Upon assuming power in 2013, Uhuru Kenyatta has been systematically cutting to size the amorphous group that surrounded his predecessor, Mwai Kibaki.
The group called Kibaki’s Kitchen Cabinet, comprised largely of trusted men and women from the president’s backyard.
First to be chopped off was the Othaya legislator, Mary Wambui. In the Kibaki regime, Wambui was the centre of power where her word was law. But in the sunset days of the Kibaki era, her influence started waning out to an extent that she had to fight bitterly to secure the TNA nomination certificate for the Othaya parliamentary seat which had been given through the backdoor to her rival, Mugambi Gichuki. Thanks to a covert operation by Kibaki’s children- Jimmy and Judy. Today, Wambui hardly makes news and is rarely seen with the present president. She was recently seen in the court corridors in comradeship of embattled suspended cabinet secretary Michael Kamau.
Wambui sat throughout in court proceedings as criminal charges were being levelled against Kamau. Insiders say that during the Kibaki era, Wambui and Kamau made millions through kickbacks more so, on the projected Lamu port project.
But the one man who is controlling the stakes in Uhuru’s regime is the retired Chief of General Staff, Julius Karangi, also from Nyeri.
Unknown to many, Karangi stood firmly with Uhuru when Uhuru faced serious crimes at the International Criminal Court. According to an insider, when many Kikuyu powerbrokers and Kibaki allies warmed up to the late Internal Security minister George Saitoti and the deputy president Musalia Mudavadi, Karangi stayed put with Uhuru and was a constant companion. As a result, the first home outside Nairobi, Uhuru visited upon being sworn in as president was Karangi’s Nyeri home. They wined and dined to late night with Uhuru retiring to the guest wing for a nap.
The Kikuyu powerbrokers were of the view that Uhuru stood no chance of either competing or winning the presidential race given the serious criminal case he was facing at the ICC. Some were referring to him as ‘damaged goods’ which are of no use to anyone.
According to an insider, the late Saitoti and Raila Odinga had hammered a pact where Saitoti was to go for the presidency with Raila being his running mate. The Saitoti-Raila pact was hammered in the presence of former United States assistant secretary of State, Johnnie Carson. Others say that Raila was to go for presidency with Saitoti as his deputy.
In the pact, Saitoti, a wealthy man was to bankroll the presidential campaign with the help of Americans. Indeed, rumours doing rounds then had it that he had stashed billions of shillings in his Kitengela home for the campaigns.
But when Saitoti perished in a mysterious plane crash at Kibiko in Ngong Forest one Sunday morning, the Kikuyu powerbrokers found themselves in a quagmire. On one hand they could not go to Uhuru as they had dismissed his bid while campaigning for Raila would have been a tall order. But some of them swallowed their pride and joined Uhuru’s bandwagon.
Other power barons turned to former Musalia Mudavadi. Their gamble appeared to pay off when Kibaki leaned on Mudavadi’s side with Uhuru being pushed to drop his bid for the presidency in favour of the former Sabatia MP. However, things went awry when Uhuru, bowing to pressure largely from Central Kenya, announced that his bid for the presidency was unstoppable. This left powerful figures such as Nick Wanjohi and Francis Kimemia in a quagmire as they had identified with Musalia.
When Uhuru assumed office he retained some of Kibaki’s most trusted officials in key roles in government. They included Karangi and the director-general of then National Security Intelligence Service, Michael Gichangi who hails from Kirinyaga.
Unknown to many, Karangi and Gichangi were not seeing eye to eye. According to insiders, the bad blood between the duo started wayback in 1980s when they served in the Kenya Air Force.
Gichangi, a skilled and experienced fighter pilot, had no time for Karangi whom he referred to as a ‘bombs loader’.
In the Kibaki regime Gichangi appeared to have had an upper hand in getting the attention of the president but come Uhuru things became difficult for him.
For one Uhuru allies suspected him of having been a Saitoti sympathiser and indeed during the presidential campaigns he was kept in the dark with Karangi running the show.
According to an insider, Karangi played a key role in the election of Uhuru. Indeed at one time when the ODM threatened to paralyse activities at the Bomas of Kenya demanding that the presidential tallying be halted until a full audit of the figures was done, it was Karangi who directed that the “polls go full hog”- with no room for negotiations.
“There has been too much struggle between Karangi and Gichangi. Even the house committee of Defence and Foreign Relations in which I sit has been struggling to reconcile the two. The two have been fighting for too long,” Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo was quoted in press after the Westgate terror attack.
Indeed, Karangi has been on upward trajectory and is expected to play another influential role during the 2017/18 electoral period.Whether he lands a cabinet secretary slot or not, Karangi is the most influential person outside the Kenyatta family surrounding Uhuru. He is a regular visitor at State House and stays to wee hours of the night.
Having won the trust of the president it was Karangi who advised on who was to was head the NIS after Gichangi’s exit.
It was he who recommended Major Philip Kamweru, also from Nyeri, to succeed Gichangi.
Major Kameru and former Immigration Department boss, Major General Gordon Kihalangwa a Luhya, are Karangi’s bosom chums.
The arraignment in court of Kamau to answer graft charges is yet another pointer of his waning influence in the Uhuru regime.
To begin with Uhuru had left out Kamau when forming the new government. But the latter having Uhuru’s mother’s ear urged her to prevail upon her son to appoint him to the lucrative ministry of Transport and Infrastructure.
As the saying goes, one man’s misfortune is another man’s gain. Karangi will be the biggest beneficiary from his exit.
Others from Nyeri who called the shots include James Kanyago and Esau Kioni.\
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