What you need to know:
- The proposal has the potential of causing sharp political divisions across the country, as the region has produced three of the country’s four presidents.
- But former Dagoreti South MP Dennis Waweru said that the meeting was timely.
- Senate majority whip Irungu Kang’ata argued that the legislators were meeting to increase their bargaining power in the 2022 arithmetic.
Fifty-seven legislators and leaders from the vote-rich Mt Kenya, including Interior PS Karanja Kibicho met at a Murang’a hotel on Friday and proposed that the region field a presidential candidate in the 2022 General Election.
The proposal has the potential of causing sharp political divisions across the country, as the region has produced three of the country’s four presidents.
Some of the legislators, citing the region’s vote basket, told the meeting that there was no agreement anywhere that Mt Kenya would, at best, get a presidential running mate come 2022.
The leaders met at Thika Greens, a multi-billion-shilling investment co-founded by Kirinyaga Senator Charles Kibiru. Mr Kibiru is a close ally of Dr Kibicho, who is said to have called the meeting.
Sixty parliamentarians had been invited but three – including Nominated Senator Beth Mugo – sent apologies.
According to sources at the meeting, MPs allied to DP William Ruto did not expressly oppose the fielding of a presidential candidate, with some saying that despite disparate political affiliations on national issues, on regional issues, they would stick together and speak in one voice. Another meeting has been scheduled for next Friday and the organisers hope for a full house.
Senior political positions
The meeting came at a time when President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to release the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, which is rumoured to create at least five senior political positions – President, deputy president, prime minister and two deputies.
A number of Tangatanga MPs, who were not invited to the meeting, read mischief in the development, saying the idea of the region fronting its own candidate after President Kenyatta retires was being pushed by those keen on locking out DP Ruto from the region.
Earlier Friday, a number of Jubilee bloggers “broke” the news online and said there was no deal limiting Mt Kenya to a presidential running mate.
A number of the lawmakers in the meeting, however, sought to downplay the agenda which promises to change the course of the country’s politics, even with the potential of sending some of the BBI proponents who had hoped to gain from the region’s support back to the drawing board. “We really don’t have an agenda. We are bonding,” Senator Kibiru told the Saturday Nation last evening. “There is nothing much to it, really.”
But former Dagoreti South MP Dennis Waweru said that the meeting was timely. “It was about Gema leaders coming together ahead of 2022 General Election. It was about supporting President Kenyatta and uniting Mt Kenya leaders because we have a big role to play in next election,” Mr Waweru said.
The resolutions from the meeting will impact the campaigns of DP Ruto, who had made inroads in Mt Kenya for his presidential bid in 2022. ODM leader Raila Odinga, whose handshake with President Kenyatta has been translated by his supporters as part of a political deal, will likely feel spurned.
Senate majority whip Irungu Kang’ata argued that the legislators were meeting to increase their bargaining power in the 2022 arithmetic. “Our region has huge numbers. It was a meeting to discuss how to use these numbers in the coming elections,” said Senator Kang’ata, who skipped the meeting “due to ill health”.
The Saturday Nation established that a number of DP Ruto’s supporters were either not invited or gave the meeting a wide berth. Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, a staunch supporter of Dr Ruto, said he was not invited. Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwa and his Kandara counterpart Alice Wahome were also not invited.
Central Kenya powerbrokers
“I suspect that it’s because of declaring that I am supporting Ruto for the presidency in 2022,” said Mr Nyoro. At least eight bigwigs have lined up to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta as Mt Kenya’s political supremo. They are Murang’a governor Mwangi wa Iria, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua, Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia, and former presidential candidate Joseph Nyagah.
But the region is said to be considering Mr Kenneth and Mr Kagwe. Central Kenya powerbrokers are said to be torn between the two, who are already creating divisions in the race to unite the populous voter region. According to various interviews, the so-called ‘system’ is siding with CS Kagwe while the ‘Deep State’ is rooting for Mr Kenneth.
Mr Kagwe enjoys the support of officials from the Office of the President and his colleagues in the Cabinet while President Kenyatta’s kitchen Cabinet and buddies are bidding for Mr Kenneth, whom they say is more politically connected and has the financial muscle to run for President.
Whereas Mr Kagwe enjoys the support of powerful Interior CS Dr Fred Matiang’i, his PS Karanja Kibicho and a number of Cabinet secretaries, Mr Kenneth has been holding several meetings with ODM leader Raila Odinga, Cotu secretary-general Francis Atwoli and Jubilee vice-chairperson David Murathe.
Some of the legislators argued the journalist-cum businessman Tony Gachoka had been hired by the Kagwe side to spoil the name of Mr Kenneth by connecting him to the Covid-19 Kemsa scandal to reduce his chances of competing with Mr Kagwe as the region’s supremo.
In July, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi hosted a meeting at a Nairobi hotel to discuss the region’s future. The meeting included Agriculture CS Peter Munya, National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya, former presidential candidate Peter Kenneth, governors Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia), Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka-Nithi) and Kirinyaga Senator Kibiru.
Additional reporting by Wanjohi Githae