Jeremiah Kioni
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Limuru III: Uhuru's shadow looms large as Mt Kenya at crossroads

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Former Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni (centre in black suit) joined by Kikuyu elders during the Limuru 3 meeting at Jumuia Conference Centre in Kiambu on May 17, 2024. 

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

It was hyped as a conference that would articulate the challenges facing Mt Kenya,  but turned out to be a prelude and curtain-raiser for political campaigns ahead of the 2027 General Election.

The villains? President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua.

The hero? Former President Uhuru Kenyatta, whom the meeting bestowed the responsibility of leading a new group, dubbed Mt Kenya Haki Coalition, to “protect and champion the interests of the people of Mt Kenya”, a group they called the Mt Kenya Haki (Justice) Coalition.

The crowd, organic and hired, started trickling at Jumuia Conference Centre adjacent to the St Paul’s University Main Campus in Limuru, Kiambu County, as early as 7am.

Co-conveners Narc-Kenya party leader Martha Karua and Jubilee Party Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni were joined by MPs Gathoni Wamuchomba (Githunguri), Embakasi West’s Mark Mwenje, Starehe’s Amos Mwago, as well as former governors Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia) and Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu), among many other leaders.

The delegates were drawn from Kiambu, Murang’a, Nairobi, Nyeri, Laikipia, Meru, Embu, Tharaka Nithi, Nakuru and neighbouring counties.

They said the government has failed the region and it is time to take back their destiny.

Ms Karua told President Ruto to respect his predecessor, adding that the former president has done a lot for this country and improved Kenya’s economy.

She also urged the region to unite and speak with one voice on all issues.

“Ruto should learn to respect Uhuru if he wants to be respected when he leaves office. We should not allow ourselves to be divided. We should instead strive to be our brothers’ keepers,” the Narc-K leader said.

Ms Karua said the group rejects any national revenue-sharing formula that does not put population at the centre.

Limuru 3

NARC Kenya leader Martha Karua (centre) leads a Kikuyu dance with other Mt. Kenya leaders during the Limuru 3 meeting at the Jumuia Conference Centre in Kiambu on May 17, 2024.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

Incidentally, the One-Man, One-Vote, One-Shilling mantra has the backing of Mr Gachagua.

The debate has sparked a political storm, going back to the days of Mr Kenyatta’s Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

In 2020 and 2021, a Ruto-Gachagua onslaught saw the failure of the BBI, a scheme marketed by Mr Kenyatta but seen by many as a ploy to have Mr Odinga succeed him.

Mr Kioni told the gathering that there were efforts to disrupt the meeting but those who were tasked to do so backed out.

He added that President Ruto – who was elected on a platform of helping those at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid – has instead heaped punitive taxes on small businesspeole like mama mbogas, boda bodas and hawkers.

Mr Kioni said the taxes and the high cost of living hurt the “small man and woman”.

“Ruto lies all the time and all the time Ruto lies. He has made the cost of living unbearable,” Mr Kioni said.

He added that participants at Limuru III unanimously launched a movement called Haki Coalition that will involve like-minded parties from Mt Kenya to address the affairs of the people of the region, “who have been neglected by the Kenya Kwanza government”.

According to Mr Kioni, the coalition “will speak with one voice and work under the command of Mr Kenyatta”.

Lower taxes

The Jubilee secretary-general added that the people of Mt Kenya should meet again soon to deliberate on the issues discussed on Friday, saying such summits would be extended to other counties as the issues discussed at Limuru III affect a majority of Kenyans.

Mr Kenyatta was not at the conference though speaker after speaker claimed “convened his apologies”.

“Haki Coalition will speak with one voice to address and champion the issues that affect the people of the Mountain. We will not work with individuals or organisations that seek to betray our calling. We will seek to have the One-Man, One-Vote, One-Shilling implemented,” Mr Kioni told the gathering.

Mr Muriithi, said governments in countries whose leaders have their citizens’ interests at heart usually lower taxes when the economy is not doing well.

 Limuru 3

 A youth holds up a placard calling for justice during the Limuru 3 meeting at Jumuia Conference Centre in Kiambu on  May 17, 2024. 

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

“The Finance Bill, 2024 is punitive. The government should not threaten its citizens,” the former governor, who is an accountant, said.

Ms Wamuchomba, who has been at loggerheads with the party she used to get the Githunguri parliamentary seat, said she has been intimidated and threatened with expulsion from President Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party.

She added that UDA leaders are not happy with her for siding with voters “oppressed by the government”, saying she would not capitulate.

Politicians not trusted

Ms Wamuchomba took a swipe at Deputy President Gachagua, accusing him of remaining silent when issues affecting the people of Mt Kenya are not addressed by the government he serves.

The lawmaker said a significant number of parastatal heads during the Kenyatta administration have been dismissed by the President “and the positions given to members of communities close to the Executive”.

“Even with this happening, the Deputy President does not seem to care,” the Githunguri MP told the summit.

“Let those issuing threats know that I am not afraid. I will continue speaking out on matters affecting Kenyans. The Deputy President cannot claim to be fighting for the rights of Mt Kenya residents when parastatal heads are being dismissed.”

Mr Waititu said Mt Kenya is preparing a database of individuals who will make ideal candidates in the 2027 presidential election.

Marth Karua

From left: NARC Kenya leader Martha Karua (centre),  former Laikipia governor Nderitu Mureithi and other Mt. Kenya leaders during the Limuru 3 meeting at Jumuia Conference Centre in Kiambu on May 17. 

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

Said the former Kiambu governor: “The region has great people like Equity Bank chief James Mwangi, Chief Justice Martha Koome, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, Prof Olive Mugenda and Catholic Archbishop Anthony Muheria.”

“They are smart, clean, tried and tested, not hooligans. These people can contest and win the presidency”.

Completely forgotten

Mr Waititu, who was among the many Mt Kenya leaders who vigorously campaigned for UDA and President Ruto in Kiambu and many parts of the country in 2022, told the Limuru III conference that he regretted supporting the party “since it has completely forgotten me and the Kenyans who voted for it”.

Ms Elizabeth Wangechi, a resident of Nakuru County who attended the conference, told the Saturday Nation that she hopes the issues raised and discussed would be followed by the leaders.

The woman, however, added that she does not trust politicians and many other Mt Kenya leaders, “since they quickly change when situations demand”.

“I am happy because I am one of the hundreds of people sponsored by our former ward representative to attend today’s meeting,” Ms Wangechi, with her two-year-old son on her back, said.

“We did not pay anything but were in fact promised Sh1,000 each on getting back home. I only wish our leaders’ promises can be implemented when they get that power they keep talking about. Kenya Kwanza promised to improve our lives but look where Kenyans are now. There are very many taxes and everything has become expensive.”

Mr Paul Mwangi, a resident of Limuru, trekked to the meeting with a banner of local politician.

“I cannot trust politicians when they make pledges. Those who have been loudest at this conference, claiming to speak on our behalf, can change any time when money is involved. Who in his or her right mind would have thought that Ruto as President would increase taxes and the prices of basic commodities?” Mr Mwangi asked rhetorically.