Mt Kenya still a political jungle

William Ruto and Moses Kuria

Deputy President William Ruto (left) confers with Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria during a past public function in Uasin Gishu County.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Many were aghast at Mr Kuria’s comments, especially insofar as they depicted an already dominant and privileged community playing the numbers card.
  • There is nothing to indicate, however, that Mr Kuria was speaking for anyone other than himself.

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria can always be relied upon to stir up the hornet’s nest. The controversial legislator was at it again a week ago with what many considered outrageous demands.

In the wake of reports that Deputy President William Ruto had committed to naming a running mate from the Mount Kenya region for his 2022 presidential bid, Mr Kuria chimed in that the slot was not a favour but a right. He added that the central Kenya communities will not only demand the deputy presidency but, by dint of population superiority, also claim the right to 40 per cent of all cabinet posts, principal secretary offices, ambassadorial postings, as well as state corporation chief executive and board appointments.

The demand was, clearly, provocative but it came in the midst of a phenomenon where every serious presidential candidate is assiduously wooing the Mt Kenya vote. DP Ruto, his presumptive main rival Raila Odinga, the ODM party leader, as well as ANC chief Musalia Mudavadi and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, both of the One Kenya Alliance, have all been camped in Mt Kenya, explicitly holding out the deputy presidency to a populous community presently adrift with the impending exit of President Kenyatta.

They are also promising to safeguard the community’s interest in a post-Kenyatta era and to craft policies dear to the region in terms of business-friendly economic platforms, support for agriculture, safeguarding of property rights and favourable share of development funds.

The pork-barrel politics being played out is, therefore, nothing new — only that Mr Kuria, in typical fashion, puts it in terms that serve to highlight the primitive ethnic bargaining taking place.

Leadership vacuum

Many were aghast at Mr Kuria’s comments, especially insofar as they depicted an already dominant and privileged community playing the numbers card. There is nothing to indicate, however, that Mr Kuria was speaking for anyone other than himself. There hasn’t been any community gathering to craft such demands.

If anything, the wily Mr Kuria is, like any other leader in Mt Kenya, positioning himself for relevance. Like he stated, Mt Kenya pushing for DP is based on the premise that the region will let another community have a stab at the presidency, having already occupied State House for three of Kenya’s four post-colonial regimes.

Mr Kuria has himself previously declared that he would run for president but that posturing has waned in the light of his pro-Ruto stance. 

He is, however, one of the DP’s supporters from Mt Kenya region, alongside former Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri — who has said he is running for president while, however, believed to be angling for the running-mate slot — to reject demands that they abandon their political outfits to support the second-in-command within United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

The two have teamed up with Narc-Kenya supremo and former CS Martha Karua to try to fill the vacuum in Mt Kenya leadership.

Presidential candidates

It is interesting that, while Mr Kuria is making demands on the presumption that Mt Kenya will not present a presidential candidate, those he claims to speak for include a growing list of aspirants who say they are running for president or are, at least, positioning themselves to be considered for running mate by Messrs Ruto, Odinga or Mudavadi.

Among those who have indicated that they are in the race are National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria and former Kiambu governor William Kabogo. Controversial businessman Jimi Wanjigi has already hit the campaign trail in an improbable contest against Mr Odinga for the ODM ticket.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe has not made any public pronouncements but has been quietly sending out feelers and assembling the machinery preparatory to entering the fray. Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth would also be a strong candidate to fill the Mt Kenya leadership vacuum but is, for now, content to support Mr Odinga.

Figures such as Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and the Tharaka-Nithi senator, Prof Kithure Kindiki, are also placing themselves in the queue. So far, none of them has stood out and, before there is clear leadership, it would be impossible for any position to emerge that can claim to be representative of the region.

When — and if — a community conclave is finally held, it’s unlikely that sober and level-headed representatives will present demands in crude terms since that will only serve to depict greed and selfishness and justify the unease other communities may have. It’s also unlikely that rivals Ruto, Odinga, Mudavadi or anybody else wooing the Mt Kenya vote, will want to be seen as hostage to blackmail by individuals pursuing their own ends.

[email protected]. @MachariaGaitho