UNCTAD secretary general Mukhisa Kituyi during an interview with the Star at Lion Place, Westlands, Nairobi, on September 10, 2020.
UNCTAD secretary general Mukhisa Kituyi during an interview with the Star at Lion Place, Westlands, Nairobi, on September 10, 2020.
By Reporter

Former Trade minister Mukhisa Kituyi and Kenya’s highest-ranking diplomat in the United Nations system will  consider running for President when his UN term ends next year.

He has already set up a secretariat to explore his possible candidature and has declined to confirm speculation he is President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga’s ‘secret candidate’. 

“After I complete my international mandate, I want to take seriously the possibility of offering myself as part of a national solution [and] national renewal. Building on the experience of the current government, [ want to say] how we now build better. I want to make that contribution,” Mukhisa said.

His term at the helm of UNCTAD ends in July 2021, slightly over a year to the 2022 General Election.

In an exclusive interview with the Star on Thursday last week, the UNCTAD boss said he was “listening” to many voices but, was, at the moment focused on his work. 

“It is true I have set up a team to explore a possible Mukhisa candidature. That exploration is founded on the understanding that I cannot do Kenyan politics when I am still working for the United Nations,” he said.

Mukhisa’s possible entry into the presidential race is likely to jolt political bigwigs eyeing the country’s top job, especially in his Western Kenya backyard.

During the interview, Mukhisa, who was among the Young Turks pushing for multi-party democracy, described himself as an “intellectually finished product”.

“I am 63 years old, relatively of good health. I think I am intellectually a finished product.

“I have an idea about governance, international experience,  international best practices. I have had a privilege – on duty – to visit 119 countries, which is more than most people visit in their lifetimes,” he said.

He went on, “I think these experiences can be a positive force in my own country where I have also served as a Member of Parliament for 15 years and minister for slightly more than five years.”

Mukhisa’s candidature is likely to tilt the presidential race, especially in Western Kenya, and cause a political nightmare for ANC Leader Musalia Mudavadi and his Ford Kenya counterpart Moses Wetang’ula.

The former Kimilili MP disclosed he has put together a 2022 presidential secretariat of technocrats as his political think tank.

The team has already hit the ground and will steer his candidature when he leaves the UN.

“Less than a year down the line, I am going to be unshackled by international responsibility and obligations and I will be saying a lot of things about what I think is happening in Kenyan politics.”

His politburo’s mandate, Mukhisa said, includes getting a sense of what a formidable presidential campaign entails, the challenges involved and the crucial things that need to be done.

There has already been speculation about Mukhisa’s candidature and suggestions that he is President Kenyatta and Raila’s secret presidential candidate.

During the interview, Mukhisa declined to confirm or deny if he has been approached by Uhuru and Raila to run for the presidency, only saying he has been reading about the same in the media.

“If I was to run for office, I don’t think I will run because I am someone’s weapon. For me, I would say don’t look for weapons, look for solutions,” he told the Star.

Mukhisa did say he enjoys a robust and cordial relationship with the two leaders who wield huge influence and are likely to determine the direction of the 2022 presidential vote.

Uhuru is finishing his second and final term and previously has said his choice of successor will come as a surprise.

“I am still a politician. They will be shocked when that time comes,” the President said in Nyeri town on November 1, 2018.

Raila, who has made four unsuccessful stabs at the presidency, has not said whether he will run, though his allies have indicated he will be on the ballot.

The President and Raila sealed a truce and cooperation deal with a handshake on Ma werch 9, 2018.

On his relationship with the handshake duo, Mukhisa said he consults a lot with both Uhuru and Raila and enjoys good relationships with other political aspirants for the presidency, including Mudavadi.

“I have a very good relationship with the President. When the opportunity has arisen, I have shared with him candidly my thoughts on some of the areas where the UN system can be of contribution to this country,” he said.

Concerning Raila, the UNCTAD boss said, “We have a very positive and long-running history of engagement. [I remember him] staying in my son’s bedroom in ‘domestic exile’ before we took him to Norway where his first call of residence was my father in-law’s house. We share very many ideas of a scenario of a better Kenya.”

Mukhisa hid Raila in his residence in Mountain View Estate, Nairobi, as he brokered his flight to exile in Norway when President Daniel Moi was hunting him down.

Dr Kituyi was working with the Norwegian Embassy in Nairobi.

For the first time, Mukhisa talked of forming a new political party ahead of 2022, an outfit he said will appeal to both Uhuru and Raila’s supporters.

“I can assure if a decision is made that I am going to run for high office in Kenya, I have to retain the unique advantage I have. I am the only relatively active person with a credible history in Parliament and having been a minister with international exposure who has never been in Jubilee or Nasa,” he said.

“The unique advantage offers me the chance to be a bridging person and therefore if I make the decision to go into politics, I have to use a vehicle that does not drive away Nasa or Jubilee, which basically means it must be a new political party.”

Mukhisa joins a growing list of candidates seeking to succeed President Kenyatta.

They include  Deputy President William Ruto, ANC leader Mudavadi, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana and his Machakos counterpart Alfred Mutua.

The top UNCTAD diplomat said he receives thousands of calls and chats from Kenyan from all walks of life who want him to run for the presidency.

“I appreciate the energy and enthusiasm but I feel I have adult responsibility that I acquit myself decently where I am as a way of justifying any request for any future employment when I leave my current station,” he said.

He also dismissed claims he supported a faction during the messy Ford-Kenya takeover attempt spearheaded by Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi and his Tongaren counterpart Eseli Simiyu.

The ex-Trade minister also dismissed talk of the ‘deep state’ in which a few individuals hold boardroom meetings to decide who wins the elections.

The country, he noted, only needs to have a strong electoral body and a system that can transparently deliver on its mandate.

“We have to grow the integrity of the Kenyan electoral system, we have to grow our confidence in our ability to make the vote count more than the person who counts the vote.”

He added that he would be open to coalition building with like-minded individuals, terming coalitions the future of Kenyan politics.