President Kenyatta kicks off Mt Kenya visit

Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives at State Lodge Sagana on January 29, 2021.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Mount Kenya MPs and MCAs allied to Jubilee Party’s Kieleweke faction will Friday separately meet President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nyeri ahead of the long-awaited Sagana State Lodge meeting tomorrow (Saturday).

Friday’s meeting comes after that of governors with the Head of State to rally support for the region’s political unity and the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) championed by the President and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives at State Lodge Sagana on January 29, 2021.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

It is expected that President Kenyatta will use the Sagana meeting to assert his political authority against a backdrop of a disgruntled backyard and uncertainty over his relationship with his deputy William Ruto.

Dr Ruto and his entourage of Tangatanga MPs from the Mt Kenya counties of Nyeri, Meru, Embu, Kirinyaga, Tharaka-Nithi, Nakuru, Murang’a, Kiambu, Laikipia and Nyandarua have openly defied the President and rejected the BBI.

Allies of the DP have been left out of Saturday’s BBI unity meeting.

The Head of State has been slowly losing his Central Kenya political base to Dr Ruto, whose aggressive early campaigns for the 2022 presidential elections have roped in some of the leaders from the region.

Mr Kenyatta has also had to contend with a hostile backyard over dwindling economic fortunes with special focus on tea, coffee, miraa, pyrethrum and other economic drivers of his political backyard. The problem has been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ward representatives and MPs who spoke to the Nation confirmed being invited to today’s meetings at 9 am and 3pm.

Mt Kenya MCAs Caucus Chairman Charles Mwangi said their meeting is expected to largely focus on the BBI as well as the independence of county assemblies in their oversight role.

“The BBI has many benefits for counties and that is why we will be attending the meeting to hear from the President himself on the way forward regarding the proposals therein. We are aware that he wants to consolidate us to work as a team, evaluate what he has done in the past and the way forward for counties,” Mr Mwangi told the Nation.

After the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) gave the BBI the greenlight following verification of signatures, the push to amend the constitution will now be won or lost in the county assemblies.

The BBI Bill must be supported by at least 24 county assemblies.

In Mt Kenya, there has been a split between MCAs supportive of the BBI and Handshake and those queuing up behind Dr Ruto’s cash-rich political machine.

“Some MCAs have been going astray. We are asking them to focus on how wards are going to gain if the proposed constitutional changes come to pass,” said Mr Mwangi, who is the Murang’a’s Ichagaki Ward representative.

And Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi said today’s meeting will galvanise the President’s support base as the BBI process enters the crucial stage paving the way for a referendum.

The MP exuded confidence that the President is still the Mt Kenya political kingpin. “I am looking forward to the meeting and expect that solid decisions regarding our region’s political future will be spearheaded by the President,” Mr Ngugi said.

North Imenti’s Rahim Dawood said he was optimistic the meeting with the President will be important to strategise on how to market BBI and salvage its fortunes in Mr Kenyatta’s stronghold. The MP said the people do not have access to information on how the document will turn around their lives.

“There should be a plan to give more information on the goodies in the BBI document to counter the narrative sold by those opposed to it,” he said.

Kieni MP Kanini Kega said Tangatanga MPs were deliberately locked out of today’s and tomorrow’s meetings.

“This function is an ''invites'' only, for those who only subscribe to the President’s doctrine of development between now and 2022. If you have been left out, then you are not part of the agenda of that meeting,” Mr Kega said.

BBI popularity has suffered a hit in the wake of the jostling for the region’s vote and the positioning by leaders bidding for seats there.

The simmering disquiet in Mt Kenya was exposed after Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kanga'ta authored an explosive letter to the President warning that BBI was unpopular in the region.

In the face of the fever of 2022 politics kicking, a number of politicians have shied away from promoting the document, ostensibly to avert a backlash from locals against the BBI.

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