you need to know:

  • America’s seniormost diplomat was parachuted to Nairobi at the height of post-election uncertainty to push ODM’s case for a share of power, the PM’s adviser reveals in his book

Cabinet minister Sally Kosgei was drafted in to mobilise her international connections to persuade US government officials not to endorse President Kibaki’s re-election.

The then US assistant secretary of State for African Affairs, Ms Jendayi Frazer, had in January 2008 during a visit to Nairobi recommended that Washington give President Kibaki qualified recognition.

Alarmed by these developments, ODM mobilised Dr Kosgei, a former High Commissioner to London with connections in the diplomatic corps to reverse the recommendation, says

Mr Miguna Miguna, a former adviser of Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Dr Kosgei, now Agriculture minister, was elected Aldai MP in the 2007 elections.

Mr Miguna says in his book that ODM strongly felt that if the US had followed Ms Frazer’s advice, the violence then rocking the country would have worsened.

Ms Frazer met both Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga during her visit.

ODM thus moved quickly to compel the US to retract the suggestion, Miguna writes.

And it was to Dr Kosgei that the party turned to activate her wide network in the diplomatic circles to get the retraction, Miguna says in his book, Peeling Back The Mask: A Quest for Justice in Kenya.

“ODM, through Dr Sally Kosgei, piled pressure on Dr Condoleezza Rice seeking a retraction. We got that, plus more; Rice hastily arranged a tour of Kenya (detouring from a whirlwind trip she had made with President George W. Bush to a few African countries, including Tanzania), where she tried to knock some sense into the PNU,’’ Miguna writes.

Dr Rice, then Secretary of State, said on her visit that the elections did not inspire confidence in Kenyans.

Dr Kosgei, who was also head of the public service during the Kanu regime, is particularly close to Dr Rice.

She studied in the US at the same university where Dr Rice lectured though they were not there at the same time.

Dr Rice started lecturing at Stanford a year after Dr Kosgei left the university.

Dr Rice left the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver with a PhD and joined Stanford as an Assistant Professor of Political Science in 1981.

This was a year after Dr Kosgei had left Stanford with a PhD in African Economic History.

But Dr Kosgei had used her long years of experience in the diplomatic service and as head of the public service under President Moi to make friends with many world leaders.

She was part of the ODM negotiating team in the peace talks mediated by former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan.

Miguna writes of a high stakes diplomatic game as the Orange party tried to reverse what it believed to have been a stolen election.

Dr Colin Bruce, the then World Bank country director, was forced out of Kenya when he tried to lobby for the recognition of President Kibaki among world leaders, he writes.

“Information leaked out that the World Bank country director, Dr Colin Bruce, had met with Patrick Lumumba Otieno and other Kibaki affiliated professionals to draw up a strategy document for the endorsement of Kibaki’s controversial ‘re-election’ by world leaders. ODM swung into action and Bruce was quickly recalled,’’ he writes.

The mixed signals some world leaders were sending appeared to make President Kibaki to dig in and insist that ODM should accept defeat.

This had the effect of making ODM leaders and their supporters even angrier, leading to more chaos.

Miguna writes of a flurry of pressure from eminent African personalities, and from Washington and London, that finally forced the parties to the negotiating table.

Former presidents Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Ketumile Masire of Botswana, President John Kufuor of Ghana and Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu all came to Nairobi to put pressure on Kibaki.

“It was those international interventions that resulted in a mediation process being proposed,’’ Miguna writes.

“After telephone conversations with world leaders — and following unrelenting pressure from Caroli (Omondi), (Mohamed) Isahakia and Dalmas (Otieno) (for their own reasons) — Raila became more and more interested in the idea of sharing power with Kibaki, though the logistics of it all remained hazy,’’ Miguna writes.

Mr Annan was to lead the mediation that resulted in the signing of the National Accord and the formation of the Coalition Government.

Miguna says ODM’s position going into the talks was to demand a re-run while PNU maintained Kibaki had won fairly.

The final compromise position of power sharing in a coalition government was forced on the warring parties by foreign powers.

The United States and Britain used Mr Annan to impose the power sharing solution, Miguna, who was Mr Odinga’s advisor on coalition affairs before a bitter fallout, writes.

Mr Odinga, he claims, abandoned the ODM position as soon as the talks started.

“He (Raila) decided — without explanation or reason — to go for a coalition government, which was what Annan had announced as the “best way forward’’ upon his arrival in Nairobi before he had even held meetings with the parties.

This ‘grand coalition’ idea didn’t emanate from the parties or from the process, it was probably manufactured in Washington or London and delivered by Annan to Kenya; another dubious foreign experiment on Africa!’’

Miguna says that Mr Annan was not chosen by the two parties to the dispute but by the Americans and Britons with the backing of former Ghanaian president Kufuor, who was then chairman of the African Union.

“His (Annan’s) name was first suggested by the US and UK administrations; and had been backed by Kufuor because they were both Ghanaians. Essentially, Kibaki and his PNU cohorts had been bludgeoned into accepting him grudgingly.’’

Raila and ODM’s position before Annan arrived was that there should a presidential re-run, Miguna says in the book.

“Even as we go for mediation, Pentagon should not forget that Kenyans voted for change. Anything short of a re-run will be a fraud...’’

Miguna quotes Raila as telling an ODM strategy retreat at Maasai Lodge.

However, this position, which Miguna described as “logical and focused’’ changed the moment Annan arrived.

Kibaki, on the other side, insisted that he had won fairly and Raila should accept defeat and lead the opposition in Parliament.

Miguna blames Raila’s change of stance on pressure from people around him including Ugenya MP James Orengo and “Kanu orphans preferring even a whiff of power to being left out in the cold.’’

Once Raila had changed his position, he still allowed himself to be shortchanged by Kibaki in the power sharing deal.

The deal, he says, should have included sharing of positions in the civil service. Raila should also have got powerful ministries which Kibaki had already filled in his half cabinet.

Miguna says then US ambassador Michael Ranneberger convinced Raila to accept “departments” in the coalition government “as the first steps to real power sharing; and to give Kibaki time to agree to the sharing of the other positions in government.’’

Miguna accuses Mr Annan of failing to stand up to President Kibaki and the PNU side once the talks started.

With Raila capitulating now and then, this made the ODM side sign a lopsided agreement on February 28, 2008, he writes.

Kibaki and PNU even refused to accept the word “mediation’’, he writes.

“Raila and his team did not have the stamina and fortitude to stand their ground, conceding quickly as would subsequently become their modus operandi.

They didn’t insist on the agenda items we had recommended and that had been unanimously endorsed by the ODM party: that we should demand a re-run as the first and best viable option; joining a ‘unity’, ‘inclusive’ or even ‘coalition government’ was even second or third option.’’