Issues that will carry the day in Muranga gubernatorial race

Muranga aspirants

From left: Mr Jamleck Kamau, Dr Irungu Kang’ata and Mr Irungu Nyakera.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The region’s 600,000 voters appear torn between the Azimio la Umoja and Kenya Kwanza Alliance.
  • Political pundits say the winner will be the aspirant whose presidential candidate is more popular.

The battle to succeed Governor Mwangi Wa Iria is hotting up, with several issues expected to determine how the elections will pan out.

Senator Irungu Kang’ata, vying on a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket, alongside Jamleck Kamau (Jubilee), Irungu Nyakera (Farmers Party), Moses Mwangi (Safina), Joseph Mbai (Usawa Kwa Wote), Joseph Wairagu (DP) and Mike Gatogo of Amani National Congress (ANC) will battle it out for the governor seat on August 9. 

Party politics is expected to play a major role in the race. The region’s 600,000 voters appear torn between the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party, whose presidential candidate is Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga, and the Kenya Kwanza Alliance, whose flagbearer is UDA leader Deputy President William Ruto.

Mr Kamau is allied to Mr Odinga while Dr Mwangi backs Safina presidential candidate Jimi Wanjigi and Mr Mbai is supporting Mr Wa Iria for the country’s top job. The rest back DP Ruto’s bid.

Political pundits say the winner will be the aspirant whose presidential candidate is more popular with voters. Local politics will also be a factor, with the county divided into north and south.

In 2013 and 2017, the north scooped all the major seats (governor, senator and woman rep), while the south, comprising Kigumo, Maragua, Gatanga and Kandara constituencies, spent the entire period since the advent of devolution without a taste of power. Mr Kamau, Dr Mwangi and Mr Mbai carry southerners’ hopes and the rest of the northerners.

“This is a critical consideration and we’re urging voters to encourage their aspirants to negotiate on how to share the seats,” former Maragua MP Peter Kamande said.

Gender is yet another determinant. With Mr Kamau and Mr Nyakera having named women as their running mates, there is pressure on others to follow suit in order to woo women voters.  

Health is also turning out to be a hot-button issue for voters in a county perennially hit by strikes due to medics’ poor working conditions. There have also been complaints of drug shortages with medicine meant for public use diverted to private facilities.

“We want a governor who will help us deal with corruption cartels in the health sector. [Mr Wa Iria] failed [ to curb theft of drugs and other medical supplies],” former Sports Chief Administrative Secretary Zack Kinuthia told the Nation.

On agriculture, Murang’a Cash Crops Development Alliance Chairman Amos Mwangi said the next governor must focus on policies that promote value addition.

“It will create cottage industries that will employ many of our youth. We have sectors like mango, avocado, bananas and traditional vegetables that could be fetching us billions in profits but because we’ve not established value addition plants, our farmers continue to engage in subsistence agriculture,” he said.

Assembly Speaker Nduati Kariuki said the county needs someone who will offer a genuine subsidy programme for farmers.

“We want quality seeds, affordable and quality fertilisers, and extension services,” he said.

Dairy farming, which is in the doldrums, is another issue.

“The Wa Iria administration started very well when, in 2014, they introduced Sh35 guaranteed minimum price per litre of milk at the farm-gate. This stabilised prices in the county. But private players have come in and taken over control [of pricing]. 

“We want a governor who will streamline the dairy sector,” Dairy Farmers Welfare Union Chairman Sammy Ciira said. Another issue will be water, which has been chronic for 1,500 members of Kamugi Coffee Factory in Kigumo Sub-county.

Since 2013, a member Lincoln Muiruri said,  they have petitioned the Water ministry 12 times to sink a borehole for them, “since unreliable water supply has been threatening closure of our factory. We’ve been outsourcing pulping services for our coffee, an endeavour that has been eating 30 per cent of our earnings.” 

He’ll vote for one who will outline how to resolve the issue.

The factory used to handle as high as a million kilos of cherry but the volumes have dropped to an average of 225,000 kilos per season due to the water problem.

Traders want roads leading to open-air markets to be upgraded to all-weather. Maragua Business Community and Residents Association Chairman Mohammed Omar Maluki said small businesses will thrive if  there’s ‘a sensitive administration’ that lowers taxes.

Locals want decisive action taken on the booming trade in illicit liquor. County Commissioner Karuku Ngumo said “we seriously need a solution to the unemployment problem, which drives this trade.” 

Security agencies estimate that Murang’a is home to some 30,000 illicit brewers. 

For 5,000 Early Childhood Development and Education teachers, better terms of service are key. “We want a governor who’ll enable us to have a scheme of service and hire us on permanent and pensionable terms,” ECDE county coordinator Rebecca Wambui said.

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