Here is an explosive memoir of the Kibaki- Raila relations during the 2008 signing of the National Accord that heightened tension in the country. Here are some excerpts from the book written by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s coalition’s adviser Miguna Miguna.
“President Kibaki walked out of a top-level reconciliation meeting he was meant to co-chair without uttering a word at the height of coalition tensions in 2009. The walkout underlined what Miguna claims was a troubled and unequal relationship between the President and Prime Minister Raila Odinga who led a coalition of the Party of National Unity and Orange Democratic Movement, which often teetered on the verge of collapse.
Miguna Miguna, the Prime Minister’s former advisor on constitution and coalition affairs, in his memoir paints a picture of the President as a coldly aloof and inflexible man who in private does not treat Mr Odinga as an equal partner. Miguna recounts one occasion when President Kibaki would not come out of his suite at Kilaguni Lodge in Tsavo West National Park to speak to Mr Odinga and addressed him from behind a curtain.
He also projects Mr Odinga as having failed to get the best deal for the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in his negotiations with the President after the disputed 2007 General Election. Mr Miguna’s no-holds-barred account of his time as a top advisor to Mr Odinga goes behind the scenes to examine the intrigues, power plays and personality rivalries that have characterised the unity government since it was brokered by peace envoy Kofi Annan in 2008.
Mr Miguna, who fell out with the Prime Minister in dramatic fashion after he was fired from his post in Mr Odinga’s team last year, paints the relationship between Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga as an unequal marriage in which the President comfortably dominated the Premier Miguna claims that Mr Kibaki, who was better briefed and had a more disciplined team around him, frequently got the better of the Raila in one-on-one meetings. The principals’ troubled relationship nearly hit a breaking point at the Kilaguni retreat which at the time was portrayed as a successful attempt at healing the cracks in the coalition but which Miguna reveals to have been a failure characterised by quarrels and political antics which bordered comical artwork.
The meeting, on April 4, 2009, started with a familiar standoff after Mr Miguna discovered that President Kibaki, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and then National Security Minister Prof George Saitoti had been allocated bigger and better rooms than those booked for the Premier, ODM Deputy Leader William Ruto and Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, who skipped the meeting. Mr Miguna took the position that this sent the message that one of the coalition partners was superior to the other and insisted on a reshuffle.
Mr Miguna’s stance was consistent with another occasion where he had stopped a coalition management meeting from starting at Harambee House until the seating arrangement was revised to reflect the fact Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga were equal partners in the coalition. More drama was to follow at the infamous Kilaguni retreat. The ODM team arrived three hours before the PNU team came to the hotel and were huddled discussing the fact that PNU had not agreed on an agenda for the talks by the time Mr Kibaki and his team arrived.
“That first night Raila went to see Kibaki in his room and subsequently made us fall about with laughter at his bizarre description of what had happened there,” he writes. “According to Raila – and we believed him – Kibaki spoke with him from behind the curtains, which were fully drawn. They didn’t see each other. There was no face-to-face meeting as such.
“At first, Raila thought the old man was dressing up or using the washroom and that he would join him in the spacious living room. However, after 30 minutes of odd‘communication’ Raila politely excused himself and left.” Mr Odinga told the ODM team that President Kibaki had told him that the team should see the retreat as a “well deserved holiday”, summarising the difference between the PNU and ODM viewpoints.
NU felt that there was nothing wrong with the coalition while ODM wanted the retreat to iron out key issues such as the levels of consultation required before making key appointments. They also sought a settlement on the raging protocol question on who was the senior party between the PM and the Vice President. The talks descended into a farce the next day after the PNU and ODM teams went to the meeting room to begin discussions. President Kibaki did not show up.
Mr Odinga kicked off the meeting by asking non-members of the coalition coordination committee to leave, an order obeyed by top senior civil servants and, reluctantly, by Kibaki-allied Cabinet Ministers Mr Noah Wekesa and Mr Mutula Kilonzo. There was then disagreement over how to proceed with PNU suggesting that Mr Odinga and Mr Kibaki should sit down alone to agree on the agenda.
This was a suggestion ODM members strongly opposed, Mr Miguna writes, because they had discovered that the President always got what he wanted from one-on-one meetings with the PM. In Miguna’s view, Mr Odinga was a “disastrous negotiator” and often “unstructured”and overawed by Mr Kibaki in one-on-one settings.
With ODM adamant that there would be no meeting between the principals that excluded others, President Kibaki “skulked out” without making eye contact with the other leaders in the room and walked off. The meeting collapsed and both sides rushed to prepare press statements to put a spin to the debacle.
This meeting is one of the many nuggets of information offered by Mr Miguna in the most explosive memoir to come out in the country since President Kibaki’s former anti-graft czar, John Githongo, collaborated with British author Michela Wrong on the story behind the Anglo Leasing scam.
Mr Miguna’s book will inevitably divide opinions. Written in the lyrical prose which readers have become familiar with from his newspaper columns, the book is at its best when it narrates the story of his rise from grinding poverty –brought up in rural Kano by a mother who could barely raise enough to feed the family – and the gritty determination with which he rose to his present station as a senior lawyer and author.
The book also offers a tantalising view of the mechanics of power behind the scenes and describes the complicated interpersonal relations between public figures who project an appearance of being the best of friends in public but are anything but friends. Mr Miguna peels the mask off the murky world of campaign financing and reveals what he describes as the high-level corruption in most public offices including the office of the Prime Minister.
He also wrote of a secret meeting at the Nairobi Safari Club, Nairobi, in 2009 at which he says he confronted the PM over claims that their office was involved in the maize scandal. At the time, the price of maize meal was causing near unrest in the country. According to Mr Miguna, the meeting was attended by ODM secretary-general Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, Lands minister James Orengo and the PM’s top aide Caroli Omondi.