Azimio leader Raila Odinga in a phone call during Azimio Parliamentary Group Presser at Kalonzo Command Centre

Azimio leader Raila Odinga in a phone call during Azimio Parliamentary Group Presser at Kalonzo Command Centre, Nairobi on April 4, 2023. His chief agent in the August 9, 2022 presidential election, Mr Saitabao Ole Kanchory, has lifted the lid on the behind-the-scenes chaos, power struggles and infighting among top campaign managers that could have cost him the presidency.

| Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

Why Baba is not the 5th: How ‘Tower of Babel’ team led by Muhoho Kenyatta cost Raila top job

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party leader Raila Odinga’s chief agent in the August 9, 2022 presidential election, Mr Saitabao Ole Kanchory, has lifted the lid on the behind-the-scenes chaos, power struggles and infighting among top campaign managers that could have cost him the presidency.  

Mr Kanchory in his newly released book, “Why Baba is not The 5th”, describes the coalition’s election command centre that was under then President Uhuru Kenyatta’s younger brother, Mr Muhoho Kenyatta, as a tower of babel, revealing an alleged cold war between former Information and Communication Technology Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru and former Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho.

Remained disinterested

The book talks of how some of Mr Kenyatta’s senior government officials remained disinterested in campaigning for Mr Odinga.

He says some of the former CSs and other top government officials felt they would not make it to Mr Odinga’s inner circle ahead of other people who were already close to him.

Some also felt sidelined after the former Prime Minister unveiled his partial Cabinet — that excluded them — the day he named his running mate Martha Karua at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC).

Opportunity to make money

He claims that a majority of the top officials resorted to using the campaign period to make money in readiness for going home because of the feeling that they were unlikely to make it to Mr Odinga’s government.

He gave an instance where a visitor to one of the former CSs came across a stack of cash in his office.

“The fact that these top officials, some of whom were expected to deliver a Raila presidency, were not guaranteed a place in Raila’s government meant the campaigns and the ancillary operations, like the command centre, offered the last chance to shore up their financial standing,” reads excerpts of the 139-page book.

Stacks of cash

“The campaigns, therefore, gave them the much-needed opportunity to make money. A visitor to the office of one of the CSs was shocked to see that the CS kept his otherwise-public office under lock and key. When the CS let him into the office, it soon became clear why. This obviously highly trusted guest had to walk on stacks of cash to get to the CS’s desk,” he claims in the book.

Mr Kanchory has also placed Azimio Secretary-General Junet Mohammed and Mr Odinga’s presidential campaign spokesperson Makua Mutua at the centre of the “confusion and disorganisation” at its command centre that was located in Westlands. The two have in the past fought back claims they were among those who bungled Mr Odinga’s presidential campaigns.

Mr Kanchory links some of the top officials to the confusion that marred the deployment of agents and the “collapse of the command centre” that left the coalition with no backup data on the presidential results declared at the polling stations.

Mr Saitabao Ole Kanchory addresses journalists at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi

Mr Saitabao Ole Kanchory addresses journalists at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi while flanked by senior figures in the Azimio coalition on August 15, 2022.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

“The confusion at the command centre had been made worse by endless infighting and internal wrangles within the Azimio family. These turf wars found their way into the sensitive issue of agents, with every Azimio strongman and woman insisting they must be the ones to provide the list of presidential agents,” Mr Kanchory says in his book.

Had no training

He says the list of agents was changed several times, including on the morning of the elections. Some of the agents who had been trained by the coalition were also rejected by some top officials. This saw the coalition deploy agents who had no training. The claims on the deployment of agents corroborate similar assertions made by some Azimio officials immediately after the elections.

In a previous interview, an official who worked with the Azimio secretariat as a county liaison officer had told Nation the confusion on the deployment of agents made the coalition have no agents in several polling stations, a loophole that opened an avenue for possible rigging.

“We had a good programme before it backfired. We trained the agents and prepared them on how to handle the elections. We even made a down payment of Sh1,500 and were to pay them Sh5,000 each.”

“But on the eve of the elections, one of the top officials, a close ally of Mr Odinga, messed up the plan. It was a scenario where you have trained people, let’s say 1,500, in a constituency, then he comes and asks, ‘How did you find these people?’” the source said.

Mr Odinga has in the past defended his campaign managers, insisting that election results were manipulated at the national tallying centre at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi.

Equally edged out

“It is absolutely rubbish when someone claims that I lost the presidential election because of lack of enough agents. Our votes were stolen at the national tallying centre, not at the polling station. There was nothing wrong on our side,” he said last December in a televised interview.

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga acknowledge greetings from Luanda and Kisumu City residents on February 11, 2023.

Photo credit: OFPP

Mr Kanchory lists Mr Muhoho, Mr Mohamed, Mr Mucheru and Prof Mutua as key people in the running of the election nerve centre that was located in Westlands. 

The book talks of how Azimio chief executive officer Elizabeth Meyo was sidelined despite spending most of her time at the command centre.

Orange Democratic Movement Executive Director Oduor Ongwen was equally edged out from the nerve centre after being accused of running a parallel operation. He later kept off the operations in protest.

Kept at arm’s length

The command centre was initially located in Lavington before it was moved. The new place was reportedly provided by Mr Muhoho. Previous interviews with officials who worked with the secretariat indicated that the command centre occupied the entire third floor of the office block.

The centre was described as impressive-looking and fully equipped. Also kept at arm’s length in the operations at the nerve centre were Mr Odinga’s lawyer Paul Mwangi as well as Prof Isaiah Kindiki and Dr Caroline Karugu, who served as deputy chief agents of Mr Odinga.

“MK (Muhoho Kenyatta) was our host at the Westlands-based command centre and ostensibly the man who carried the big purse. He chaired all strategy meetings whenever he was present,” he writes.

Appeared genuine

Mr Kanchory describes Mr Muhoho as “possibly one of the most intelligent and focused people” he has met and adds that he appeared genuine and seemed to mean well for Mr Odinga in the election.

Azimio leaders Raila Odinga (centre), Martha Karua, Opiyo Wandayi, Junet Mohammed TJ Kajwang and Makau Mutua consult with MPs at County Hall Nairobi on November 24, 2022, after the hearing of a petition to remove four IEBC commissioners.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

“I shall never understand how such a brilliant person could be so easily fooled. To this day, I am unable to fully figure out this guy,” he says in the book. He says that two days before the August 9 polls, Mr Muhoho asked him about Mr Odinga’s prospects of winning. He looked worried.

Initially, Dr Kibicho was the one calling the shots at the command centre before Mr Mucheru took the reins.

During Dr Kibicho’s time, Mr Kanchory says, the team was focused and results-oriented and had clear targets. All this while, however, there had been a silent push-and-pull pitting Dr Kibicho against Mr Mucheru.

“The day it became clear PS Kibicho had been ousted from the centre of operations was when Muhoho unilaterally announced, in the middle of one of our meetings, that Prof Mutua would henceforth be in charge of the command centre,” he says.

The book adds: “With Kibicho effectively out of the way and Prof Mutua placed in the middle of a dysfunctional entity, Mucheru would take centre stage.”

Vested interests

He describes Mr Mohammed as a man who had vested interests in the polls. Mr Mohammed kept everyone away from Mr Odinga as a way of maintaining his relevance.

Mr Kanchory proceeds to cast doubt on Prof Mutua’s commitment to Mr Odinga’s victory. He says that, in one of their conversations, he asked Prof Mutua what role he would want to play in Mr Odinga’s presidency.

“In the chaos of a crumbling command centre, the Suny Distinguished Professor who had earlier been placed in overall command ended up being a blind, deaf, mute, lame mouse that sees no evil, hears no evil, says no evil and does no evil. One thing I never once saw in Prof Mutua was a burning desire to win the election,” he says in the book.

Electoral fraud

He says Azimio could have been able to forestall any electoral fraud had its command centre worked according to plan.
“There is little doubt the shambolic and deeply compromised Azimio Command Centre is what cost Raila his victory in the 2022 presidential race. The catastrophic collapse of our command centre meant we were now basically flying blind,” he explains.

The book also dismisses talk that the West conspired against Mr Odinga and favoured President William Ruto. Mr Kanchory says some of the issues they raised against the Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission (IEBC) were hinted to them by some of the foreign missions in the country.

He says some of the foreign countries could have taken a position on the election but it was not a unanimous conspiracy against Mr Odinga.