Political healing key to Mt Kenya's road to 2027 polls

Residents of Kimunye market in Kirinyaga celebrate

Residents of Kimunye market in Kirinyaga County lift a wheelbarrow on August 15, 2022 as they celebrated the declaration of Dr William Ruto as the President-elect.

Photo credit: Charles Wanyoro | Nation Media Group

The swearing-in of Dr William Ruto as the fifth President of Kenya marks the start of the Mt Kenya region's unique journey to the uncertainty of 2027, when the next General Election will be held.

It is the first time in the region's voting history that it is starting a new election cycle in an environment of nationalism as opposed to the tribal card, and both pessimists and optimists have strongly advanced theories on how it will turn out.

Those who support the new transformation have kind words for Dr Ruto’s presidency, while those in the opposition wish him to start disappointing immediately after his swearing-in ceremony.

As the country fought colonial occupation, Mt Kenya communities had trust in its tribal leaders in the likes of Dedan Kimathi before Jomo Kenyatta emerged as President. 

After the region suffered its share of the perceived bad rule between 1978 and 2002 after Daniel Moi took over power from Mzee Kenyatta, never again were its people led by a 'stranger'. As they pushed for the fall of Mr Moi, Mt Kenya voters sought to replace him with one of their own. From the 1992 elections through to 2017, the region had one of their own on the ballot contesting ultimate power and some won.

It is this new trust in the so-called "stranger" in Dr Ruto that will face the test of time to give rise to real freedom the region said it was seeking or cause misery. The journey may be abandoned midway and the region will start shopping for new alliances for yet another shot at the presidency in 2027.

Political souls

Yet, Dr Ruto, with surgical precision, conquered residents’ hearts ahead of the August 9 General Election and they surrendered their all to his United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party, to the chagrin of the world, let alone locals. Area voters took their political souls, without any herding by their political leaders, to Dr Ruto and their politicians followed them there.

"All is well, ask me, and we are in a safe pair of hands. Mt Kenya has no problem uniting, what we need now is unity in the country so that we can build our country," says career administrator Joseph Kaguthi who prides himself as a man who has seen it all working for the colonial government all through to the Uhuru regime.

Mt Kenya, according to Chama Cha Kazi leader Moses Kuria, had all along carried itself as the custodian of the tribal politics trophy and that is what is troubling many pundits.

"But refusing to follow the incumbent President and their kingpin, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, his proposed alternative Deputy President, Ms Martha Karua, complete with their billionaires and council of elders in favour of Dr Ruto was raw magic that is yet to register in the minds of doomsayers," Mr Kuria said.

Pessimists are already warning that Dr Ruto has in his political life exhibited signs of a potential tyrant capable of bad governance.

But his defenders, led by his deputy Mr Rigathi Gachagua, have put up a defense that "he is a gentleman, a worker and committed to transforming lives through economic emancipation".

Musical hits

Talented Musicians and Composers (Tamco) Sacco chairman Epha Maina says plans are underway to roll out rapid releases of musical hits that will rally all in Mt Kenya to accept and move on as one.

"We will melt those hearts of stone, including that of Ms Karua and Uhuru. We will soothe our people's hearts and ignite that sportsmanship spirit of applauding winners and losers carrying their heads high for it is all in a game," he said.

Mr Maina said no heart or demon can withstand the allure of music and soon all will be on the dancehall making jokes of election conflicts, sharing a progressive agenda for the region and soothing Dr Ruto to do justice for the area’s people.

Mr Gachagua said that some people have started creating stories of conflict on what Mt Kenya should not expect from the Ruto presidency.

"I want to tell them ours is not a partnership of sharing power, rather, it is about creating rewarding opportunities for our people. It is about wealth creation through increased agribusiness returns, industrialisation and trade," he said.

He said development will unite this country, let alone Mt Kenya.

National mandate

That Mt Kenya alone is said to have contributed 42 percent of Dr Ruto’s votes, Mr Gachagua said, should not mean that the region will "take our government hostage and derail it from its national mandate".

It is that shareholding that might end up becoming a poisoned chalice for the region "if it makes area leaders dream of attempting to take Dr Ruto hostage since the corresponding survival tactic would be for him to reach out to the rest 58 percent to secure his rule, hence giving rise to Mt Kenya versus the rest," says area analyst Prof Ngugi Njoroge.

The best approach, he says, will be to have a nationalistic mindset where the Ruto government pursues only the national good.

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya supporters are yet to recover from the shock of losing to UDA and have persistently warned that it was a grave mistake to defy the tradition of heeding the tribal call in voting.

"We witnessed deceitful politics where our people were lied to, hoodwinked and incited to abandon their political caution to enter into a marriage that had no dowry set," cries Kikuyu Council of Elders chairman Wachira Kiago.

He hopes that Dr Ruto will do the area justice, saying the best bet was for the region to heed Mr Kenyatta's advice to vote for Raila Odinga and Ms Karua.

Jubilee secretary-general Jeremiah Kioni insists that Mt Kenya’s best bet was to ensure continuity with President Kenyatta’s legacy projects.

"In an Odinga presidency, we were guaranteed legal reforms to pursue the one man one shilling and one man one vote principle of sharing resources and power. We were guaranteed completion of ongoing development projects and initiation of new ones and harnessing agricultural reforms was mooted," he said.

He added that "the kind of rebellion that we in Jubilee encountered from our people remains too strange to comprehend and I can only cross my fingers to see how it turns out".

Single regime

The UDA brigade is upbeat that the number of Cabinet nominees from the region will be the highest ever in a single regime. Widely said to be waiting for confirmation are Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, Kandara's Alice Wahome, former National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, former Gatundu MP Moses Kuria and former Tharaka Nithi senator Prof Kithure Kindiki.

They have all separately said they are giving Dr Ruto enough space and freedom to compose his government.

On Monday, Ms Wahome said that "given a chance to serve in his Cabinet, I will grab it with both hands since this is our beloved President endorsed by the will of God".

On Sunday, addressing worshippers at Maua stadium in Meru County, Mr Gachagua assured the region that "those spreading doubts about where Mt Kenya is headed in a Dr Ruto administration should be treated as prophets of doom who will stand shamed by time".

Nominated MP Sabina Chege said that "we risked our bet because Mr Odinga was our progressive hope but under the prevailing circumstances, we have no choice but to cut out the suit to our size".

She said that Mr Gachagua has a herculean task of first uniting all divergent voices in Mt Kenya so as to induce unity of purpose.

"The first dilemma is for us to agree to unite, heal our emotions and chart a united way forward. God knows it will be hard but we have to. It is then that we can speak of pursuing our interests," she said. Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri said "the first step is for all Mt Kenya leaders to forget that they were in different political formations in the just concluded elections".

National leaders

He said "we must first come together and form a Mt Kenya elected leaders’ forum and accept our national leaders as ours collectively. Then engage them on behalf of our people".

He said "the arena for lobbying for Mt Kenya interests remains in the National Assembly, Senate and applying county assemblies – only possible if we agreed to unite".

But Ms Karua believes that the best unity is one that creates government and its watchdog.

"That is why it is ill informed for those in our Azimio wing to start hibernating into the so-called government side ... That is dangerous for democracy and ideals of belonging. Being united for our people does not also include abandoning oversight to defeat excesses," she said.

Former nominated MP Maina Kamanda warns that "our road ahead is uncertain but I wish my people well".

He said Jubilee can only learn how to assimilate with the raw reality that "we were defeated and there is nothing we can do about it for now".

He said the competing formations should reconcile and start relating with each other bonded by what has all along united Mt Kenya – common interests.

To that end, the Murang'a chapter of the Council of Elders, led by Mr Kiarie Chombou, said "we urgently need Uhuru, Karua, Gachagua and their troupes to call off all forms of differences for the sake of our community's journey to the next election".

Mr Chombou said that "we are in trial and error mode and we do not know what lies ahead of us in this new administration".

He said caution is not a crime and the "rule of the thumb demands that we anticipate only the good for our country, people and tribe".

With nearly all elected leaders in the region belonging to a political party headed by someone from a different part of the country, he said, "our unity is our only viable plan B". 

If the region pulled in different directions, he warned, “the kind of governance tragedy that will befall us will be catastrophic".

Former Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi said "it is urgent that we come to terms with the reality and remain focused on what is best for our people".

He added that "at all times we should not lose track of the leadership values that demand the best foot forward in pushing for progress for Mt Kenya residents, whether we are in government or out of it".