- One day, the President travelled to Maasailand accompanied by his Vice-President. In one of his addresses, he said people were constantly asking him to name his successor.
- He paused for effect, then said that as far as he was concerned, there was no one present in his entourage who was capable of leading the country after his retirement.
- Kalonzo had been one of Moi’s staunchest loyalists but on this day, he was in a fighting mood! He bravely faced the President and said, “Mzee, you should keep yourself out of succession politics. Leave us alone to direct the show”.
By January 2001, activities within Kanu had intensified. President Moi had just 24 months before his last term ended on December, 31 2002. All political activities were geared towards one direction — President Moi’s succession.
He was fully aware that it was only through Parliament that a candidate could successfully campaign for the presidency. Moses Muhia had beaten Uhuru Kenyatta in the parliamentary race for Gatundu South seat and spoilt Moi’s succession plan during the 1997 elections. However, he was determined to get Uhuru into Parliament through nomination, but there was no vacancy.
The law was clear, that no nominated MP could be removed from Parliament unless he or she was convicted of a criminal offence. However, a nominated MP could voluntarily resign, which is what the then nominated MP, Mark Too, a confidant of the President, did. Uhuru was promptly nominated to Parliament and appointed to the Cabinet as Minister for Local Government.
In the meantime, Raila Odinga and his NDP party had been cooperating with Kanu and the relationship had developed into a partnership. Raila Odinga was named the Minister for Energy and two of his colleagues in NDP — Adhu Awiti and Orwa Ojode — became Minister for Planning and Assistant Minister respectively. Then President Moi announced that there would be a joint National Delegates Conference of Kanu and NDP at the Kasarani Sports Complex in March, 2001 to chart the way forward for the future of the country.
Kanu was, of course, headed by President Moi as the national chairman, George Saitoti, the country’s Vice-President was Kanu’s national vice-chairman and Joseph Kamotho was the secretary-general. Saitoti, Kamotho and Biwott were great friends and had been close confidants of the President for a long time. However, ever since the 1997 elections and the Raila factor, the President started distancing himself from them. Of the three, the biggest casualty was Saitoti, who endured four years of untold public humiliation from his boss. Saitoti took the humiliation stoically but Kanu was not through with him yet. His day of reckoning was about to come when history would repeat itself.
One day, the President travelled to Maasailand accompanied by his Vice-President. In one of his addresses, he said people were constantly asking him to name his successor. He paused for effect, then said that as far as he was concerned, there was no one present in his entourage who was capable of leading the country after his retirement. He told the crowd that he would soon show them the man who had the ability to lead Kenya. The President then looked over where his deputy sat and told the people that Saitoti was only his good personal friend but that he does not “mix friendship with leadership.” This was said in Saitoti’s home turf. It was not long before Moi revealed his choice, which was quickly termed “Moi Project”.
President Moi then heightened his campaign for Uhuru Kenyatta in public rallies across the country. Quite a number of senior Kanu members, including myself, started meeting to share our dissatisfaction with what was happening. We did not want our meetings to be misconstrued as a conspiracy against Moi and his “project” because it was still too early for that. We merely wanted to talk to one another according to the regions we represented in Parliament.
Representing Western Province, I approached Raila Odinga with the idea and found him way ahead of me in the matter of slowly cutting links with Moi. He agreed that we needed to start with covertly forming an outfit we called Western Alliance, covering Nyanza and Western (excluding Bungoma, which was solidly in Ford-Kenya). Our target was to recruit our fellow Kanu members who were not keen on the direction the party was taking. Apart from Raila, who was the Secretary General, Musalia Mudavadi was the other heavyweight from the region. We had to have him on our side. By mid-2002, the seed of rebellion had been firmly planted in Kanu.
Kalonzo Musyoka had, for the first time, declared his interest to vie for the presidency but appeared to be working on his own. Saitoti, who was still the Vice-President, had had enough and was willing to join hands with anyone with the credentials that would thwart the plans of the party he had served so loyally for so long but which treated him contemptibly. I was happy that Kalonzo and Saitoti, two influential and loyal Kanu players, were spoiling for a fight. I was the liaison because I knew each member of the group personally. We started holding meetings away from the glare of other political players and the media and discussed strategies for defeating Moi’s presidential project. The president had ears everywhere and it did not take him long to realise something was afoot. He immediately summoned us (Vice-President Saitoti, Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and me) to State House. We were ushered into President Moi’s office immediately. The President wasted no time. He told us that he wanted a smooth transition because he would be heading for retirement at the end of the year, as was stipulated by the Constitution.
He added point-blank that he thought the best person to take over from him was Uhuru Kenyatta and that he wanted us to support him. After speaking for about 20 minutes, quite uncharacteristic of Moi, he asked us to be free and frank in giving him our comments individually. Obviously, he wanted to know if the grapevine was accurate, regarding what was cooking.
Raila Odinga sat at one end and was the first person to be given a chance to speak. Raila, a man who shoots straight from the hip, had been waiting for such an opportunity. He grabbed it and ran away with it! He candidly pointed out to Moi that we were in a multi-party democracy and that the President should let the people decide Kanu’s flagbearer in an open and competitive process.
NEW POLITICAL PARTY
Saitoti was next. Calling Moi “Your Excellency”, he told the President that there would not be any problem with his proposal but that he should have first called a party meeting to discuss and ratify the matter. Moi fired right back, “But I’m speaking to you as Kanu National Chairman. Isn’t that official enough?” Moi was a master at the carrot-and-stick play. He leaned over towards Saitoti and told him, “By the way, I’m informed that your security detail is in place outside.” Saitoti said nothing.
Kalonzo Musyoka was next, and there lay our biggest shock. Kalonzo had been one of Moi’s staunchest loyalists but on this day, he was in a fighting mood! He bravely faced the President and said, “Mzee, you should keep yourself out of succession politics. Leave us alone to direct the show”.
That was a bolt out of the blue for all of us. We did not imagine Kalonzo could muster such guts! Moi could not believe what he was hearing either. He was flabbergasted. He made no rejoinder.
He gestured to me. I told him quite candidly that it was not his choice that I had trouble with but the manner in which he was going about it. I insisted that he should not have decided for us his successor. I informed him that there was no way he could arbitrarily choose a successor, no matter his pedigree, who had never been tested in elective politics. His nominee could just not work.
The President had never encountered such political revolt in his presidency and must have known that there was no point in further discussion. He was probably smarting from the tone of Kalonzo, his very loyal Kanu hawk. The meeting ended and he told us to rethink the matter for another meeting later. When we got out, true to Moi’s word, Saitoti’s security detail was waiting for him. As we entered our vehicles, we had all resolved that we would neither return for another meeting nor support the President’s nominee.
We thought about forming a new political party but we knew that Moi could make the registration of such a party impossible. We called the other leaders in our group who included Assistant Ministers and MPs, and informed them that we had rejected Moi’s “project” and that there would be no turning back. We also announced that all Kanu officials in our team would have to resign from both their party and government positions. We formed a committee to handle the announcement to the media and Kenyans.
We prepared a statement to be read at a press conference and I was appointed spokesman. The date for the mass resignations was set.
For nearly a year, the activities of the trio of Mwai Kibaki, Charity Ngilu and Kijana Wamalwa had ended in a solid alliance and we knew we would play second fiddle if we asked to join them. We had to have our own political party, so we searched for one.
There was a group of people who had made a habit of registering political parties so that when general elections were called, they would make money by selling the parties. Luck smiled on us and Dennis Kodhe approached us and told us that, in partnership with some Kenyans of Indian origin, he had registered a political party called the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). He was willing to arrange a meeting for us to meet his associates to discuss the way forward. He did this and we ended up taking over LDP with a skeleton of party officials.
It was September and the general elections were expected to be held in December, barely three months away. LDP did not have the necessary structures. President Moi had already hit the road campaigning for his nominee and NAK had an agreement in which Kibaki would be their presidential candidate, while Kijana Wamalwa would be his running mate. Simeon Nyachae had also started his presidential campaigns as the Ford-People candidate. They were all in the field already campaigning. In our camp, we were joined by other senior Kanu officials and Cabinet Ministers such as William ole Ntimama and Fred Gumo, who had also decamped.
Although no widespread violence was reported in 2002, the political atmosphere was very tense because that was the first time a sitting President was not campaigning for re-election. There were dangers in every constituency and Kanu politicians put up a spirited fight to retain their seats all over the country.
The next public rally was organised by William ole Ntimana in Narok and it was also very successful. By that time, the star of our rallies was Raila. He was truly a crowd puller. It was at that time that he started composing political satire using football analogies, a tactic that proved very popular with the crowds we addressed. As we traversed the country, our campaign teams became bigger and bigger, resulting in huge financial demands to cater for transport and other logistics.