The NIS sent 15 spies to track Opposition Chief Raila Odinga’s every movement in the US and monitor his public and private meetings even installing listening devices, the Star has learnt.
“We are on top of virtually everything, movements … calls …SMSs,” an intelligence source told the Star in confidence.
This elaborate blanket surveillance is an indication of the jitters in the Jubilee administration and alarm that the unpredictable ex-Prime Minister might pull off an international diplomatic coup on his charm offensive in the US.
Details of the week-long spying and the high-level secret meetings between Raila and top US officials have emerged as he jets back to the country today to a hero’s welcome.
He is expected to land at 11am at JKIA.
A massive procession, a Million Supporter March, is planned, in defiance of a police ban. They are not to enter or block the airport.
Confrontation is possible.
“I am happy with what I have seen here and I’m happy to come back home. We have a lot of friends in the USA,” Raila tweeted yesterday.
Raila’s long-time adviser Salim Lone told the Star, “I have been with Raila on visits to the US before but there has never been such an extraordinary level of interest in him.”
The anxiety in the Jubilee administration is so intense, that spying was deemed necessary.
The Star has learnt an advance reconnaissance team was sent to Washington, DC, two days before Raila arrived. Three others accompanied Raila on his flight to the US, sitting as close as possible.
“We had our people in place prior enough. That is how we do it, it’s our business,” the highly placed intelligence officer said.
The agents, including four women, attended Raila’s open meetings and kept at close as possible to him and key associates, literally tracking them.
Though they could not enter private meetings, they were able in some cases to instal listening devices in advance to capture conversations, the Star was told by high-level NIS sources.
NIS field officers in Washington reported directly reported to senior officers at their Thika Road headquarters.
The panicked Jubilee administration is said to have been concerned Raila’s US tour was more than lectures and decided to establish his actual mission in America.
The spies had instructions to advise on every minute detail, every movement, who Raila met, when, where and what was discussed.
Raila’s America trip is part of NASA’s battle strategy against President Uhuru Kenyatta’s controversial reelection on October 26.
Signalling that Raila could have succeeded in convincing a section of the US elite was a public statement from Mark Bellamy, former Africa director at the State Department and former Ambassador to Kenya.
Bellamy, a pillar of the Washington establishment, said many Kenyans do not accept the legitimacy of Uhuru’s reelection.
“Kenya is in political disarray. A sizable portion of Kenyans doesn’t accept the legitimacy of the 26 October election and a third election does not offer a way out of this crisis,” Bellamy said. “‘Moving on’, as some demand, could make the problem worse. Kenyans have shown that they do not accept authoritarianism or strongman rule prevailing in many parts of Africa.”
The diplomat concluded that “there is no answer to the current crisis without the strong imprint of Raila Odinga.”
Bellamy spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a leading think tank institution where Raila gave a public lecture.
Raila met, among others, Assistant Secretary of State Donald Yamamoto, the senior most policymaker on Africa; and Senator Chris Coons, considered the most knowledgeable about Africa and Kenya.
He also met two seniormost staff directors on Africa in Congress: Michael Phelan of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Greg Simpkin of the House Africa subcommittee.
The ODM leader also had private meetings with President of the National Democratic Institute Ken Wallock, President of the International Republican Institute Dan Twining and Johnnie Carson, former Assistant Secretary of State for Africa.
Lone, who attended all US closed and public meetings, told the Star said two central events accounted for what he termed an “extraordinary change of views about Kenya’s political situation” internationally.
These are the low voter turnout in the repeat vote on October 26 and the failure of the full Supreme Court to convene for a crucial hearing on the day before to decide on the legality of the poll. Only two of seven justices showed up.
On the night before, the driver assigned to Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu was shot and there was widespread speculation it intended to intimidate and scuttle the court hearing.
“That entire narrative [that Uhuru won on August 8] was shattered by an abysmally low turnout for President Kenyatta in the rerun, after nearly 80 per cent had voted on 8 August,” Lone told the Star. “Many recognised this had created a legitimacy problem for him and would create political instability for an extended period of time and undermine the economy.”
Raila has called for Uhuru to step aside and a six-month transition government to be formed until a fresh and credible presidential election can be held.
The Supreme Court overturned Uhuru’s August 8 win, saying it was filled with irregularities and illegalities. It ordered a fresh presidential rerun that was held on October 26. Raila withdrew and his supporters boycotted the election that was marred by violence in opposition zones.
Uhuru, running virtually unopposed, won again.
The Supreme Court is considering another challenge to that victory and is to rule by Monday whether Uhuru was validly elected.
If Uhuru is sworn in, NASA says Raila will be sworn in as President as well and the opposition will campaign for secession.\
Yesterday police arrested two opposition legislators, Babu Owino (Embakasi East) and his Ruraka counterpart Tom Kajwang and Starehe MP aspirant Steve Mbogo along Ngong Road en route to Kibera for an opposition rally. -The Star