Kinyua orders monitoring of external funding for opposition chiefs

Mathira parliamentary aspirant Rigathi Gachagua’s campaign vehicles drive through Karatina town on April 19, 2017. The Campaign Financing Act will come into force in 2022. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • The Central Bank of Kenya has also put in place stringent rules on the deposit and withdrawal of funds.
  • Jubilee accused the United States of indirectly trying to help the opposition win the presidential elections.

The government is tightening the noose on all monies coming in from abroad to support political campaigns with the opposition Nasa crying foul that its efforts to mobilise funds were being targeted. 

The Sunday Nation has learnt that a multi-agency meeting chaired by the Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua on Thursday at Harambee House resolved to closely monitor the interactions between the political parties and foreign donors, with more focus inevitably on Nasa.

Coincidentally, it happened while Nasa presidential flag-bearer Raila Odinga was scheduled to meet some of the potential financiers on the sidelines of his tour of Jerusalem.

The committee led by Mr Kinyua comprises officials from the Treasury, the National Intelligence Service (NIS), the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, and representatives from the Kenya Revenue Authority among others.

After Jerusalem, Mr Odinga travelled to Dubai. He returned to the country yesterday ahead of a Nasa rally in Nakuru today.

Sources familiar with the deliberations at the Harambee House meeting said Tanzania is one such country on the government’s radar.

During the endorsement of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President Uhuru Kenyatta as the Jubilee candidates, Majority Leader in the National Assembly Aden Duale claimed that President John Magufuli’s government had offered to host the opposition’s parallel presidential vote-tallying centre.

He, however, did not provide any evidence. 

The foreign fundraising efforts, according to an individual with first-hand knowledge of Nasa’s presidential campaign budget, is meant to supplement what has been raised locally to facilitate what is expected to be one of the most expensive elections in Kenya’s history.  

ODM treasurer and Kitutu Masaba MP Timothy Bosire, who sits in the coalition’s resource mobilisation team, said their projection may see external support account for up to 30 per cent of the campaign budget, which he declined to disclose.

“We will accept help from our friends abroad as long as it is done within the law. Whether such help comes or not, we are sure to mount one of the best-financed and organised campaigns in this part of the world,” he said.

Mr Kenyatta’s administration has reportedly given stern instructions to all financial institutions, including all the banks, to be on the lookout for any suspicious money that finds its way into the country.

The central role of the Financial Reporting Centre (FRC), a government institution created by the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act, means that activities of Nasa are monitored round the clock.

Yesterday, Government Spokesman Eric Kiraithe told the Sunday Nation that they were closely following contacts between any Kenyan and foreign powers as well as individuals ahead of the polls.

However, he denied that any particular political side was under more scrutiny than the other.

“We are keen to ensure that the Elections Finance Act is adhered to,” he said.

However, Parliament suspended the application of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act number 1 of 2017.

The Campaign Financing Act will come into force in 2022.

Yesterday, the IEBC Chief Executive officer Ezra Chiloba said the implication of Parliament’s move was that the financing arena was now free-for-all.

Better endowed candidates will, therefore, have an upper hand.

“There will be no limits in terms of campaign budgets and expenditure,” he said.

The Campaign Financing Act had banned foreigners from making cash contributions to a political party but allows parties to get “technical assistance” from a “foreign agency, or a “foreign political party, which shares an ideology” with a Kenyan-registered party.

The Central Bank of Kenya has also put in place stringent rules on the deposit and withdrawal of funds, with those making transactions of Sh1 million and above required to provide details on the source or use of the money.  

Siaya Senator James Orengo said they were not worried about the stringent financial regulations even as they reach out for external support.

“We are well aware of the realities of the law that we must live with. But don’t be mistaken, the overriding goodwill among Kenyans who are choking under Jubilee’s misrule is a more potent weapon for us,” he said.

Talk has been rife that Jubilee had outsmarted Mr Odinga and took over some of his wealthy friends from west Africa, especially Nigeria, since 2013.

This was given credence by a visit by then Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to Kenya in 2013 accompanied by some of the country’s wealthy investors.

Subsequently, Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, said he was keen to set up a cement manufacturing factory. But the plans were later shelved.

Some of Mr Odinga’s close Nigerian friends are former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuany.

He is also closely associated with South African vice-president Cyril Ramaphosa.

Mr Odinga is said to be re-activating contacts that hoisted him in the 2007 campaigns to match or near that scale.

Jubilee has never hidden its unease over the prospects of the opposition getting any foreign assistance in the campaigns.

Late last year, Deputy President William Ruto castigated Mr Odinga for reaching out to Western powers to assist the Opposition in the developing world.

“In 2013, these people got their friends in the West to try and influence our elections by filing cases against the President and I at the International Criminal Court, but Kenyans saw right through that plan and rejected it.

"Kenyans made it clear that they are the ones to choose their leaders.

"Similarly, in 2017, it is for Kenyans to decide their own elected leaders; it will not be the West or the money from the West,” he said.

The DP was responding to Mr Odinga’s plea for foreign funding of Opposition political parties in a London Political Summit last October.

On Wednesday, Jubilee accused the United States of indirectly trying to help the opposition win the presidential elections.

The government was reacting to the scaling back of support for programmes in the ministry of Health worth Sh2.1 billion by the US Ambassador Robert Godec due to graft.

Jubilee Party vice-chairman David Murathe argues that the timing of the announcement was suspect.

“Clearly, we see an agenda in this. Why didn’t the US do this last year when reports of loss of funds at the Health ministry first came out?

"We have heard talk about food riots or Unga (flour) revolution but this will just remain that, talk,” he said.

Conservative estimates suggest that Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, running against each other in the same formations, used in excess of Sh10 billion each in 2013.

A close ally of Mr Odinga’s told the Sunday Nation that no penny will be spared in their attempt to win the elections.

“This will be the best resourced campaign ever. It will be intensive and extensive,” the source said.

But even as they solicit more funds, Nasa, just like Jubilee, is raring to go.

There has, for example, been an initial procurement of 47 off-road vehicles for use in each of the counties.

This will come to about 200 as the country gets to the homestretch.

Additionally, each of the principals will have a helicopter at his disposal at any given time, supplemented by at least three fixed wing planes.

They are also dividing the country into 14 distinct regions according to the Bomas Draft Constitution of 2005 defeated in a referendum that year for ease of coordination in what will be further divided into five clusters to be manned by each of the principals.

Both Jubilee and Nasa are receiving support from foreign firms.

Vanguard Africa, an American NGO, says it will support opposition candidates while Cambridge Analytica, a firm that supported President Trump’s election, has been retained by Jubilee.