How a group of tycoons is influencing Mt Kenya politics
What you need to know:
- The foundation has since 2016 been funding the destruction of illicit liquor in a Sh15 million drive endorsed by the President.
- It has paid boda bodas daily for three weeks to identify and ferry youths to registration centres.
On January 19, President Uhuru Kenyatta arrived at the Thika Greens Golf resort, Murang’a County where a group of tycoons was waiting.
Among them was Equity Bank founder Peter Munga.
The President had one mission; to flag off a caravan of lorries that would be used to mobilise young people register as voters in 11 Mt Kenya counties.
The vehicles had one conspicuous name emblazoned on their sides: “The Mt Kenya Foundation”, an organisation that has become a political rod in the region.
Those who love it do so with a passion and those who oppose it have nothing kind to say.
The group was formed at the height of 2007/post-election violence by Mr Munga and his wealthy friends.
It is led by a board that includes billionaires like Mastermind Tobacco boss Wilfred Murungi, former KRA chief Michael Waweru, insurance tycoon and Dagoretti MP Dennis Waweru and its coordinator Mutuma Nkanata.
And there is no doubt that it enjoys State House patronage.
In addition to the flag-off of the lorries by Mr Kenyatta, the first family is a frequent contributor.
In a fundraising at Windsor Club in February 2016, Sh52 million was raised.
Contributors included Uhuru’s uncle George Muhoho and cousin Ann Nyokabi, who is also the Kiambu Woman Rep.
“We run the foundation through contribution from well-wishers and directors who support our cause,” Mr Nkanata said, adding that the aim of the foundation is to unify the country and promote socio-economic and political development of the region.
“And of course to ensure President Kenyatta is re-elected. He has guaranteed stability,” he said when pressured on the group’s political stand.
It is this aim that has rattled friend and foes.
To execute Mr Kenyatta’s re-election, the foundation has come up with a cocktail of political and economic strategies that are hinged on four-pillars: the fight against alcoholism, launch of a Sh100 billion economic plan for 11 counties, voter mobilisation and to ensure Jubilee retains a majority in the National Assembly and Senate.
To safeguard Jubilee’s majority in Parliament in the face of recent defections, the foundation’s directors have asked small parties supporting President Kenyatta in Mt Kenya not to field candidates for parliamentary positions.
It wants Jubilee to maintain “the tyranny of numbers”.
Mr Titus M’Ibui, another director of the foundation, said by only fielding candidates for governor and ward representative, the parties would enable Jubilee enjoy a majority in Parliament.
Several politicians defected from Jubilee to parties like Chap Chap, PNU, DP and Narc-K.
“The small parties could deny the President a legacy,” Mr M’Ibui said.
His sentiments were echoed by Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi who cited the Kibaki government, which won the 2007 elections but only had 41 MPs.
“In 2007, we were blackmailed by Ford-K. They demanded seven PS slots in order to support us. I would not wish Jubilee to go through that,” he said.
But the parties have opposed the deal, calling it a plot to stifle democracy in Mt Kenya.
“We expect to have at least seven PNU MPs in Meru. In other counties, some people are waiting for the opportune time to make public their stand,” Meru Governor Peter Munya said.
Tigania West MP David Karithi, who opposed the Meru Jubilee officials’ election, said small parties had a right to field candidates for any seat.
The foundation has since 2016 been funding the destruction of illicit liquor in a Sh15 million drive endorsed by the President.
In addition to funding MPs who mobilised youths to raid drinking dens, it also funded a meeting of MCAs to draft laws on liquor.
A meeting held by central Kenya MPs in Nyeri was also a brainchild of the foundation.
It is telling that Internal Security PS Karanja Kibicho attended all the meetings.
“Alcohol had destroyed young people. It was affecting everything; from joblessness to voting. The region is now better,” Mr Nkanata told the Nation.
“That fight has helped our youth get back on track economically and socially. That is why we achieved voter registration targets,” Mr Murungi said.
The foundation has pumped close to Sh70 million to mobilise voters in the 11 counties.
This is through a web of politicians, grassroots leaders and boda bodas.
In addition to the caravans, the foundation paid boda bodas daily for three weeks to identify and ferry youths to registration centres.
It also worked with chiefs and their assistants to deliver identity cards to young people and take them to the centres.
The foundation sponsored concerts in several counties to ring up voters. Musicians and bloggers rallying the youth were paid by the tycoons.
“The resources have proved useful. It is the reason we have hit close to 80 per cent of our target,” Mr Murungi said.
The foundation spent Sh11 million in the Meru mobilisation.