Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi’s trip to New York where he will be joined by President Kibaki has intensified speculation about the relationship between the pair amid claims that Mr Kibaki has been quietly signalling his support for the deputy premier in the race for State House.
On Friday, the UDF presidential candidate’s team issued a press release saying Mr Mudavadi would be in the US to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
The statement said the Deputy Prime Minister would “represent Kenya at crucial meetings and be a key speaker at high-profile events”.
“The Deputy Prime Minister has received high profile invitations either as a keynote speaker or an honoured panelist on policy presentations on behalf of the Kenya Government.”
“One of the key invitations is to accompany President Mwai Kibaki to argue Kenya’s investment needs case at the Renaissance Group meeting. The Kenya team will meet 15 fund and asset groups with investable resources of over US$1 trillion,” his spokesman Kibisu Kabatesi said in one email to reporters on Friday evening.
The implicit suggestion by his handlers was that Mr Mudavadi would be in New York either at the behest of the President or the conference’s organisers.
For political watchers, the presence of Mr Mudavadi at the meeting could be one more sign that he might after all be President’s choice of successor President Kibaki’s silence over the subject of his successor has ensured that any suggestion in that direction is not taken lightly.
Frank Matanga, a professor of political science at Masinde Muliro University, said the decision to have Mr Mudavadi represent Kenya shouldn’t go unnoticed.
“There are those who may want to say that because President Kibaki hardly speaks directly, it might be a way of saying he trusts Musalia with weighty state matters,” said Prof Matanga.
In the absence of Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka on Madaraka Day this year, it was left to Mr Mudavadi to do the traditional invitation for the President to address the nation.
The former ODM deputy leader represented the President at the funeral of veteran politician Martin Shikuku on September 1.
Mr Mudavadi’s handlers have fought hard to create the impression that the New York trip and the chance to represent Kenya is a deserved and distinguished event, some are of a different opinion.
Prof Ben Sihanya, a constitutional law scholar at the University of Nairobi, said at the outset, it would be wrong for the DPM to represent Kenya when that is not his job in government.
He said ordinarily, Kenya’s foreign representation should be left to the President, Prime Minister, the Foreign Affairs minister or a combination. There would be no legal basis for the DPM to be tasked with the job.
Legally, said Prof Sihanya, it is wrong to use government resources and to breach well-known rules to improve Mr Mudavadi’s political brand. “President Kibaki has been looking at Uhuru Kenyatta or Musalia Mudavadi to appoint quietly,” said Prof Sihanya.
“He is being bold now and he should come out and tell us who he prefers.” Nominated MP, one of UDF founders, George Nyamweya sought to downplay Mr Mudavadi’s assignment. He said President Kibaki correctly used his discretion as Head of State to hand the UN assignment to Mr Mudavadi.
He said given President Kibaki’s meditative approach to matters, those expecting retired President Moi’s outspoken approach to his succession was bound to cause speculation.
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