Uhuru and Ruto hold secret talks with Moi
President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted retired President Daniel arap Moi and Deputy President William Ruto in a rare State House meeting on Wednesday, aides of the leaders familiar with their diaries have told the Sunday Nation.
The meeting at the president’s official residence in Nairobi began at about 10am and ended at 2.30pm, and all the leaders’ aides were locked out.
While the elder statesman, who was Kenya’s President for 24 years, has since 2013 held private meetings with President Kenyatta, his relationship with Mr Ruto is perceived to be lukewarm.
State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu was non-committal when asked about the meeting.
“The President hosts dozens of meetings every week as you may be aware, including with high profile figures like the former Head of State. We don’t always discuss everything emerging from these meetings,” he said.
Mr Moi’s press secretary Lee Njiru, on the other hand, chose to play it safe.
“I am not aware of that,” he told the Sunday Nation.
The four-and-a-half-hour meeting, which took place two days before President Kenyatta announced a shake-up in his government, comes on the backdrop of heightened political activity in Mr Ruto’s Rift Valley backyard — a region where the former President also comes from.
The former President is a political mentor of the top two Jubilee leaders who held high-profile positions in his government.
Critics have also in the past said the Jubilee leadership should get advice from the retired President in tackling insecurity, which remains one of its biggest headaches. The latest was the Garissa University attack where 148 people, most of them students, were massacred by Al-Shabaab on April 2.
The outcome of the State House meeting was not clear but its timing is set to attract curiosity.
Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, the former president’s son, has been traversing the Rift Valley in high-stakes politics, urging locals to join Kanu. Mr Ruto’s URP allies have perceived this to be a scheme to weaken the Deputy President’s hold on the region. The senior Moi retains a respectable influence over his sons’ political affairs.
Yesterday, Mr Ruto suggested that Senator Moi appears to be expecting that the case facing the Deputy President at ICC will go against him, opening the door for the younger Moi’s ascendancy to a higher office.
Being the retired president’s political protégé, Mr Kenyatta no doubt looks up to the nonagenarian. While the Sunday Nation could not establish who called the meeting, our sources at State House said the former president is one of the few individuals with unfettered access to State House.
LOST TO KIBAKI
Mr Moi, who succeeded the current president’s father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, tapped the politically young Kenyatta, nominated him to Parliament before making him a minister. To the chagrin of other senior politicians who had their eyes glued on the presidency, Mr Moi later named Mr Kenyatta to succeed him in the 2002 elections on a Kanu ticket. Mr Kenyatta lost to Mr Mwai Kibaki.
The presence of the Deputy President in the recent meeting could also signal a thaw in the relations between him and Mr Moi, which has been a subject of immense speculation.
Commenting on the relationship between Mr Moi and Mr Ruto in a previous interview with the Sunday Nation, Mr Njiru, a long-time press secretary of the former President, said only the two could tell the position of their camaraderie.
“That is not for an outsider to say because people’s hearts and preferences are personal issues. It is not opportune or prudent for somebody else to talk about their love or sympathy for each another,” he said.
But the timing of the meeting could trigger speculation as the Baringo Senator shifts gears in attempts to increase his influence in the Rift Valley ahead of the 2017 elections.
Instructively, the former President went to State House at a time his son had left briefly for a trip to a neighbouring country.
Senator Moi recently held a “breakfast meeting” with Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, Narok Senator Stephen Ole Ntutu — both vocal critics of the Deputy President — Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony and Kanu Secretary-General Nick Salat. The meeting was seen as a sign of a political alliance in the making.
But Senator Moi downplayed the political nuances coming out of the Mara Safari Club meeting, which was the subject of news analysis and online discussion after a photograph of the four posing together was released.
“Just like there is nothing wrong in meeting the people, it does no harm meeting their leaders,” he said.
Mr Tom Mboya, a Political Science lecturer at Maseno University, argues that State House is unlikely to have qualms with Kanu’s activity in the region.
“Politics is like a chess game. Mr Kenyatta and his handlers will, therefore, have no problem with a weakened Ruto so he does not hold them (the TNA side of government) to ransom. Of course you do not expect him (the President) to admit this,” he says.
Mr Salat, however, clarified that their activities had nothing to do with any individual.
“This is not about the DP. We have said in the past that by the virtue of his position in government, he is the senior most leader from the Rift Valley and we respect that. This does not, however, stop us from carrying out our activities,” he said.
Recent activities by the Kanu boss have unsettled the larger Rift Valley— prompting the DP to ask him to accept to be led. Some URP politicians have also derided the Baringo Senator, saying his only credentials are that he is the son of the former President. But in his non-combative brand of politics, Senator Moi has shied away from firing back.
After the formation of Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) to swallow URP and TNA, some have seen it as the best ticket going forward while others, including the government-leaning Kanu, have vigorously resisted the move.
The suspicions with which a number of politicians from the Rift Valley have welcomed JAP is seen to be giving advantage to Kanu.