What you need to know:
- The leaders said they will not allow Mt Kenya region to be excluded in the government formed after the 2022 General Election.
Mt Kenya leaders have extended an olive branch to National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and his allies, asking them to join them in averting a split of the region’s eight million votes.
The leaders under the Mt Kenya Unity forum also resolved to rally the region behind one political party and choose a leader to negotiate at the national level to ensure the region is not sidelined.
The leaders said they will not allow Mt Kenya region to be excluded in the government formed after the 2022 General Election.
They spoke Saturday during a unity meeting convened by Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui and hosted by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya at Kenya Methodist University (KeMU).
Others present were Governors Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Anne Kananu (Nairobi), James Nyoro (Kiambu) and Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia), Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege, former governor William Kabogo and several MPs mainly from Central Kenya.
Governors Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri), Martin Wambora (Embu) and Mwangi wa Iria (Murang’a) sent their apologies through Mr Kinyanjui.
All the leaders who spoke said Mr Munya has demonstrated that he can lead the region and stopped short of declaring him its kingpin to take over from President Uhuru Kenyatta when he retires next year.
Kieni MP Kanini Kega said the next meeting will bring together more leaders, and that Speaker Muturi is welcome.
“I am challenging all the governors here to reach out to the rest. We want to be with them in the next meeting. We want all of them together. We will lock them up in one room until we see white smoke. We must have a presidential candidate in 2022,” Mr Kega said.
Mr Munya said the region’s votes must be in one basket, at all costs, if they want a stake in the next government.
“We will not bow to any attempt to divide us. There are a few who have been sent to divide us into east and west. When they held top positions in the government, there was no east and west. When we fought for independence, we were one people. Our unity is critical for the next election,” he said.
The CS defended President Kenyatta’s performance, accusing the Tangatanga wing of Jubilee Party of citing incomplete projects to dismiss the government.
“The government is implementing many projects across the country. We cannot disrespect the President because of a few challenges. There are those using that excuse to sow division in the mountain,” he said.
In a veiled attack on Deputy President William Ruto, Mr Munya said all the projects the President initiated targeted the people and wondered what other “bottom-up” economic policies “other” leaders are talking about.
“These projects are benefiting the Kenyan at the grassroots level. What other bottom-up approach are you talking about?”
Reading resolutions in what the leaders termed the Meru Declaration, Mr Kinyanjui said the region will “consolidate its numbers and negotiate as one”.
“The Mt Kenya region has the highest population and a huge number of voters. When we are confused it is reflected in the entire country. we have resolved that we will get organised for the benefit of all Kenyans,” he said.
The governor added that another meeting will take place in Laikipia, following the ones in Nyeri and Embu, to ensure they reach out to leaders in the entire region.
Mr Kabogo said the region cannot afford to face the 2022 election without a political party to solidify its vote.
“In 2013, we joined forces with others using TNA and shared the government equally. Why should we be lured into going into this election without our party?”
Laikipia Muriithi said the region has the capacity to field a presidential candidate and run the government.
“Gathering of tourists”
However, even as the leaders preached unity, leaders from Mt Kenya East gave the meeting a wide berth, with only East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) MP Mpuru Aburi present.
Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi and Imenti North MP Rahim Dawood, in whose constituency the meeting was held, said they were not invited.
Some Meru leaders dismissed the unity meeting as “a gathering of tourists” that cannot leave a mark on the political landscape of the region.
Speaking during Athwana Education Day at Karumo Technical Training Institute on Friday, the leaders said nothing will stop the Mt Kenya East region from charting its own political destiny.
Senator Mithika Linturi, Meru Deputy Governor Titus Ntuchiu, Tigania West MP John Mutunga, majority leader Victor Karithi and other leaders said it is disrespectful for Central Kenya governors to hold a meeting in Meru without involving local elected leaders.
They dismissed CS Munya as a lone ranger who holds no sway in the 2022 politics.
“I have heard that some tourists are coming to Meru. They are welcome to enjoy our attractions and beautiful sceneries, and spend a night in our hotels. You cannot dictate our future political direction. We cannot have a unity meeting without the governor, Senator, MPs or MCAs,” Mr Linturi said.
He further said the meeting was organised by a “clique of leaders whose motive is to prove to Uhuru that they can counter United Democratic Alliance (UDA) influence and block DP Ruto from inheriting the Mt Kenya vote.”
He alleged Mr Munya is being used by leaders from Mt Kenya West, who are opposed to Mr Muturi’s coronation, to cause disunity in the region.
“Those who planned the meeting are from the Kieleweke faction and their main aim is to demonstrate to the President that they are still relevant, even after losing two crucial by-elections including one in the President’s backyard,” Mr Linturi said on Wednesday in a phone interview.
He added: “These efforts are bound to fail because the wind of change has blown towards UDA. Some of those behind the meeting are losers who do not have the influence of wananchi. If Uhuru has failed to unite leaders, do you think unelected leaders will succeed?”
Mr Ntuchiu said Mr Munya’s political career cannot be salvaged by Central Kenya politicians.
“The unity meeting is not on our agenda. We are putting our house in order as Mt Kenya East leaders and will work with other national leaders who will put our interests first,” he said.
Meru County Assembly majority leader Victor Karithi said most MCAs have not been approached over the meeting with local leaders.
He said Mr Munya’s “lone ranger” approach to politics and open criticism of Mr Muturi’s coronation might work against his efforts to unite the region.
Abogeta East MCA Patrick Karinga said they will not allow the meeting to be used to demean Mt Kenya East leaders.
Meru Chief of Staff Gideon Kimathi said Governor Murungi will not attend the meeting as he is keen on securing the Mt Kenya East vote.
“You cannot purport to invite the governor as a guest to a meeting in his county. He should be the host. The meeting is a sham because no Meru leader has been involved. Nothing will stop us from forming a regional party,” Mr Kimathi said.