President Uhuru Kenyatta (centre), Deputy President William Ruto (left) and opposition leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga during the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report launch in Nairobi.

| File | Nation Media Group

Ruto is making same political mistakes that Raila made, says Kibaki insider

What you need to know:

  • Mr Waweru was at the centre of the euphoric 2002 Narc campaigns that swept Kanu out of power.
  • He says Mr Odinga would perhaps have been the fifth president had he not started campaigning while President Kibaki was still in office.

Away from his accounting exploits at leading auditing firm Ernst and Young through his star performance at Kenya Revenue Authority, Michael Gitau Waweru is also a political animal who has played key, if behind-the-scenes, roles in Kenya’s politics since the return of multipartyism in 1992.

An early admirer of Mwai Kibaki, whom he first met in the 1980s when the latter was vice president and he a manager of the firm in his capacity as an auditor, Mr Waweru has donated to, and helped fundraise for, all the leader’s three presidential bids.

He was at the centre of the euphoric 2002 campaigns that swept Kanu out of power, and reveals the Opposition’s hitherto untold strategies, which included a parallel tallying centre based at one of the country’s largest media houses. He also sensationally reveals that he warned the Kenyatta family about William Ruto’s strategy in Mt Kenya long before the last General Elections, and that the Deputy President’s ambitions mirror those of ODM leader Raila Odinga during the Kibaki era.

This and other political machinations running up to the 2017 elections and beyond are contained in a new illuminating memoir, Kenya’s Tax Czar, An Autobiography of MG Waweru. Published by Kenway Publications, an imprint of East African Educational Publishers (EAEP), the new book paints the picture of a meticulous mobiliser who once seized of an ideapushes it with a stubborn doggedness.

Waweru’s political activity straddles both the Kibaki and Uhuru eras, serving at different times as Jubilee national election board member and the executive director of Gema, whose financial arm is the Mount Kenya Foundation. The Gema outfit is a constellation of wealthy elders from Central Kenya who wield immense power in the political direction of the region.

The golfer also discusses the seismic shift in the politics of the region in recent years, becoming one of the first Uhuru confidantes to trace it to Deputy President William Ruto’s maneuvers in the Jubilee nominations of 2017. Waweru believes that the DP “planted his allies” to oversee primaries in the region purposely to ensure they went in his favour.

He particularly takes issue with Ruto stalwarts Leah Ntimama and Vesca Kangogo’s involvement in Laikipia, Nyeri, Nyandarua and Nakuru counties, a matter he says he raised with President Kenyatta’s younger brother, Muhoho, to no avail.

“The offer by Leah to assist Vesca in Nakuru made me suspect that the DP wanted to control the politics of Central Kenya. I called Muhoho Kenyatta and conveyed my suspicions. He told me he would investigate and revert to me, but I never heard from him again.”

Ms Ntimama and Ms Kangogo are Ruto’s close confidantes who go back their United Republican Party (URP) days.

Overshadow the President

Waweru says very few MPs in the region are now independent of the DP, and that all his supporters replaced all elected leaders in Kirinyaga in the 2017 election.

“Is there any wonder, then, that a few years later the President was playing catchup in his own backyard? William Ruto is a very clever person. He is a good student of Moi, but he forgot that in the 11 years Moi served as Jomo Kenyatta’s deputy he never once tried to overshadow the President.”

He continues: “I would have expected Ruto to always show respect for Uhuru since it is he who had actually made him acceptable in Central Kenya.”

Writing from a rearview mirror, aware that the book will be read long after the current political epoch will have passed, he says: “So, what did Ruto stands for? This was likely to become clearer as we moved towards the Election Day in 2022, but I would be very wary of him. As Deputy President he had an unmatched war chest, making him a frontrunner in the presidential race.”

Waweru, however, restrains from declaring outright preference, or opposition, to Ruto’s 2022 bid or that of the other perceived frontrunner, Raila Odinga, or indeed any other aspirant, choosing instead to analyse them as a scientist would a specimen in the lab.

Regarding Mr Odinga, whom he credits for Kibaki’s win in 2002, Waweru contends that he would have become the fourth President had he been patient enough, and had the Head of State’s health not degenerated sometime in 2003.

Then he throws in a sensational claim: “Although Matere Keriri, Chris Murungaru and Mary Wambui protected the President when he was in hospital, I was later told that Raila managed to break the security cordon and saw him. I believe that the prognosis the doctors gave indicated that we would have another presidential election in less than six months. Raila started campaigning and eventually reached a point of no return.”

The he asks rhetorically: “Would I elect him President in 2022? Raila would be 77 in 2022. Age has a way of making people become mellow and moderate their extreme views, but still, I would wait and see what happens nearer to the actual date.”

A member of the National Rainbow Coalition’s Presidential Election Board (PEB), Mr Waweru was in the heat of things and reports on those heady days from an actor-participant perspective.

Narc's campaign activities

Other members of the group that coordinated all the campaign activities and reported only to the highest political leadership were George Muhoho, Peter Kanyago, Solomon Karanja, Nathaniel Kang’ethe, Eddie Njoroge, Nick Wanjohi, Wanjuki Muchemi, and Titus Mbathi.

Despite the overwhelming support the united Opposition had garnered in the country, the PEB did not leave anything to chance and laid down elaborate yet secret plans for parallel tallying which went ahead to deliver results well ahead of the electoral commission.

It helped that, unlike in past elections, results from the polling station were final in the 2002 polls, a move that helped prevent vote stuffing that often took place as the ballots were ferried to the tallying centre.

“The National Rainbow Coalition set up a parallel vote-tallying centre at the offices of Royal Media Services (RMS). RMS got a grant from donors to set up the tallying centre, a TV studio that RMS repurposed by installing computers and 100 telephone lines,” writes Waweru.

The station then hired 100 people who secretly went for training at a hotel in Mombasa in readiness for keying in data into the system in order to track the results of every polling station countrywide.

“On election day our agents at every polling station would transmit raw data on vote counts to the RMS studios throughout the night. That would make it harder for the Electoral Commission of Kenya to tamper with the numbers since we would detect the anomaly instantly.

“Samuel Macharia, better known as S K Macharia — the proprietor of RMS — told me they had to install the telephone lines in secret to avoid alerting the government about the tallying centre’s existence. The training of the tallying centre staff in Mombasa was also done in secret. On the day before the election RMS transported them from Mombasa to its offices at night, arriving at its studios at 3am.”

All these plans had been thrown into disarray, at least temporarily, when on December 3, barely three weeks to the General Election, Kibaki was involved in an accident at the Machakos turnoff, some 50 kilometres outside Nairobi.

Raila's role in Kibaki's win

Waweru credits Raila Odinga for ensuring that the National Rainbow Coalition, which swept Kibaki to power, remained on track. “Raila rallied the troops and told us the captain is injured but the troops must play on. It was largely due to his efforts that we stayed on track.”

Besides the scare and anguish that the near-fatal accident inflicted on a nation on the cusp of change, the incident had another effect: “Kibaki’s family flew him to London on December 5 for further treatment and that did not help our funding situation. Perhaps people were waiting to see if Kibaki would recover, but for whatever reason donations to the campaign slowed down.”

Waweru reveals that after finances took a hit some leaders gave the election board a difficult time, saying they were not given enough money to campaign. He singles out Mr Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka for “their focus.”

“Here, again, I admired Raila’s attitude. When given a task he did not ask for money. He just went out and executed it. It was largely due to his efforts after the accident that Narc won the 2002 election.”

He says after the election on December 27, 2002 the parallel vote tallying went on as planned.

“I drove back to Nairobi and headed for the tallying centre at RMS studios. I stayed there until the wee hours of the morning monitoring the results as they started streaming in. My children Gitau and Maina were also working at the tallying centre.”

He writes that as earlier planned, they did not wait for results confirmation from ECK.

“We went ahead to announce the results from the various polling stations as soon as the returning officers confirmed them to the party agents witnessing the vote count.”

In the end Kibaki won the election with 61.3 per cent of the vote to Uhuru’s 30.2 per cent. Simeon Nyachae of Ford-People came third at 6.5 per cent.