Rift widens in Mt Kenya as BBI row divides its leaders

Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga (right) shares a light moment with his deputy Caroline Karugu during a Building Bridges Initiative validation session at St Peter’s ACK Hall in Nyeri town on February 26, 2020. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Ruto allies blame Raila for woes in the Jubilee Party as leaders supporting Uhuru forge strategies to ensure region falls in line

  • ODM) party leader Raila Odinga’s amplified role that is increasingly becoming a source of discomfort in Deputy President William Ruto’s camp

  • Pundits say Saturday’s BBI rally at Kinoru Stadium will shape political landscape ahead of 2022.

Politicians from Mt Kenya counties are yet again approaching a crucial national political undertaking — the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) — as a divided house because of factional rifts blamed on outside interests.

The political undertones that have played out during meetings held this week point to competing political forces in the community.

Pundits say Saturday’s BBI rally at Kinoru Stadium bringing together leaders from Meru, Embu, Tharaka-Nithi, Laikipia, Kirinyaga, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Murang’a and Kiambu will shape the political landscape ahead of the 2022 polls.

Two factors appear to hold sway — the need for a BBI document that captures the popular aspirations of all Kenyans; and the desire to place a document that will not divide the political elites. But it is Orange Democratic Movement party leader Raila Odinga’s amplified role that is increasingly becoming a source of discomfort in Deputy President William Ruto’s camp, a majority of whom come from the Central region.

Both DP Ruto and Mr Odinga are expected to share a podium during the Meru rally. While MPs from the region say the deal between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga is not for political expediency, DP Ruto’s allies feel otherwise.

On Wednesday, leaders from Mt Kenya East met at Kirubia Stadium in Tharaka-Nithi County and adopted a memorandum with a raft of resolutions that they wish adopted.

On the structure of the Executive, the leaders said because of the incessant political uncertainties and divisions arising from contested presidential elections, the post of an executive prime minister should be established.

The PM will be the head of government, chair Cabinet meetings and be the official leader of government business in Parliament. The PM’s powers and functions will be clearly defined in the Constitution, they said.

Those who attended the meeting were governors Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka-Nithi), Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) and Martin Wambora (Embu), and lawmakers from the three counties.

In Nyeri, a BBI meeting was temporarily halted as the public demanded to be given copies of the report. On Monday evening, a group of pro-Ruto MPs from the region said BBI rallies had been hijacked by politicians and are dividing the country.

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua claimed the political chaos in the region is being instigated by ODM and started after the handshake between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.

“If this goes on unchecked, our people have genuine fears that this situation could get out of hand,” he said yesterday. The politically influential Mt Kenya Foundation is also forging strategies to ensure the whole region fully supports BBI.

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru told the Nation that the President is aware that Mt Kenya needs a stable political future and has laid the groundwork for this with the handshake.

But some leaders from the region, she said, do not see this bigger picture and are a threat to the plan.

“BBI was birthed to prevent ethnic Balkanisation and political unrest that have for years led to a stunted economy during each electioneering period,” she said.

She exuded confidence that on issues of regional interest, Mt Kenya leaders, whether in Tangatanga or Kieleweke, will coalesce around the President and adopt a common stand. “We have the BBI and implementation of the Big Four agenda that are running concurrently. We shall rally behind these projects, initiated by President Kenyatta, to ensure our people benefit,” she said.

Additional reporting by Alex Njeru, Regina Kinogu and Gitonga Marete