What you need to know:
- Discontent is growing in the region that the President is visiting and dishing out goodies in areas of the country that opposed his 2013 and 2017 presidential bids.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, smarting from the inroads his deputy William Ruto is making in Mt Kenya politics, is discreetly planning a counterattack that will be rolled out in August.
Discontent is growing in the region that the President is visiting and dishing out goodies in areas of the country that opposed his 2013 and 2017 presidential bids.
With his second and last term expiring in 2022, he is said to be preparing to start focusing his charm on Mt Kenya.
The President, Mt Kenya political analyst Prof Ngugi Njoroge says, has a herculean task of convincing area people that he did not hand the trophy to spectators while the real players who helped him win the presidency have been waiting for their turn to be honoured.
The timing of the counteroffensive is premised on the outcome of the July 15 by-elections in Kiambaa constituency and Muguga ward in his political backyard of Kiambu County. His ruling Jubilee Party suffered a defeat in Juja constituency two months ago.
While in Juja a party linked to Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, Peoples Empowerment Party, won the seat against Jubilee, in Kiambaa and Muguga, the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) associated with Dr Ruto has directly sponsored candidates.
It is not clear whether National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya was referring to this planned presidential onslaught when he warned Kiambaa voters that if they do not vote for the President’s candidate, planned developments might be withdrawn.
In Mr Kenyatta’s scheme, six public rallies are planned at which he will try to woo back Gikuyu, Embu and Meru voters that he fears have drifted away from their solid 2013 and 2017 support for him.
The President only needs to snap out of his lack of appetite for political confrontation in Mt Kenya, go to the ground and assert himself, said Education Chief Administrative Secretary Zack Kinuthia.
“We are only interested in the President addressing our people in prominent public functions in Meru, Nyeri, Nyandarua, Murang’a, Kirinyaga and Embu, and the headstrong advantage that Dr Ruto thinks he has in the region will simply go up in smoke,” he said.
Four more public addresses in Nakuru, Naivasha, Uasin Gishu and Nyahururu would completely seal Dr Ruto’s fate and edge him out of the vote-rich Mt Kenya, he added.
Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe told the Nation that “the Hustler Nation of Dr Ruto has for too long lived a lie that it is popular in Mt Kenya…It has been the case because it has been campaigning alone as the President developed the area.”
The Dr Ruto wing, he said, are masters of deceit who have created the impression that the President is not popular in Mt Kenya, “contrary to the correct position that the President remains loved and respected and will soon go to the ground to make it known pointblank that his support base is still intact and will follow him into his 2022 succession plan”.
As Mr Kenyatta prepares for the onslaught, he has demanded that security officials prepare for him a comprehensive list of the salient issues that locals are concerned about.
To ensure the region has security managers who can be trusted to toe the President’s line, low-key transfers have been made in all sub-counties deemed to be sympathetic to the Hustler Nation.
In Murang’a East, a deputy county commissioner, her assistant, three chiefs and a police commander are on suspension for being seen to favour Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro.
A list prepared by Central and Eastern regional commissioners and seen by the Nation depicts stalled projects, collapsed agricultural incomes, lack of title deeds, collapsed small businesses, delayed compensation and underpayment for land acquired for various projects, unpaid pending bills, and youth unemployment as among the most critical issues.
Mr Kenyatta’s March 2018 handshake with ODM leader Raila Odinga is also perceived negatively, as is the lack of clarity on who he will support for President in 2022, leaving politicians and voters confused.
Entrepreneurs are also demanding that the government set aside Sh8 billion to vaccinate all eligible Kenyans and fully reopen the economy, saying Covid-19-related restrictions on entertainment and transport are crippling livelihoods.
Also on the list is the case of 1,500 coffee farmers in Kigumo sub-county who are on the verge of closing down their factory because of lack of water to pulp their produce, a problem that has persisted for nine years.
The President is also said to be planning to restructure Jubilee so as to salvage the political careers of his diehard supporters who have stuck their necks out for him in the face of an onslaught from Hustler Nation.
Already, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and her Nakuru counterpart Lee Kinyanjui have warned that unless the party is reinvigorated, the 2022 interests of many in the Kieleweke brigade will be in great jeopardy for lack of a party to vie on.
The President has since 2018 issued confusing signals about the 2022 succession, reneging on his earlier promise to support Dr Ruto. He has said that his pick as successor would shock Mt Kenya.
After his handshake with Mr Odinga, he declared that a Gikuyu or a Kalenjin should not succeed him. And recently, he said he would support a coalition that oscillates around the National Super Alliance (Nasa).
Interestingly, Hustler Nation-allied politicians have agreed that the President is welcome to the region because he is loved and respected.
Former Gichugu MP Njogu Barua told the Nation that “the President’s main undoing in the region is the raging poverty owing to poor fiscal policies”.
The President, he said, is still respected and appreciated for the infrastructure development he has initiated and he is welcome to the region to listen firsthand to the concerns of residents that have fuelled discontent.
The political turmoil in Mt Kenya is fed by kingship contests, a souring relationship between Mt Kenya East and Mt Kenya West and the rise of fringe parties. Al these conflicts are related to the 2022 succession politics.
“We have never insinuated that the President is not loved or popular on the ground. He is our son and he has all along meant well for us. We are willing to join him on his ground tours if he is genuine in uniting us to speak in one voice in 2022,” Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata told the Nation.
He said Hustler Nation supporters in Mt Kenya have made clear that they have no qualms about the President as long as he is genuine in pursuing the economic and political interests of the region.
“Those interests are conceding that the deputy President is our choice for 2022, deliver to us employment for our youths, disburse zero-rated SME credit fund and cease fighting us with State agencies,” he said.
Kiambu MP Kimani Ichung’wah said the President should order that pending bills be cleared because most of the affected are suppliers from the Mt Kenya region.
“We have about Sh300 billion in both the central and county governments’ pending bills. The payment schedule for the bills is Sh13 billion. That is not endearing in any way,” he said.
He added that Nyamakima traders who lost their imported merchandise to the war on counterfeit goods should be supported to replan their investments because they were ruined financially.