In the background of the ongoing transitional politics, rotational politics is playing out in Mt Kenya region, with politicians and influential quarters negotiating leadership at sub-regional levels.
The Northern Kenya counties of Isiolo, Mandera, Marsabit and Wajir have been known to go for negotiated democracy, where elders decide who is to be elected, and their word is usually final.
The concept is meant to promote coexistence among communities and clans.
The same appears to be happening in Mt Kenya counties of Murang’a, Nyeri, Embu, Tharaka Nithi and Meru, with leaders rooting for election of governors, senators and county MPs on the basis of regions and sub tribes.
The same could also spill over to the presidential candidacy, with the region recently splitting into Mt Kenya East and West factions.
Prof Herman Manyora, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi argues the idea of rotational politics in Mt Kenya goes back to founding father Jomo Kenyatta’s reign, when there was controversy over the leadership not crossing river Chania to Nyeri.
“Leaders in the region were involved in supremacy battles to control power with Murang’a, Kiambu and Nyeri at the centre of the struggle. When it finally shifted to Nyeri (through retired President Mwai Kibaki), there was a feel of triumph by leaders in Nyeri,” Mr Manyora said yesterday in a phone interview.
He said even as political power was concentrated in Kiambu and Nyeri over the years Jomo Kenyatta and Mwai Kibaki were presidents, leaders in Murang’a amassed wealth, making the area an economic powerhouse in the country.
The Mt Kenya Foundation (MKF), which is controlled by Kenya’s billionaires, is basically based in Murang’a, he noted.
However, people in Murang’a have over the years felt left out in the power struggle among the Kikuyu, and now they say it is their turn this time round, he said.
“The clamour by Mwangi wa Iria (Murang’a governor) to vie for the presidency is informed by this thinking. The MKF’s fronting of Peter Kenneth to deputise Raila Odinga is also part of this scheme to ensure that power shifts to Murang’a,” Mr Manyora added.
Now Mt Kenya East, comprising Meru, Embu and Tharaka Nithi, want a piece of the cake too. This saw the declaration of interest in the presidency by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi.
This is also playing out in the search for a running mate for key candidates based on the assumption that the region will not be fielding one of their own.
As for next year’s contest, politics of consensus in picking successors to the governor, woman rep and senator’s seat is on, with leaders in some regions complaining of being dominated by others.
The county is divided into two zones — Murang’a North and Murang’a South — the former having Kiharu, Kangema and Mathioya constituencies and the south grouping together Kigumo, Gatanga, Maragua and Kandara.
“We are exploring a way of picking consensual candidates...The problem we have is that in the past two elections, Murang’a North has been dominating the big three seats, hence making those of us in the south appear like we are children of a lesser political god,” said former Maragua MP Elias Mbau.
Who will lead Tharaka Nithi?
In Tharaka Nithi County, the debate is on where the next governor should come from. The county is made up of three constituencies - Tharaka, Chuka/Igambang’ombe and Maara, with almost equal votes according to the 2017 Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) register.
Proponents of rotational politics argue that since the incumbent, Mr Muthomi Njuki comes from Chuka/Igambang’ombe, and his predecessor, Mr Samuel Ragwa was from Maara, 2022 will be the turn of Tharaka constituency.
Both Senator Kithure Kindiki and National Museums of Kenya Director General Mzalendo Kibunjia, who are eyeing the governor’s seat are from Tharaka.
Prof Kindiki has already endorsed Mr Ragwa, who is aspiring for the senatorial seat, and who has maintained it is fair for Tharaka to produce the governor in 2022.
Mr Njuki, Chuka University Vice-Chancellor Erastus Njoka and Machakos County Assembly Clerk, Mr Gitari Mbiuki, all of who come from Chuka/Igambang’ombe constituency are at a disadvantage in the rotational politics stance.
In Embu, a fierce political contest to succeed Governor Martin Wambora, who is serving his second and final term in office, is in the making.
The race will be between the Embu and Mbeere communities, with the latter saying the gubernatorial seat should be rotational. Mr Wambora comes from the larger Embu.
"We would like to lead and the gubernatorial seat should be ours this time and we don’t want to be dominated," a Mbeere resident, Mr John Kithu said.
A host of aspirants have come out seeking to succeed Mr Wambora, including former Senator Lenny Kivuti, Manyatta MP John Muchiri and nominated MP Cecily Mbarire having declared their interest. Both Mr Muchiri and Ms Mbarire are from Embu, while Mr Kivuti hails from Mbeere.
Mr Kivuti, who lost to Mr Wambora in 2017, has the full support of Mbeere people, as well as some voters from Embu and he is determined to take on his rivals.
However, he faces an uphill task in convincing the Embu to support him for the coveted seat. Embu people are not ready to let the seat go, claiming they are the majority and that they should retain the seat.
In Meru County, the 2022 gubernatorial contest will be decided on support from the three sub tribes -- Imenti, Tigania and Igembe.
The contest pits incumbent Kiraitu Murungi against Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya.
CS Munya enjoys a large following among the Tigania and Igembe, while Mr Kiraitu has bigger support in his Imenti backyard.
In the 2017 General Election, Mr Munya got most of his votes from the Igembe, where Mr Murungi is striving to gain entry. There were more than 219,000 registered voters in Igembe North, Igembe Central and Igembe South in 2017.
The governor has been making inroads in the region buoyed by the problems facing miraa farmers and traders, following the seven-month embargo on trade in Somalia.
Some leaders from Igembe region, who were previously supporters of Mr Munya, have switched their support, accusing the CS of doing little to influence the reopening of the Somali market.
Among the leaders rallying behind the governor’s charm offensive are Igembe North MP Maoka Maore, Kubai Iringo (Igembe North), former Tigania West MP Kilemi Mwiria, politicians Dan Kiili, James Mithika as well as PNU elected MCAs Romano Mwito (Kangeta), Kimathi Ithibua (Kiegoi/Antubochiu) and several miraa traders.
On the cards for the people of Igembe is that should they support Mr Murungi in 2022, the governor should rally either Mr Maore or Mr Mwiria for the governor’s seat in 2027.
To weaken Mr Munya’s grip on the Igembe region, Mr Maore is leading a professionals’ caucus that is pushing for ‘political independence’ of the community.
Mr Maoka argued that the community has been overshadowed by the use of the name, ‘Nyambene’ to refer to Tigania and Igembe. CS Munya, who is from Tigania, is seen as a beneficiary of the ‘Nyambene’ political influence.
“Meru County is made up of three distinct blocks. As we maintain Meru unity, we must also preserve the identity of every block for their needs to be easily expressed and well understood in both economic, social and political progression at the national arena,” Mr Maore said.
Reported by Gitonga Marete, George Munene, Alex Njeru and Mwangi Muiruri