Kiunjuri survives Mt Kenya UDA onslaught as others 'punished' for backing Uhuru

Kiraitu Murungi

Governor Kiraitu Murungi votes at Irimbene primary school in Imenti South on August 9, 2022. He is accompanied by his wife Priscilla. Mr Murungi is among Mt Kenya political bigwigs who were staring at defeat in the polls.

Photo credit: GITONGA MARETE I Nation Media Group

The political landscape in the Mt Kenya region is changing after experienced guards were swept away by newcomers in Tuesday’s elections.

Former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri is the only top political gun in the region who survived the UDA onslaught that swept aside the region’s revered political kingpins.

Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi was staring at defeat by independent candidate Kawira Mwangaza, punctuating a new-look, post-President Uhuru Kenyatta leadership in the vote-rich region that is key in the country’s agriculture sector and larger economy.

Jubilee secretary-general Jeremiah Kioni, Kipipiri MP Amos Kumunya, Kieni’s Kanini Kega, Gatundu South’s Moses Kuria, former governor William Kabogo, Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi and Senator Ephraim Maina were among the first to fall by the wayside.

Mr Kiunjuri recaptured his former Laikipia East parliamentary seat in a hot contest against incumbent MP Amin Deddy, boosting his quest to become the Mt Kenya political kingpin following President Kenyatta’s exit.

Mr Kiunjuri’s The Service Party also bagged the Tharaka Nithi woman rep seat as all the other Mt Kenya giants fell to little-known politicians.

No experienced politician was spared what was described as the ‘yellow fever’ wave by politician Priscilla Nyokabi, who with former MP Kabando wa Kabando lost their quests.

In what could be seen as a generational change of leadership that saw all political bigwigs in Mt Kenya kicked out, analysts believe this arose from the political battle between President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.

At the height of the split between the two, some Mt Kenya leaders were caught up in the furore and those that remained loyal to the Head of State are paying for it at the ballot box. 

Four years ago, after the handshake between the President and Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga, several leaders from the region were disgruntled and began a revolt against the current administration. 

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, one of the casualties in the county, coined the Kieleweke and Tangatanga anthem that defined leaders on their political affiliations. It also marked the start of differences for leaders who were elected under Jubilee countrywide. 

The Kieleweke side was for leaders who remained loyal to the President while the Tangatanga were those who defied their boss as they crisscrossed different parts of the country campaigning. 

Leaders affiliated to the Tangatanga side supported Dr Ruto and have been re-elected under UDA. The Tangatanga tag started when President Kenyatta accused Dr Ruto's brigade of loitering in the country instead of serving Kenyans.

Mr Ngunjiri was trounced by Mr Duncan Mathenge in his fifth shot at the parliamentary seat. 

Whenever the Tangatanga team came to Nyeri town, the legislator would rally a battalion of his supporters in what he said was "protecting Uhuru’s bedroom". 

In December 2019, DP Ruto was due to attend a church fundraiser in Giakanja. Violence erupted when youths from the two political sides clashed over what those supporting the President said was an invasion of their territory.  

They wore T-shirts inscribed with "Uhuru’s bedroom" on the back and "no politics before 2022" on the front. 

When the DP arrived, local leaders walked to welcome him, except the Nyeri Town MP, who was left seated in his chair. 

When the time for speeches came, Nyeri Woman Representative Rahab Mukami again invited the MP after all other visiting MPs had spoken but once again he declined and did not leave his seat.

Some of the key flagship projects that he undertook were building or refurbishing dozens of schools, roads and police stations. 

The standoffs occurred not only in Nyeri Town but also Kieni, where the DP’s car was stoned in Naromoru while he was on a campaign tour and his meetings were disrupted. 

Mr Kega was voted out by his constituents, who elected UDA’s Njoroge Wainana. Mr Wainaina was vying for the seat for the second time, while Mr Kega was seeking a third term. 

In his concession remark, Mr Kega took to his social media, saying he will be taking up other roles in the Azimio government.  

"Opening a new chapter, when one door closes another one is opened. Heading to Bomas," he wrote. 

In a series of other posts, Mr Kega noted that voters in the Mt Kenya region will soon regret their choices and realise that the President meant well for them. 

"My Boss and my friend. HE Uhuru Kenyatta Commander in Chief. It is just a matter of time that Mt. Kenya will realise you meant well for them," he said. 

Political pundits opine that were it not for his choice of party, Mr Kega was set for a resounding win in the constituency. In his development record in the vast sub-county is the building of new roads that cut through locations that were previously impassable, providing water and overseeing the completion of the multibillion-shilling Chaka market. 

"I would do it again for Baba ... I have no problem losing Kieni parliamentary seat but Baba the fifth is winning," he wrote. 

In Othaya, Gichuki Mugambi, who was seeking reelection under jubilee, lost to UDA’s Wambugu Wainana, garnering 26, 976 votes against the former’s 9, 019.

Mr Mugambi thanked his constituents for allowing him to serve for the past five years. 

"I take this opportunity to thank the great people of Othaya for giving me the chance to serve them as their MP for the last 5 years," he wrote.

"I have no doubt we have left Othaya better than we found it. I thank all those who have walked this journey with me. 

“May I also take this opportunity to congratulate all those who have been elected and request that we support them to continue making our constituency shine. God bless you all."

It was during his tenure that Mwai Kibaki Hospital was completed and equipped, and other development projects in the health sector including a new medical college.