Three days before Kenya’s elections body announced the outcome of the August 9, 2022 presidential poll, former President Uhuru Kenyatta had twice attempted to frustrate the exercise, and even contemplated installing a military junta if Azimio coalition candidate Raila Odinga was trounced by Kenya Kwanza Alliance candidate William Ruto, allies and top government officials say.
However, Kenyatta’s plans aborted after the United States and Britain moved swiftly to prevent what was rapidly snowballinginto a coup – civilian or military – that would have tossed Ruto and his Kenya Kwanza Alliance out of the way as the outgoing president went into overdrive to impose a government of his choice.
This was after the state inexplicably directed local media houses to cease live transmission of presidential election tallies – a script lifted from the conduct of 2007, 2013 and 2017 elections.
Details of behind-the -scenes happenings have re public re-emerged in public discourse after the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga cancelled plans for mass action, which international community feared would further exacerbate an already fragile security and humanitarian situation in eastern Africa. The discourse is further informed by the reluctance of one of the renegade Independent Electoral and Boundaries (IEBC) commissioners, Irene Masit, to resign.
Ms Masit told a tribunal formed to investigate four election officials – who described the final results that gave Ruto the mandate to lead Kenya “opaque” – that she is under pressure to quit or face unspecified consequences.
But one man who had served in former president Daniel arap Moi, former President Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta regimes appeared to read the situation well the dangers of election tampering. The former head of civil service and secretary to the cabinet Joseph Kinyua put his life on the line and tongue-lashed President Kenyatta for treading on “dangerous path.”
Three days before IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati declared Ruto winner of the presidential poll, there was a flurry of activity in the Office the President and State House as it became increasingly evident the Kenya Kwanza presidential candidate was headed for shock victory to the chagrin of Kenyatta and a clutch of loyalists dubbed ‘Deep State’ or ‘System’.
“In actual fact,” a senior officer in the president’s office conversant with the chronology of events explains, “there was nothing like Deep State. It was a façade. The men and women who were assumed to be pulling the strings from behind the scenes were two or three from Internal Security ministry led by Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho. The rest included Kinyua’s deputy Kennedy Kihara and Kenyatta’s younger brother Muhoho, Kenyatta’s trusted ally and advisor David Murathe and Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju.”
The cabal bounced between State House and Office of the President in the central business district of Nairobi in ‘strategy’ meetings and were on call 24 hours-a-day. The meetings were cast as Assumption of Office Committee meetings. While the team planned how to obstruct Kenya Kwanza from the helm, poll tallies told a different story.
According to the accounts of eyewitnesses, among them a senior IEBC secretariat staff who was at Bomas of Kenya, a senior lawyer at Parliament and the senior civil servant at the Office of the President, President Kenyatta pressed the panic baton when Kenya Kwanza Alliance victory looked inevitable.
Consequently, he began holding court with the so-called Deep State – Dr Matiang’i, Karanja Kibicho, then Deputy Inspector-General of Police Noor Gabow, Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju, his nephew Jomo Gechaga, brother Muhoho Kenyatta, presidential advisor on political ideology Nancy Gitau, the Kenya Defence Force Vice Chief of Staff Maj-Gen Francis Omondi Ogolla and David Murathe.
Our source in president’s office explains that the agenda of the 8-10pm meeting was either to compel Chebukati to declare Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga winner, force a rerun or hand over the reins of power to the military. Notably, KDF Chief of Staff, Gen Robert Kariuki Kibochi, who had wind of the plans went underground – fearing consequences of a professional military dabbling in politics.
Save for the 1982 failed coup attempt, Kenya is one of a handful of African countries that have never experienced military rule and has held elections on schedule since independence in 1963. Gen Kibochi and Kinyua were reportedly opposed to Kenyatta’s plans to undermine democracy, constitutionalism and the rule of law.
Against this backdrop, Kinyua took on Kenyatta and derided him for trying to use unorthodox means to install an illegitimate government.
During the meeting, says the civil servant, Kinyua was asked to summon Chebukati to State House. When Kinyua informed Uhuru that the IEBC boss had declined the summons and vowed to respect the law, the constitution and the will of the people, the president hit the roof.
He ordered those present to drive to Bomas of Kenya and force Chebukati to change the outcome. While Kinyua declined to follow the directive Tuju, Murathe, Kahara, Maj-Gen Ogolla, Gechaga, Kibicho and Matiangi consented to go to the tallying centre to bully Chebukati to declare Raila winner.
During interviews for this story, a retuning officer narrated to Tell how they had been instructed not to venture out of the national tallying centre at Bomas. The official said there was apprehension that senior IEBC officials who had defied the president would be assassinated after a returning officer for Embakasi, Daniel Mbolu Musyoka, was killed and body dumped in Kajiado – 70 kilometres south of Nairobi.
It is recalled that in 2007, IEBC’s ICT manager Chris Msando was assassinated for declining to entertain the whims of power wielders or ‘Deep State.’
Indeed, when Kenyatta’s emissaries arrived at the Bomas at around midnight, a scuffle ensued and Chebukati was roughed up before Noor Gabow restored order.
It was during the State House meeting that the ‘Deep State” reportedly plotted to create a wage among IEBC commissioners, hence the emergence of the Cherera Four. Former Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju held court with the Cherera Four and a senior staffer of the secretariat and – allegedly – promised them hefty rewards that included high-end cars (which they already have), houses and senior positions at IEBC once Chebukati and commissioners Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu were hemmed in.
The following day on August 13, Kenyatta arrived at his office at 6am to chair the Assumption of Office Committee meeting, during which he directed it to start preparing to swear in Raila Odinga and his running-mate Martha Karua. This was despite the results – now being tallied by BBC after local TV stations were ordered by the state to cease live transmission – showing Ruto surging ahead.
“When the meeting ended just before 8am, an angry Kinyua walked into the president’s office. Kinyua did not mince his words. He told Uhuru to his face that he should be prepare to go jail alone if chaos erupted again in the country (as was the case in 2007, 2013 and 2017 when Raila controversially lost elections). We heard Kinyua tell the president: ‘you can sack me if you want,’” says the civil servant.
The chronology is corroborated by Kinyua’s friend and former workmate at CBK, now resident in London. In a telephone interview with Tell, the former CBK manager confirmed the decision to arm-twist Chebukati and plans for the military to take over if Kenyatta made good his threats. The threat to hand over the reins of power to Gen Kibochi alarmed the United States and Britain, which had been monitoring closely political developments in Kenya.
“When Britain and US learned of an attempt by Kenyatta to subvert democracy in favour of military rule, they instructed their embassies in Nairobi to warn him against attempts to undermine democracy. Luckily, US foreign secretary (Antony Blinken) was visiting Kigali, on August 13-14). He called Uhuru and warned him (on August 14) against any monkey tricks. Blinken warned Kenyatta the US would come for him if Kenya descended into chaos,” he explains.
“In the afternoon, the British High Commissioner (Jane Marriott) delivered an unflattering message to Kenyatta (from then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson) at State House,” says Kinyua friend, citing a conversation the two had after tension surged in the country.
Placed between a rock and a hard place, Uhuru Kenyatta resorted to – reportedly – hard drinking afraid of the Kenya Kwanza presidency and the consequences of election-related violence touched off by his intransigency.
“The president arrived at the office at 6am, which was unusual. He had been informed on August 10 (at night) that his deputy was on course to succeeding him. Kinyua told me an angry Kenyatta vowed that he would not have over to Ruto,” Kinyua former workmate at CBK narrated to Tell.
The former CBK manager, further corroborated reports that Kenyatta explored the option handing over power to the military instead of Ruto, pending a repeat of the presidential election.
“It was at this point that Kinyua ran out of patience. When the meeting ended before 8am, Kinyua accompanied the president to his office. He spared no time in blasting the president for contemplating to take the country civil war. Kinyua told the president that his team was not ready to go to jail with him to protect his private interests,” the ex-CBK manager, who doubles as Africa Union on railways, says.
On the advice of his family (presumably his mother Ngina Kenyatta, said to wield immense influence on her son’s decision making), he reached out to African Inland Church (AIC) Bishop Silas Yego. For over a week, Tell reached out to Bishop Yego to shed light on his conversation with Kenyatta, Raila and Ruto without success. The clergyman did not respond telephone calls, neither did he respond to questions sent to him on WhatsApp. The latter showed he had opened and read the questions.
Bishop Yego, according to a lawyer at Parliament, is well known to Kenyatta, Raila, Ruto and Musalia Mudavadi and agreed to mediate in the standoff between Kenyatta and Ruto. He also spoke to Raila, who – reportedly – agreed to accept the results if he lost. Consequently, the three adversaries agreed to be present at Bomas of Kenya when IEBC was announcing the final results. The event was then scheduled for midday, August 15, which was the deadline set by the constitution.
With Bishop Yego’s efforts having borne fruit, which resulted in Kenyatta and Ruto engaging by phone for the first time in a long time, a new twist was in the making. As Raila and Kenyatta were preparing to go Bomas of Kenya, Raila’s running-mate Martha Karua drove to his residence in Karen and reportedly talked him out of conceding the election. An hour later, she was at State House and dissuaded Kenyatta from going to Bomas of Kenya. The announcement of the presidential election results was subsequently moved to 2pm, then 5pm. Our source at Parliament explains the idea was to run down the clock and create a constitutional crisis to force a rerun.
Karua, a lawyer and former MP, revisited the 2007 script in which she forced then Elections Commission of Kenya chairman Samuel Kivuitu to declare Mwai Kibaki president (past 6pm) with the final tally showing Raila Odinga was in the lead with nearly a million votes.
The other two candidates in the 2022 presidential election George Wajackoyah and David Waihiga were informed too.
- A Tell report