- By Elizabeth DickinsonElizabeth Dickinson is author of the Kindle Single Who Shot Ahmed? A Mystery Unravels in Bahrain's Botched Arab Spring, from which this excerpt was adapted. She is a former FP assistant managing editor.
In 2006, Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, Kenya’s current vice president and an opposition leader at the time, told U.S. Embassy officials in Nairobi about an unfolding political scandal in which he was involved, according to a State Department cable released yesterday by WikiLeaks. Although the story itself is a bit banal — involving a rivalry between Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki’s first and second wives — Musyoka’s allegations against the Kenyan president’s family are serious, including an accusation of links to "Eastern European" mercenaries used in a 2006 media crackdown.
The story goes something like this: In 2006, the Standard Media company, one of the country’s largest, published a story alleging that Musyoka, as opposition leader, had cut a deal with Kibaki. The story, which Musyoka denied to embassy officials, was a bigger blow to his political prospects than to the sitting president’s. But the government unleashed a wave of raids against the Standard Media group anyway.
Musyoka blames those crackdowns on Kibaki’s wives. (As an interesting aside, one of Kibai’s wives is officially married to the president and the other is a more of a permanent mistress, according to the cable.) The first wife, Lucy Kibaki, had a vendetta against the media outlet and was also offended that official business could happen in the state house without her presence, according to the cable. The second wife, Mary Wambui, Musyoka claims, brought in the tools for the media crackdown:
[Wambui] had been instrumental in bringing the mercenaries into play in Kenya. Thanks to her good offices, they travel in Government cars with a security detail. Wambui also apparently took a portion of them with her on a trip to Dubai, where she is alleged to have spent US$600,000 on unspecified merchandise. Musyoka said he had heard of plans to secretly install a portion of the mercenaries in an office within the Police Criminal Investigations Division.
Whether this diplomatic gossip is true, we may never know. But perhaps what’s even more interesting is that the current Kenyan vice president spoke openly to the U.S. diplomats behind the scenes. Of course, it’s not clear if Musyoka kept talking once he entered the government. Still, as embassy sources go, that’s some impressive proximity to power.