President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta makes his remarks during a meeting with more than 7000 leaders from Mt Kenya region at Sagana State Lodge, Nyeri County on January 30, 2021.


Gloves off as Uhuru stamps authority in his home turf

What you need to know:

  • President says anyone intending to seek the support of the Central Kenya in next year’s elections must seek his blessings.
  • But allies of Deputy President William Ruto have dismissed the president's posturing. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday stamped his authority as the undisputed Central Kenya political kingpin, stating that anyone intending to seek the support of the vote-rich region in next year’s elections will have to seek his blessings.

He said for once the region may not have a serious presidential contender in 2022.

His declaration as the regional leader was supported by governors, legislators and other leaders in business, social and religious circles drawn from Embu, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Murang’a, Kirinyaga, Nakuru, Laikipia, Kiambu, Nyeri and Nyandarua counties who met at the Sagana State Lodge in Nyeri County.

But allies of Deputy President William Ruto — who were blocked from the meeting after 41 legislators on Wednesday fired a hard-hitting letter asking the head of state to stop dictating to them the region’s political direction and not to sell ODM leader Raila Odinga’s candidacy in the 2022 contest — dismissed his posturing. 

In a no-holds-barred take on the Mt Kenya’s politics, the President asserted that the rich region will not be taken for granted, even after his second and final term ends in 2022.

In a thinly veiled dismissal of Dr Ruto as Mt Kenya’s natural choice of successor for supporting him, President Kenyatta said he owes no one a political debt. This message was delivered in his native Kikuyu language. 

“Some have been saying we have a political pact and agreements. Incorrect. The only covenant I have is with the people of Kenya, a promise I am keeping and I intend to fulfil to the end of my term. Why can’t he allow me to do my work and stop coming for the leadership baton? Why is he impatient?” he said in reference to his deputy.

Mt Kenya divided

“Anyone who is genuinely interested in our region must use the front door. We must be wary of those creeping on our region using the kitchen door or the bedroom window,” he said.

“It is my intention that as I leave office the people of Mt Kenya are in a better place politically and economically than I found them. Be wary of those coming to badmouth me and asking you to reject the BBI, which has good proposals for this region. Ask them what they are offering instead,” he said.

The much-publicised Jubilee pact stipulates that when President Kenyatta retires in 2022, the party will support Dr Ruto for the top seat. Some Mt Kenya leaders have been drumming up support for the DP.

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, a staunch supporter of the DP’s 2022 presidential bid, rubbished the declaration of a unified region, accusing the President of locking out some of the leaders.

Despite declarations that the Sagana meeting leaves the region united, Mr Gachagua says Mt Kenya is more divided.

“How can you claim the region is united when half of the elected leaders were locked out? The only thing the President was right about is saying anyone who needs to negotiate with Mt Kenya has to come in through the front door. And that is through the people,”Mr Gachagua said.

But the President said that his backyard would not blindly offer political support to anyone.

“When that time comes, we will meet again here and ask ourselves pertinent questions: Who among us, or who not from our region meets our needs? We will demand to be at the negotiating table and ask what’s in it for us. The Gema Nation stretches far and wide and our demands will be many. That time will come and they better be prepared,” he declared.

Building Bridges Initiative

ODM leader Raila Odinga, with whom the President is pushing for constitutional changes through the Building Bridges Initiative, is locked in a battle for the control of vote-rich Mt Kenya backyard with DP Ruto, whose Tangatanga footsoldiers have been vigorously campaigning for him.

Dr Ruto has lately opposed the BBI while pushing for an elusive consensus on key issues in the Bill and the onslaught by the President in his political backyard could hurt his gains in the region. This week the DP dismissed the BBI as a waste of time and money.

Yesterday, President Kenyatta said the region should await his direction on the path they should take politically.

The President said Dr Ruto had been a key architect of the BBI and had even recommended some of the task force members. 

“You all remember how they claimed to have been left out of the handshake. Remember in Bomas I said how they involved and even nominated members to the BBI team? The truth must be told,” the President said.

He also used the meeting to recall the political events of the inglorious past that informed the BBI.

They were in rival political camps during the disputed 2007 vote whose result sparked violence that led them to face charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. 

Indictment by the ICC

Mr Kenyatta was in former President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity and Dr Ruto in ODM and the fierce contest led to their being named by then ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo among six individuals alleged to have borne the greatest responsibility for the post-election violence.

It was their indictment by the ICC that sprung them to the presidency in 2013 on a joint ticket.

The pair who both served as ministers in the Grand Coalition Cabinet, portrayed themselves as victims of political scheming by Mr Odinga trying to take them out of the State House race.

The President Kenyatta said some of the leaders present at yesterday’s meeting were against his decision to work with Dr Ruto in 2013 and 2017.

“I am pained when I hear them speak the way they do today. There are some people here, who I can’t tell you what they went through in 2007 and I had to convince them — appeal to them — not to seek revenge,” he said.

“And now you hear them from atop vehicles bragging about what has been done: roads, water, education... as if such work is done from public rallies. That work is done from State House, where you sent me. Tell them to stop milking with my nappier grass!” 

He rallied the region to support the BBI proposals saying they safeguard the region and the country.

Popularise BBI

“Whoever becomes president, even if he is a mad person, cannot take away that which is rightfully ours and that which is protected by the Constitution,” he said.

The leaders predominantly in the Kieleweke faction of Jubilee said they will popularise the BBI and speed up the legislative process in both the county and national assemblies.

Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria said the president’s initiative to campaign for the constitutional changes had given impetus to the region to solidly back him.

“We are happy that he personally came to vouch for the document and its proposals. It is now upon us to ensure that it gets the necessary support,” he said.

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said: “We have listened and agree that the BBI is good because it takes the country forward. It is not about 2022. As a region we have seen the benefits of the BBI in increased resources to the counties and wards, which means development for our region.”

Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi said the proposed constitutional changes are for the benefit of all. 

The President revisited the dynasty versus hustler narrative, saying such politics will not get anybody into power. The race to succeed him, he said, has been portrayed, particularly by Deputy President William Ruto's supporters, as a clash between dynasties and hustlers. 

The head of state said it was the possession of the right qualities of leadership and not one's background.

“You hear them call me dynasty just because I was born in the Kenyatta family. Did I pick which family to be born in? Tell them to stop insulting me, they will know where votes come from next year,” he said in reference to Mr Ruto’s allies.