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Unity National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi in Kiambu. Image: STANLEY NJENGA

The presidential campaign launched eight months ago by Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi is facing headwinds after some of his top strategists quit.

They have cited frustration caused by a close aide to the Speaker.

Some of those who have been working in the campaign complained that a key aid to the Speaker was making decision they consider unpopular and that could harm his bid. 

Insiders close to the Speaker who had been retained to manage different dockets at a campaign centre based near Nairobi’s Westlands suburb, said majority of them have eased off, “owing to the close aide’s behaviour to engage the candidate in campaign forays without involving the larger team”.

“The campaign strategy teams have all but ceased operations, the candidate is now being managed by one aide only. What started as a very vibrant campaign has now fizzled due to the disorder caused by the Speaker’s close ally,” said one campaign operative in the strategy team.

The Speaker returned from a two-week trip from the United States two weeks ago and then travelled to Nigeria on an official engagement. He  has held only one event in three weeks, compared to other presidential challengers who do excursions almost on a daily basis.

Sources among campaign strategists and communications teams, who were hired about months ago and stationed at the Thigiri campaign headquarters, say the single-handed management of the candidate could collapse what had started as a vibrant campaign that was at first drawn to position Muturi as the Mt Kenya spokesperson.

Muturi’s campaign started on a high note in May, with the Speaker being coronated the Mt Kenya region spokesperson by elders drawn from all regions of central Kenya.

A team of eight strategy and communication personnel was formed to position his candidature.

Muturi is also said to have built another team of seven politicians and two members of academia, to work as his think tank, operating from his newly built JB campaign centre. 

Sources say the strategy and comms team were pooled together at some point, resulting in a stepped-up campaign surge that peaked in June.

“Our campaign started taking a down-turn in August and September, as one of us started a lone move to manage the candidate alone and make him unreachable by the strategy and comms teams. He also started locking out our partners who have been supporting the candidate,” said an insider.

This has been linked to present poor show of Muturi in national opinion polls.

Muturi did not feature anywhere in an opinion poll releases on Friday by Tifa research on preferred next president. 

The poll ranked Deputy President William Ruto leading at 38%, Raila Odinga at 23%, Musalia Mudavadi 2%, Kalonzo Musyoka, Alfred Mutua and Martha Karua at 1% while the rest were classified as “others” with 2%.

The poll has jolted some of those who were initially working closely with Muturi  saying management issues at the campaign centre was to blame.

Insiders have complained that the initial thinks tank found itself without work as one of the aides started managing the candidate’s diary like a secret.

Prolific newspaper columnist Prof Peter Kagwanja, who was one of think tank’s political strategists was said to have quit around September.

The comms team is said to have slowed down on its duties after it discovered that the aide had hired parallel social media outfits to manage daily trending and live Twitter live Q and As with the candidate. The Star

Twenty-three people have submitted applications to run in Libya’s presidential election, according to the elections commission.

In a statement, the commission said its office in the capital Tripoli received seven applications while one application was submitted in the eastern city of Benghazi.

This brings "the total number of presidential hopefuls (so far) to 23," the statement read.

Libya’s presidential and parliamentary elections are set to take place on Dec. 24 under a UN-sponsored agreement reached by Libyan political rivals during meetings in Tunisia on Nov. 15, 2020.

Applications for running in the presidential polls will be accepted until Nov. 22 and Dec. 7 for parliamentary polls.

The electoral commission pointed out that submitting applications for candidacy “is a preliminary acceptance” after which they will be referred to the Attorney General, the Criminal Investigation Agency, and the General Administration of Passports and Nationality to ensure they are in line with the requirements of the electoral laws.

A candidate for the presidency, according to the commission, is required to have never been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude or dishonesty, and not to hold the citizenship of another country.

Libyans hope that the upcoming elections will contribute to ending an armed conflict that has plagued the oil-rich country for years.


* Writing by Ibrahim Mukhtar,  Yeni Safak

An FAA advisory warns clashes between government forces and TPLF could threaten flights if fighting reaches the capital.

The FAA said there have been no incidents to date at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport related to the fighting [File: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

The United States has warned pilots that planes operating out of Ethiopia’s main international airport – one of busiest in Africa – could be “directly or indirectly exposed to ground weapons fire and/or surface-to-air fire” if the country’s spiralling conflict nears the capital, Addis Ababa.

A Federal Aviation Administration advisory cited the “ongoing clashes” between Ethiopian forces and fighters from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), in the warning to pilots operating from the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport.

The warning was issued on Wednesday, a day after the US urged its citizens to leave the country immediately as the fighting risked further escalation.

The FAA advisory said there had been no reports of disruptions at the airport and “no indication of an intent to threaten civil aviation”. 

It added that the risk to approaching and departing planes could increase if the Tigrayan fighters encircle the capital.

Ethiopia’s political scene and military were controlled by the Tigrayans for decades until Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the leadership vote in 2018 and sidelined Tigrayan leaders.

In response, the Tigrayans expelled the Ethiopian army in Tigray and marched into the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions, while Abiy’s government sent troops north to quell the advance. 

Both sides have been accused of committing atrocities during the year of fighting, which has killed thousands of people, displaced more than two million, and left hundreds of thousands facing famine-like conditions. Government forces have also been accused of blockading the northern area and inhibiting the flow of international aid.

Meanwhile, the African Union, the US, and other regional actors have been scrambling to calm the tensions in recent weeks.

On Thursday, Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Dina Mufti, told reporters that both African Union envoy, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, and US envoy Jeffrey Feltman are currently in the country. 

The FAA advisory said the Tigrayan fighters “likely possess a variety of anti-aircraft capable weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank weapons, low-calibre anti-aircraft artillery, and man-portable air-defence systems,” or MANPADS, which could reach up to 25,000 feet above ground level.

The international airport in Addis Ababa is the hub for state-owned Ethiopian Airlines, a symbol of Ethiopia’s former status as one of the world’s most rapidly growing economies before the war.

The airline in recent years became Africa’s largest and best-managed carrier, turning Addis Ababa into a major gateway to the continent.

Addis Ababa is also the continent’s diplomatic capital, hosting the headquarters of the African Union.  SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Miguna Miguna at Brandenburg Airport, Berlin, Germany.

BERLIN – Unexpectedly stranded in Germany while in transit halfway through his eagerly awaited homecoming to Kenya, activist-lawyer Miguna Miguna has been in a state of limbo as he pensively follows legal efforts in Nairobi that could allow him to complete his first journey to his African home in four years early next week.

Miguna says that his attempts to fly from Berlin to Nairobi were foiled at the last minute when a leading European airline, Air France, declined to allow him to board a flight in Berlin that he had purchased tickets for. 

Miguna says the airline was acting on a directive from the Kenyan government that kept him grounded in Germany. He showed a “denied boarding certificate” from Air France saying he faced the same problem in early 2020 when he was denied access to a Lufthansa flight from Berlin.

 “No, I’m not enjoying Berlin – I’m basically marooned here in Berlin,” Miguna said in an interview in the German capital.

“I’m here in transit waiting for a green light to be able to travel to Kenya. The Kenyan authorities sent a red alert to the airlines to stop me from travelling to Kenya. My lawyers are in court hoping to have that lifted. The decision will be on Monday and we are hoping for a positive one because there is no reason that I’m not allowed to go.” 

Despite spending decades of his life in exile in Canada and building a career as a successful litigation lawyer in Toronto, Miguna has an irrepressible yearning to return to Kenya -- even though he plans to fly back to his law practice and family in Toronto after a stay in Kenya. He said his goal is to help strengthen democracy and the rule of law in his native country with peaceful means. 

“Kenya is my place of birth, my native land, the country of my citizenship and I was forced into exile illegally – I just want to go home,” Miguna said when asked why he was so eager to travel to Kenya despite the hardship and hurdles.

“Secondly, I want to continue the process of facilitating change. That is the work that I want to continue doing that had been interrupted (four years ago), the struggle for the liberation of Kenya. I believe Kenyans should be able to determine their future.”

Miguna returned to Kenya in 2007 and worked for a time as a senior adviser to Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

He was forcibly exiled from Kenya in February 2018, bundled into an airplane bound for Dubai. He was charged with treason for being present at a presidential “swearing in” ceremony in 2018 for opposition leader Raila Odinga, who maintains he was the winner of an election that returned President Uhuru Kenyatta to power in August 2017. His forced exile was later revoked by the High Court in December 2018 but he has not been back in Kenya since then. The case has exposed a rift between Kenyatta’s government and the judiciary. 

Miguna’s legal efforts to return to Kenya this month have had prominent support in Kenya from Law Society of Kenya (LSK) President Nelson Havi and former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, who are seeking to have the red alert issued by Kenya lifted.

The legal team is also made up of his lawyers and three political parties who claim that the Attorney General misled the court on the red alert notice, saying it did not exist. He has kept his more than 1.7 million Twitter followers posted on his efforts to continue his journey to Kenya.

“They are afraid of the truth, they are just afraid of the fact that I am going to speak to people in Kenya truthfully without any fear,” said Miguna when asked to explain what he believes is behind the considerable efforts to prevent him from traveling to Kenya in November. He said his intentions are peaceful and he will be armed with nothing more than powerful arguments.

“Of course, it’s non-violent,” he said. “I’ve been very clear: this is not an armed struggle. I am not going in through the forest, I’m not crossing the border at night. I want to arrive on an airplane in broad daylight. It’s more of a popular revolution. Citizens who have been subjected to inhumane treatment rise up peacefully and demand their rights. It’s what was happening before I was removed.”

In mid-November Berlin is a dark and dreary city in the best of times and the conditions this year are more bleak than usual due to an ominous increase in the numbers of Covid-19 infections to record high levels above 60,000 per day, rising hospitalization rates to capacity levels and an increasing death rate of several hundred per day. There is also a prolonged period of political uncertainty in the air at the worst-possible time during the pandemic with the former conservative-led government in a caretaker role for nearly two months now as a new centre-left government struggles to come together to form a new government.

Having lived in Canada for much of the last 32 years and having stayed in contact with allies in Kenya for just as long, Miguna is no stranger to either cold dark winter weather or political turmoil. But caught in limbo himself, the towering man with an infectious laugh looks puzzled when asked why he cares so much about Kenya and why he can’t simply savour his life as a lawyer in Toronto. 

“I was born in Kenya and you can’t take that away,” he said. “Unlike Canada, which is a developed state with a functioning democracy, Kenya is a brutal, repressive country which is dominated by a tiny group of people -- rapacious plunderers who are looting from the people and muzzling them.

“It’s because I believe in the ideas of freedom, liberty, of democracy and the rule of law,” Miguna added. “And at the end of the day, when all is said and done, I want that to be my legacy. I want it to be that I tried to make contributions to make this world a better place. If I can achieve that, that would make me happy.” By Erik Kirschbaum ,  The Standard

Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and the Odinga-led Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) maintained momentum as most preferred parties for the 2022 General Election at 30 per cent and 16 per cent respectively/CFM

Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga have been named as most preferred candidates in the 2022 State House race polling at 38 per cent and 23 per cent respectively.

A study commissioned by an African based full market research firm whose findings were published on Friday revealed Ruto had lost a percentage point in terms preference by Kenyans having been scored at 39 per cent in June.

The study conducted between November 7 and 13 indicated preference for Odinga had risen by 15 per cent, having stood at 8 per cent in June.

Asked which candidate they thought President Kenyatta preferred to take over the reigns of power after the August 2022 presidential election, 48 per cent of 1,519 respondents interviewed said they believed Kenyatta preferred Odinga, up from 32 per cent who gave a similar response in June.

Nine per cent of the respondents thought Kenyatta preferred Ruto, down from 10 per cent who said so in June.

Baringo Senator Gideon Moi ranked third on the list of politicians the respondents felt President Kenyatta preferred at 2 per cent down from 6 per cent in June.

The poll listed Mudavadi in third place among candidates respondents thought Kenyans would prefer most. Mudavadi was scored at 2 per cent, down from 3 per cent in June.

Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and the Odinga-led Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) maintained momentum as most preferred parties for the 2022 General Election at 30 per cent and 16 per cent respectively. 

TIFA indicated that UDA’s popularity had increased from 21 per cent in June when ODM’s preference was reported at 9 per cent.

The governing Jubilee Party’s preference plummeted from 40 per cent in June 2020, 34 per cent in December 2020 and 8 per cent in June 2021 to settle at 5 per cent in November.

The TIFA poll also noted that UDA’s popularity was greater than ODM and Jubilee combined amid reports that the two formations could formalize a political union ahead of the 2022 polls.

“A striking finding is the rise of the UDA party since its emergence as the preferred electoral vehicle for DP Ruto and those allied to him, first captured in TIFA’s June, 2021 survey and repeated in this current one, so that as of now it is nearly twice as popular as its closest rival   (ODM), and with official ruling party (Jubilee) now just a shadow of its former self in terms of popularity,” the pollster said.

The study conducted between November 7 and 13 listed Amani National Congress, Wiper Party and FORD-Kenya parties at par, all scoring 1 per cent.

A staggering 40 per cent of the respondents did not however identify with any political party. Capital News

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