NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 28 - The United States government appears to prefer Uhuru Kenyatta to Raila Odinga as the next President of Kenya after Mwai Kibaki retires, it emerged on Monday.
Diplomatic cables released by whistle blowing website Wikileaks indicate that US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger wrote to his superiors in 2009 saying Mr Kenyatta's ambition should be supported as it could be helpful in pushing the reform process forward.
"Kenyatta may be encouraged to attempt a presidential run due to shifting political dynamics that make potential challengers seem weak. Interestingly, Kenyatta seems to appreciate the need to be seen as pro-reform, and we should encourage him to push for action on key reform issues," the confidential cable by Mr Ranneberger states.
However the ambassador seems to have no kind words for Prime Minister Raila Odinga in the June 2009 cable in which he says that the Prime Minister “is unable or unwilling to move forward the reform agenda.”
He also says that Mr Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) seems both directionless and less united than before.
"Odinga is increasingly perceived as feckless, unable or unwilling to govern effectively and move forward the reform agenda. There is growing disillusionment within his camp (as conveyed by key interlocutors of Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement, ODM, party to the ambassador," the cable reveals.
The ambassador told his bosses in Washington that Mr Kenyatta had revealed his intention to push for police reforms and also changes in the office of the Attorney General.
Mr Kenyatta, according to the cables, was privately pushing President Kibaki to implement reforms.
"During a recent conversation with the ambassador, Kenyatta claimed that he is privately pushing Kibaki to carry out key reforms, particularly with respect to the police and Judiciary. It seems possible that given the clear public frustration with the slow pace of reform and our stated concerns - Kenyatta appreciates the need for him, KANU, and PNU to be seen as more pro-reform," the cable states.
"He claimed to the ambassador that he is urging removal of Police Commissioner (Maj Gen Mohammed Hussein) Ali and Attorney General (Amos) Wako."
In his assessment of Mr Kenyatta's presidential ambition the envoy sees his elevation to the Finance Ministry portfolio as an endorsement by President Kibaki.
"His appointment as Finance Minister was seen by many as an implicit endorsement by Kibaki; it provides a powerful platform for Kenyatta to pursue presidential ambitions," Mr Ranneberger tells his bosses.
The envoy also hailed Mr Kenyatta's 2009 Budget and said the Finance Minister was using CDF Funds to cement support of MPs who are influential on its use.
On the alliance between Mr Kenyatta and suspended Cabinet Minister William Ruto, the cable states that Mr Ruto has made a number of private visits to State House and he is in close contact with Mr Kenyatta.
The ambassador sees the cooperation between the two as meant to promote the welfare of their respective ethnic communities in Central and Rift Valley "in order to avoid a repeat of what happened last year (2008) during the post-election violence."
He says that tentative, behind the scenes cooperation between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto is focused on a deal whereby the latter uses his influence among Kalenjins to facilitate the reintegration of the Kikuyu internally displaced persons in Rift Valley.
"In return, Ruto would get a significant share of important economic positions for his Kalenjin political allies. What is particularly problematic in a potential Kenyatta-Ruto alliance is who would get top billing on the presidential ticket, but there is some sense that Ruto might accept the position of vice president or prime minister, and thus prepare the ground for a presidential run in 2017.(Ruto is in his 40s.)."
Mr Ranneberger however cautions: "Rightly in our view, believe that attempting to have another Kikuyu succeed Kibaki is a recipe for serious instability perhaps for a meltdown much more severe than that experienced last year. While some sort of arrangement could emerge between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities, this seems a distant prospect given what happened last year. (Importantly Moi, rather than Ruto, is still seen as the head of the Kalenjin community and there is bad blood between those two. If Moi supports Kenyatta, Ruto could decide to stay with Odinga, which would mean a split of the Kalenjin vote.)"
In the cable Mr Ranneberger describes the Deputy Prime Minister as being far ahead of all other potential candidates from Central Kenya.
"Kenyatta is slowly but steadily emerging as the most likely potential presidential designee of the Kikuyus.”
Other contenders are not gaining traction. Minister of Security (Prof George) Saitoti is considered too old and not charismatic. Kikuyu dissident Martha Karua, the former Minister of Justice and head of the NARC-K party within the PNU, has not gained wide support in the Kikuyu Central Province.
Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka is however seen as a potential standard-bearer if at the end of the day the Kikuyus decide that they should not field their own candidate.
"However, that would be seen as a Kikuyu-Kamba condominium, which might well be worse than a straight-out bid by Kenyatta if he can get crucial support from the Kalenjin community," Mr Ranneberger concludes.