Exactly a year ago, a cabal of senior politicians in the William Ruto-led party, United Republican Party (URP), accused top aides of Uhuru Kenyatta of submitting to the International Criminal Court (ICC) evidence incriminating the deputy president with serious crimes against humanity.
Charles Keter, the Kericho Senator, and Alfred Keter, the member of National Assembly for Nandi Hills had issues with a powerful quartet – comprising President Uhuru Kenyatta’s chief political advisor Nancy Gitau, current Defence Principal Secretary Mutea Iringo, current secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia, NIS retired chief Michael Gichangi – that served under President Mwai Kibaki’s regime when the ICC came to the country to collect evidence.
“Why are we sharing the same plate with the people who fixed us; enough is enough,” the Senator thundered. “There are people who are in government today, they know themselves very well; they know they participated in coaching the witnesses. It is time they left the government,” he declared.
On his part Alfred Keter, the outspoken Nandi Hills MP submitted, thus “these people were in the Kibaki government. These are the people who gave Ruto’s name to be taken to The Hague and made sure that he was put on death row . If you plotted to have one of us hanged abroad; when did you guys get saved? when did you change position? I ask you to leave this government, or we’ll leave!”
It did not take long for Ruto’s lawyers at the ICC, led by Karim Khan, to rope in Iringo and Gitau. “PNU officials and also some government officials … put together a group of people who would assist them to locate witnesses who could provide evidence to support what they were saying, that ODM was the cause of the violence”, Khan’s colleague in the Ruto Defence team Shyamala Alagendra provided as she questioned witness P-0189.
“Madam, now in relation to the violence that took place in the North Rift, are you aware that there was a group of individuals, comprising Mr Stephen Tarus, Martha Karua, Mutea Iringo, Nancy Gitau, Stephen Mugwira, Abraham Limo, William Rono and Bethwell Ruto, that were working together to identify witnesses and collect information to present to the Waki Commission?”
Lawyer Alagendra said the identified witnesses were taken into witness protection, and that Iringo, then the deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Internal Security, and Gitau, then director of political affairs in the Office of the President held the purse. “Madam, did you hear that for witnesses who – or rather for some witnesses – who testified, or gave a statement to the Waki Commission, the monies for witness protection that was being run by the Ministry of Internal Security was being disbursed by Mr Mutea Iringo and Nancy Gitau?”
It was at this point that a political scholar, Prof Adams Oloo, predicted trouble for the quartet. “Since it is a coalition, it is give and take. The question is, does Uhuru need them?” He concluded that the noise by the two Keters had political value if it was used to “blackmail” President Uhuru to deal with senior civil servants.
Now, a year later, the power has disappeared from the hands of this powerful heap. They are either under the close watch of the current power chiefs; or out of the kitchen Cabinet; or out of government. If looked at critically, this is a near-perfect fit with what the two Keters appeared to demand at the time.
Gichangi is no longer holding the reins of power. He was forced out in controversial circumstances as President Kenyatta sought to assure the world that Kenya was tough on security. Kenyatta said Gichangi resigned on “personal grounds”.
However, Jubilee sources claim that there has been disquiet within the corridors of power occasioned by a feeling that Gichangi may have featured in a scheme by Kibaki State House to prop up the then deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi for President.
Though Kimemia was not mentioned in court, he is also a casualty of the top-level power-play. He is also mentioned among the initial schemers for a Musalia presidency, but he is said not be in good books with some senior officials in the Deputy President’s office. His powers were clipped when the all-powerful docket of Head of Public Service was removed from him and handed to Joseph Kinyua, the Chief of Staff to President Kenyatta.
Kimemia now operates at Harambee Avenue in the Nairobi City Centre. As if that was not enough, his role as the chairperson of the National Security Advisory Committee – the crucial team that watches over the safety of Kenyans and foreigners within the country’s borders—was extinguished.
The other person who worked very close to Kimemia is Mutea Iringo. Iringo (pictured, left) was a perfect fit in Kimemia’s earlier docket in the Ministry of Interior. The two had been groomed by the former l Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura. They knew their jobs; they knew how to get around Kenya’s murky politics without collapsing the government.
Iringo, who threatened to sue Ruto’s lawyer for accusing him of procuring witnesses, has served in the provincial administration for almost a-quarter-a-century. When Muthaura quit the government to give enough time to focus on the ICC case, Kimemia replaced him. And when Kenyatta took power, Iringo was retained.
But not very long after, Iringo would later become one of the high-profile casualties in the first government shuffle by President Kenyatta. He was moved from the big-budget Interior docket, to the lacklustre Defence Ministry under the in-control Chief of Defence Forces General Julius Karangi. The top-dog military man is undoubtedly the power honcho in the Jubilee administration.
Iringo’s threat to sue Khan never materialised.
For Nancy Gitau (pictured first left), the Chief advisor of President Kenyatta, her clout disappeared when she moved from State House to Harambee House. She’s inconspicuous and only once has she given in to media interview, published in The Standard. Even having been accused by the Keters of facilitating witnesses against Ruto, she described the whole ICC trials as a “tragedy”.
A former student of Mukumu Girls High School in Khayega, Kakamega County, Ms Gitau went to University of Nairobi for studies in political science. She was head-hunted by Kibaki’s aide Stanley Murage to join government.
Now, after the changes, Rift Valley politicians have gone mute. When this publication sought Charles Keter, he listened to the brief, the questions and never picked up the phone again. “I will call you back,” was all he said. He never did.
Benjamin Langat, the Ainamoi MP, the chairman of the powerful committee on Finance, Planning and Trade in the National Assembly, and a confidant of the Deputy President dismissed the view that Gichangi, Kimemia, Iringo and Gitau were thrown out of the high table because of the URP complaints. “No! Gichangi retired. The rest were simply moved around in a legitimate reshuffling of government. It is really nothing,” said Langat in an interview for this story.
Will the the powerful quartet rise again in readiness for the next elections? Their experience might just be the boon for Jubilee.