Jeremiah Kioni
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Need for balance on Mountain unity

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Former Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni (centre in black suit) joined by Kikuyu elders during the Limuru 3 meeting at Jumuia Conference Centre in Kiambu on May 17, 2024. 

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

Nobody can doubt that last Friday’s Limuru III meeting of Mount Kenya community leadership—or rather, a section of the leadership—could have major ramifications on the national political scene. One could, of course, argue that whatever resolutions were passed were inconsequential.

The populous region voted almost to a man, and woman, for President William Ruto and his Kenya Kwanza Alliance. Nearly all the elected representatives from the region—Members of Parliament, Governors and Members of County Assembly who hail from the governing coalition—gave Limuru a wide berth.

In the absence of elected representatives, and crucially the senior-most government politician from the region in the person of Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, the Limuru parley could easily be dismissed as a gathering of election losers and busybodies. But a dismissive attitude could be a big mistake. Decisive political moments are not shaped by complacent establishment types, but by the insurgencies that emerge and grow organically.

The struggle for independence from colonial subjugation was not driven by the clergy, chiefs and other lackeys who enjoyed the patronage of the occupation regime. It was driven by those on the outside brave enough to challenge the might of the British Empire. Ditto the struggle for the Second Liberation, which was driven not by quislings imposed on the people by a one-party dictatorship but an unelected lot who enjoyed legitimacy from the masses rather than any mandate of electoral office.

Limuru III

This is not to suggest that Limuru III can be equated to the beginning of a struggle against colonialism or dictatorship. But it does seek to ‘liberate’ the people of Mt Kenya from the current crop of elected leaders and also pull them away from the loyalty that ensured the Ruto-Gachagua ticket electoral victory and the Kenya Kwanza coalition an ironclad grip on the region’s elected leadership at all levels.

The key takeway from Limuru was the formation of the so-called Kenya Haki Coalition, which recognises former President Uhuru Kenyatta as the regional political kingpin until a successor emerges. The resolution was a direct rejection of DP Gachagua’s claim to Mt Kenya political leadership and also repudiation of the community’s support for President Ruto.

Although not explicitly stated in the resolutions, a lot of talk from different speakers harped on Mt Kenya using the might of numbers to front a formidable presidential candidate in 2027, a quest which, if realised, would give the incumbent sleepless nights.

Leverage its numbers

There is nothing wrong with the divided community seeking to unite and leverage its numbers. Political impact in Kenya comes from populous communities presenting a united front under a recognisable leader so that they can better negotiate in the politics on ethnic power-sharing deals.

The Kalenjin agglomeration has President Ruto. The Luo have opposition chieftain Raila Odinga. The Luhya have the sometimes-competing duo of Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi and National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula.

The Mt Kenya communities were left with a gigantic void since President Kenyatta exited office after the 2022 General Election, having been decisively rejected by his own people on backing Mr Odinga as his preferred successor.

Mr Gachagua has sought to fill the vacuum to no avail. Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua, who was Mr Odinga’s presidential election running mate, failed dismally in her quest to rally the community behind the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party ticket. She was one of the key convenors of Limuru III and, presumably, a front-runner in the quest to bag the regional kingpin title ahead of Mr Gachagua.

Follow-up meetings

Depending on how the organisers build on the momentum from Limuru, with a series of follow-up meetings set to be convened across the region, a veritable revolution could be in the offing that sweeps the current political establishment aside.

But there is a serious risk that the attempt could backfire badly. It is one thing to seek unity and a common political direction for any community but quite another to mobilise the tribe against others.

Undisciplined speeches from various speakers exposed reckless rabid rhetoric that will have many looking with suspicion at the aims and objectives of the grouping. Uniting the Mt Kenya community must never be about coalescing against other communities or seeking to establish ethnic dominance.

That is where the initiative could fail unless the messaging is clearly managed and the intentions properly communicated to leave no doubt as to the desired outcome. Numbers alone can never be justification for any community to seek a perpetual grip on political power. And history proves that no community, whatever its population, can win power alone without going into coalition with others.

[email protected]. @MachariaGaitho