What you need to know:
- The meetings will bring together political, professional, religious and business leaders.
- But it remains to be seen whether any resolutions the meetings will come up with will have any impact on the region’s electorate.
A section of Mt Kenya leaders will on Saturday start a series of meetings to chart the political future of the region.
The Gikuyu, Embu and Meru Association (Gema) leaders’ planned discussions come 13 months to the end of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s second and last term in office.
The meetings, which will bring together political, professional, religious and business leaders, come at a time some politicians from the region have dismissed as a political lie the assertion that Central Kenya cannot field a presidential candidate in the coming election.
The first of such gatherings will take place in Nyeri and will focus on Kenyatta succession and creation of a political roadmap for the region ahead of the 2022 General Election.
But it remains to be seen whether any resolutions the meetings will come up with will have any impact on the region’s electorate.
The “Gema nation” meetings also come at a time President Kenyatta has refused to be drawn into the succession debate, with many leaders from the region declaring interest to succeed him.
The question of who will succeed Mr Kenyatta as the region’s kingpin and possibly Kenya’s fifth president has deeply divided the local power elite and precipitated widespread uncertainty among the voters.
Uhuru aware of plans
Yesterday, former Mathira MP Peter Weru, who is among those planning the discussions, said President Kenyatta is aware of their plans.
“He’s aware, we’ve informed him through his political office. We also take cognisance of the fact that he’s not just our President but our community leader as well. The meeting will be about the political unity of our people and, yes, we might touch on succession too,” Mr Weru said.
Last week, National Assembly Deputy Majority Chief Whip Maoka Maore told the Nation that the region would soon be speaking in one voice.
The Igembe North MP warned that the region’s large number of votes would be meaningless if Gema leaders are scattered.
“The current political uncertainties will be sorted out once we engage the gear of revamping Jubilee. Once we focus on Jubilee then other things will fall into place. What we are seeing are campaigns of confusion purporting the President is part of them. Mr Kenyatta is firmly in charge and in the fullness of time you will witness this,” Mr Maore said.
Unlike in past instances of political power changeover, there is no clear political heir to President Kenyatta’ in the region, a factor that is fuelling discomfort and spreading a sense of vulnerability.
Luckily for those eyeing the region’s large vote bloc, Central Kenya has never been politically united during power transitions.
Major political decision
In the lead-up to independence, some of Jomo Kenyatta’s supporters from the region appeared to have abandoned the fierce agitation for his release as a pre-condition for joining the government.
Again in 2002, the Central Kenya vote was split between Mr Mwai Kibaki (Narc) and Mr Kenyatta (Kanu).
But Kieni MP Kanini Kega said in an interview that whenever the region has to make a major political decision, they retreat as a community.
He cited the Limuru 1and 2 conferences, where the candidature of Mr Kenyatta was firmed up.
Mr Kenyatta’s suitability as the de facto leader of the Mount Kenya region had been pronounced by the late powerful Cabinet minister John Michuki, paving the way for him to succeed President Mwai Kibaki in 2013.
Limuru I was held ahead of the August 2010 referendum on a new constitution. The forum resolved then Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta would take up the political leadership and ensure the region would endorse the new constitution.
“As we approach 2022, the same thing will happen. We shall hold a leaders meeting to chart the way forward, with or with no candidate. That will happen soon,” Mr Kega added.
Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga said all the leaders from the region have been invited irrespective of their political affiliation.
“It is not a mistake to have one of our own vying. Should there emerge one, then we shall deliberate on whether to support him or her. The focus is to speak in one voice as a region,” Mr Kahiga said.
Governors Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru) and Mwangi wa iria (Murang’a) expressed optimism that despite disparate political standpoints on various issues, the region would stick together and speak in one voice. They further expressed hope that the planned meetings would draw a full house.
The resolutions of the planned meetings will have a bearing on Deputy President William Ruto campaigns.
Dr Ruto has made political inroads in the Mt Kenya region ahead of next year’s presidential contest.
ODM leader Raila Odinga, whose handshake with President Kenyatta is seen by his supporters as part of a political deal ahead of next year’s election, has also gained some political ground in the Central Kenya region.
“What is bound to bring us together is much more than that which can disintegrate us. We need to drive one objective without shying away from the fact that our vote is very critical. Moving forward we shall engage everyone and entertain as many views as possible,” Mr Wa Iria said.
Governor Kinyanjui said: "It is up to us to consolidate our numbers and align the agenda and interest of our region. It is the purpose of these meetings. As to whether there will be a candidate or not from this region, the Constitution is clear on who can or not be."
Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi said uncertainty and infighting in Jubilee has pushed some to form parties that they hope to use as political vehicles in the 2022 General Election.
“It is only President Kenyatta who can end the infighting in the ruling party over the 2022 succession politics. He said it himself – that he would give us direction. Time is running out and he should take charge of the party because jeshi (voters) are revolting,” Mr Ngugi said.