Tough choices for Murang'a voters as Azimio, Kenya Kwanza throw the bait

William Ruto Murang'a

Deputy President William Ruto addressing Murang'a residents on August 2,2022. Raila Odinga's Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition and Dr Ruto's Kenya Kwanza Alliance are engaged in a fierce battle for the county's votes.

Photo credit: Martin Mwaura I Nation Media Group

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The scramble for Murang’a County's 620,129 votes between the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition and the Kenya Kwanza Alliance is now about whose promise for their first 100 days in office is more 'trustable'.

The two sides agree on one thing – that Murang'a is the gateway to Mt Kenya acceptability because it is considered by historians as the cradle of the Agíkúyú community. What is endorsed in this county, they say, automatically gains traction in the other regions populated by the Gikuyu, Embu and Ameru (Gema).  

Kenya Kwanza has announced a Sh2.5 billion economic stimulus programme in their first 100 days in office to lessen the effects of Covid-19 and the collapse of wealth in families, while Azimio has floated a Sh3 billion enticement package. 

Kenya Kwanza says a stimulus package would create at least Sh7.5 billion in county gross domestic product in the first one year, while Azimio says it will reduce poverty and joblessness to one digit in the first two years.

Kenya Kwanza has Dr William Ruto as the presidential flag-bearer, Senator Irungu Kang'ata as the governor candidate, Joe Nyútú for the Senate and Betty Maina for woman rep. It has Ndindi Nyoro for Kiharu MP, Alice Wahome (Kandara), Mary wa Maua (Maragua), Edward Muriu (Gatanga), Joseph Munyoro (Kigumo), Peter Kihungi (Kangema) and Edwin Mugo (Mathioya).

Azimio side

On the Azimio side, Raila Odinga carries its aspiration for the presidency, backed by Jamleck Kamau for governor, Waithera Muithirania (woman rep), Kembi Gitura (Senate) and Wangari Mwaniki (Kigumo MP seat). 

Others are Nduati Ngugi (Gatanga), Antony Chege (Maragua), Peter Kimari (Mathioya), Karanja Mburu (Kiharu) and Peter Kibuku (Kangema). It has also gained Mwangi wa Iria, the outgoing governor and Usawa Kwa Wote party leader.

“If we win, we will immediately after taking the oath of office come together and pool the budget. The next government comes at a unique time when the National Treasury will be disbursing the 2022/23 budgetary allocations,” said Mr Nyutu of Kenya Kwanza. 

“The governor will immediately set aside Sh2 billion and all the others will ensure Sh0.5 billion from the various devolved funds.”
Azimio, through Mr Wa Iria, says all agriculture-based value addition plants in the county will be funded within the first 100 days.

"This covers the dairy, horticulture and cereals industrial hubs. They will be allocated Sh1.5 billion in the first 100 days so as to maximise operations and expansion to absorb more workers," Mr Wa Iria said.

If he is elected senator, Mr Nyutu said he will ensure that all the money is disbursed to identified areas and utilised to the best interest of the area’s economy, the same thing being promised by his opponent, Mr Gitura.

Mr Nyutu said the areas identified as key priorities for funding in those first 100 days are agriculture, health, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) and pending bills.

Subsidy programmes

Mr Wa Iria said a further Sh1 billion will go to finance subsidy programmes directly targeting farmers so as to increase their profit margins, while the balance of Sh1 billion will be used to fund capital and expansion credit for SMEs.

The two sides say hospitals will have medicines and workers will be closely monitored to ensure that families save money that they would otherwise spend at private healthcare providers.

Dr Kang’ata said the team agrees that “all transparent and straightforward pending bills will be cleared within the first 100 days so that the suppliers and contractors can get money to generate more job opportunities and also offset wage arrears to their casuals.”

Mr Kamau also says that an Azimio government will ensure that delays in paying suppliers will be a thing of the past. He says he will work closely with government auditors to expedite payments for all pending bills.

Both Mr Kang'ata and Mr Kamau promise that public-private partnerships aimed at launching cottage industries in agribusiness will be signed and start in the first six months of their administration. 

Both said that all county government employees will have their salary arrears paid.

Dr Kang’ata said this will help workers become more productive and boost their morale to walk the extra mile in offering services, with Mr Kamau saying that "a motivated staff will see residents benefit from speedy service delivery".

MPs’ role in the drive will include lessening the burden on parents by immediately disbursing bursaries targeting the most vulnerable families and help build rural roads.

Feeder roads

“The MPs will link up with the governor’s kitty for roads to ensure the works to upgrade feeder roads commence within 100 days in office so that at least 5,000 youths will be earning at least Sh500 per day,” said Dr Kang’ata.

Mr Kamau said the tendering process will expressly benefit special-interest groups, especially women, youth and the disabled.

Dr Kang'ata said the county government will also roll out free ECDE education and a mandatory feeding programme for pupils so as to lessen parents’ breakfast and lunch budgets.

“We will also roll out free vocational training in all our village polytechnics so as to empower as many as possible with skills to take them into the job market,” he said.

Dr Kang’ata added that SMEs will benefit from a County Biashara Fund whose interest rate on loans will be zero “and we will liberalise hawking in designated areas where we will criminalise demolition or eviction of traders from their setups".

Mr Wa Iria said the county government is already in a signed agreement with Mr Odinga that Murang’a will roll out massive recruitment into vocational training centres so as to arm the area’s economy with artisan expertise to drive its economy.

He said “we will ensure that traders operating where they are not [supposed] to will be relocated and not displaced”.

Ms Betty Njeri who is UDA Woman Rep candidate said her duty will be to ensure that the budgetary interventions do not discriminate on gender.

“For instance, the new administration will come in just about when we will be preparing to usher in the September-November season. We will offer free maize seed and fertilisers to all our farmers,” she said. 

“The Murang’a County Creameries will be revived to become a value addition and employment hub for our people, hence translating to incomes in families. We will also enlist the help of our county assembly to bring down tax regimes.”

Marginalised groups

With Ms Muithirania, they said they will also chip in funds from their devolved National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF) to beef up the proposed stimulus package and benefit marginalised groups. 

They both said corrupt employees in the county “regardless of whether they work for the national or county government will have to get something else to do because we will be instilling discipline and respect for public funds in a version that will be clearly spelt out within the first two months of our taking charge”.

In a county sharply divided between the two coalitions, the Azimio side is being bankrolled by area billionaires, while Kenya Kwanza is banking on its own resource mobilisation skills, with Dr Kang'ata saying "we have our own loyal backers and we are not short of our own billionaires who do not go about shouting in the political market".

Under such enticements, political pundits say what will help either side to win is the “acceptability” of the presidential aspirants in the region.

"Acceptability and confidence in the two wings' promises will boil down to who among Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga is mostly embraced,” said former Maragua MP Peter Kamande.

“This is a party politics zone where voters vote for their favourite bus and its passengers ... but anything can happen in a contest like this."

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