So we follow up on the first article, “The Moi Hand In Museveni’s Kenya Game; And The Political Tremors Shaking Up The Greater Horn Of Africa (Opening Shots)”, examining what interests Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has in Kenya upcoming elections.
In recent months, as we noted, several of the Kenyan politicians vying to succeed President Mwai Kibaki at the next elections either in December or March 2013, have been beating a path to Museveni’s doorstep in Kampala. Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the man opinion polls claim is currently in the lead to win the presidency, has been there. So have Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, Deputy Prime minister and minister of Local Government, Musalia Mudavadi; Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Eldoret North MP William Ruto and Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Eugene Wamalwa.
In the 2007 Kenya general election, some of the progressives in Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) favoured Raila in his heated race against Kibaki. Of course, the final decider would be Museveni. Moi, the man whose instincts Museveni trusts, supported Kibaki against Raila in that election—in part because Raila was closely allied to former minister William Ruto.
The Moi family’s grip on the politics of the vote-rich and populous Rift Valley has been slipping, challenged by a former youth leader of KANU whom he groomed – Ruto. In 2007 Ruto was part of The Pentagon, the co-leadership of Raila’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). He was thus pitted against Moi. Indeed, in that election all Moi’s sons and nephews, including the presumed apple of his eye, Gideon, were trounced. There were many leaders who went to Uganda to meet Museveni then too, but the most decisive visit was by Moi. Moi made a pitch for Kibaki. The rest is history. To the extent that he could help Kibaki, Museveni threw his support behind the Kenyan president.
It was costly for Uganda. Ugandans were attacked, and several Ugandan-registered trucks were attacked and their drivers killed in Kenya during the PEV that closed the supply route from Mombasa to Uganda. In Kibera, Raila’s constituency, youth activists uprooted the railway line to disrupt traffic to Uganda. The ensuing economic crisis was so bad, fuel prices at the pump in Uganda shot up nearly 70% – and several percentage points were knocked off national growth for that year. Museveni’s support for Kibaki undermined him seriously with ODM when he came to Nairobi to try and help in the negotiations between Kibaki and Raila. He gave it one shot, and never returned.
During meetings at that with Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) and Raila’s ODM leaders, one leader – Ruto, particularly bruised Museveni. On the surface, any bad feelings were overcome as the Museveni campaign invited Ruto to attend the launch of his election manifesto in Kampala in early 2011. Now that the Kenyan election is upon us again, and Moi and Ruto are at odds, one can safely take it Museveni attitude towards Ruto will be coloured by that fact.
Which brings us to Museveni’s visit to Bondo in February. First, to the personal elements in this relationship, which is the easy bit. I referred to them in an article in Daily Nation of March 7, 2012, “Museveni Never Liked Or Trusted Raila, And That Is Why They Are Now Friends”. It will be remembered that in 2008, in a speech at Dar es Salaam, when the Kenya-Uganda flap over the minuscule Migingo Island in Lake Victoria was still on, Museveni attacked the “Jaruos” of Kenya because their politicians were launching nasty bards at him in the dispute over the island. Museveni also criticised the “Jaruos” for uprooting the railway to Uganda in Kibera, Raila’s constituency, during the post-election violence. In all this, the real target was seen as Raila.
Yet, as noted in that article, precisely because Raila was Museveni’s “enemy”, he was destined to be the Ugandan Big Man’s good friend. The warrior in Museveni respects fighters and people who stand up to him. He is a man who feels threatened by and attracted to courage in equal measure. In Uganda, historically Museveni has treated the opponents who take up guns against him more seriously than constitutional rivals. Raise an army, go to the bush, and you can be sure he will cut a deal with you to give up the fight, accept a juicy government post, and live happily ever after. Oppose him at an election, criticise him in newspapers or at a seminar, and he will send the police around to beat, arrest, or humiliate you.
After Museveni backed Kibaki in 2007. Raila chose to deal with Museveni using Kaguta’s own rules. He waited until the elections of 2010 to play his Uganda trump card — at least according to what Museveni’s intelligence chiefs say. Former Ugandan diplomat Olara Otunnu, who had been the UN’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, is considered one of the most impressive and clever student leaders Uganda has ever had. The Museveni government seemingly feared him. When in 1996 Otunnu, who had lived in exile and had powerful friends in Western capitals (he was a classmate and roommate at Oxford University with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, with whom he remains close friends), sought to stand for the secretary generalship of the UN, Museveni dealt him a blow. The Ugandan government refused to support his bid. It also declined to renew his passport, forcing Otunnu to take on a Côte d’Ivoire document.
At the end of 2010, Otunnu returned to Uganda through Kenya. In Uganda he won the battle for the leadership of the Uganda People’s Congress and contested for president in 2011 on its ticket. He visited the aspiring Mecca of the East African Luos — Kisumu. Museveni officials believe Raila paid for Otunnu to return to Uganda and funded his campaign, although Otunnu’s people deny this.
In any event, as Raila’s supposed man Otunnu was running against Museveni, the Kenyan PM visited Uganda and stuck a knife in his back when he campaigned briefly for Museveni! Privately Raila was talking down the chances of the Opposition against Museveni (including Otunnu), saying they had drunk electoral poison by refusing to unite.
Raila’s aim, it would seem, was to fire a warning shot across Museveni’s bow, not to defeat him. In the end, Otunnu lost his shirt in the election. Raila had played a classic Musevenisque game. Museveni seems to have liked what he saw, and while his detestation of Raila might not have changed much, he — and his operatives — nevertheless liked his political cunning. Out of enmity, Odinga and Kaguta’s son were joined in a mutual admiration club. Fast forward to today.
According to Ugandan security officials working on Somalia, Raila has been “very useful” to them. In October the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) – finally – entered the Somalia fray, and said it had set its eyes on taking the port city of Kismayu. Kismayu had become not only the most important strategic asset held by the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al Shabaab Somali militants who are battling the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia because they use it to get in arms and other supplies, but it was also their economic mainstay because port levies provided the militants with millions of dollars a year. Kenya’s entrance in the war changed many things internationally – including what Kenya means for regional security.
One of the things that intervention did was help speed up the UN Security Council approval in February this year for the increase in the peacekeeping force in Somalia, AMISOM, to nearly 18,000. Until that point, for five years, the AMISOM force, that was nearly 9,500 in February, was comprised of only Uganda and Burundi troops. There had been an earlier vote by the African Union to make Kenya’s troops in Somalia part of AMISOM, but that was not particularly significant because it did not come with money to support the mission. The UN Security Council vote, though, came with additional dollars.
Kenya’s entrance gave Ethiopia a safe umbrella to re-enter Somalia, where it is regarded with deep suspicion. Together with TFG troops Ethiopia advanced rapidly, and retook the important city of Baidoa, the capital of Somalia’s Bay region. With Al Shabaab coming from added Kenyan and Ethiopian pressure, and its ranks beginning to crack, it allowed the Ugandans and Burundi AMISOM troops in Mogadishu to advance further and take all of the districts of the capital. Both Kenya and Ethiopia, and the UN, continued to accuse Eritrea of backing Al Shabaab, and on two occasions the KDF alleged that planes from Asmara had landed near Kismayu and dropped off weapons for the Somali militants. Eritrea denied these accusations.
The US, according to AMISOM, has not only been providing intelligence and occasionally striking Al Shabaab position with its drones, it has also been picking up most of the bills in Somalia. There is a sense that Al Shabaab’s back is about to be broken, and the end of the transition in Somalia by August and an election of some sort thereafter is now possible. It is absolutely critical, therefore, that Kenya remain militarily involved in Somalia for the country to stabilise.
Equally, Kenya would need to attack and take Kismayu, a battle that will cost many lives given that the Al Shabaab most fights, and is quite accomplished, urban wars (in Mogadishu, I picked up talk that Ugandan and Burundi units will be sent to help the Kenya effort in Kismayu). For Kenya to continue to play in the region, requires that it should not descend in 2008-style election violence, because this time there are fears that the KDF might not stand aside and let the Police and politicians sort things out – it could buckle to pressure to get involved. And if it did that, it could undermine its ability to stay focused on Somalia.
For that reason, diplomats in the know say, President Museveni’s meetings with potential Kibaki successors is to win agreement from them that they will do everything in their powers to avoid a repeat of the 2008 PEV. For that reason, it can be expected that within the next few months, Museveni will have met most, if not all, the candidates who are eyeing the Kenyan presidency.
However, the fact that the AMISOM mission and Kenya’s role in Somalia is so reliant on US support, the diplomats told me that “the region will not allow a leader who will harm with relations with the US, is ‘anti-west’, or might make an impetuous decision to end the Somalia deployment”, to take over from Kibaki. If this is true, then Raila and candidates like Ms. Karua, are the ones who will be considered “safe”. Ruto and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who have been very strident in their criticism of the West allegedly using the ICC cases against them as a “plot” to eliminate them from the race and, presumably, favour Raila, will have a big added diplomatic battle on their hands as they fight for the presidency.
IN THE NEXT ARTICLE, we shall examine how the crucial role that the US is playing in AMISOM’s ability to remain in Somalia; its decision last year to deploy 100 special operations troops to help Kampala, battle the highly-mobile and deadly Uganda rebel group, Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) that is led by Joseph Kony; looming full scale war between South and north Sudan; Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi’s future; and how Museveni determination to shape the new security architecture that some of the big powers are trying to build in the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa, will come together to affect not just the Kenya election, but the whole region.
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