What you need to know:
The Mount Kenya region shocked political pundits in the August 9 General Election when it abandoned voting along tribal lines and voted for Dr William Ruto as President.
This was after spending the last five years of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration complaining that their ‘son’ (Kenyatta) had gone wayward and was working hard to be isolated by his own people, who defied him when he tried to get them to vote for former Prime Minister Raila Odinga as president.
Political analysts now agree that this defiance will be of major influence in elections to come since the region proved that if it is not being treated right, it will not hesitate to dump anyone like it dumped its son.
“That is the elephant in the room for President Ruto and his Mt Kenya leaders in his government. To relate well with this region that singlehandedly gave him 42 per cent of his win and court it to remain in his camp in the 2027 General Election is the headache, and should he get it wrong, the Mountain will shock him,” said political analyst Ngugi Njoroge.
Already, the debate has started about what the mountain expects from the Ruto administration if he has to remain in the area voters’ good books.
“The most important act of governance that we want is the one-man-one-shilling principle of resource allocation. This is not an area of compromise. We had suggested that former Nyeri County Woman Rep Priscila Nyokabi be appointed as the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) chair so that she could promote this principle, but we were shortchanged when political parties ganged up against us and gave the position to the former Wajir woman rep, Ms Fatuma Gedi," said nominated MP Sabina Chege.
She added that the principle was a project of Mr Kenyatta, who had sought to have it entrenched into law through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) — the proposed constitutional change that was ruled unconstitutional by the courts.
The second area where the President requires Solomonic wisdom is how to deal with the region’s power plays that might deny him a grip on the Mountain.
Already, signs of regionalism in the area’s scramble for superiority and future political fortunes have seen camps emerge that it is feared might demand that the slot of the running mate be wrenched from Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua in 2027.
Kirinyaga County Jubilee Party Chairman Muriithi Kang’ara said: “We are watching how the Mt Kenya kingpin politics are panning out, given that we still insist that retired President Uhuru Kenyatta should not be ruled out from the matrix since he is yet to hand over the mantle to anyone.”
Mr Kang’ara said: “Until that time, we will have respect for each other, acknowledge that chest-thumping and bragging rights are irrelevant for our people and instead come together, dialogue and reason together … these power plays will get fiercer and we might end up disintegrated and Dr Ruto’s following in this region will be diminished.”
The power plays in Mt Kenya are sensitive and one must always be conscious that they have an effect on area unity, political and economic stability and also security for the community’s members living in other regions, he said.
Former Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri insists that the delimitation of boundaries must be done with the one-man-one-vote principle in mind, forming the third area of worry for President Ruto.
“We are now agitating for equal strength in our votes … we should not be having constituencies in Mt Kenya that have a population that is more than a county in other regions, yet we continue voting for policies as equals and receiving similar devolved funds. We are also shortchanged in disciplined forces’ recruitment after we are allocated similar quotas as low population regions,” he said.
Mr Ngunjiri added: “The advantage we have is that President Ruto is smart and conscious and he knows how Mr Kenyatta lost the Mountain, and he cannot dare risk the same fate, knowing how critical we were to his contest.”
The fourth thing that President Ruto must avoid is servitude in agribusiness and harsh policies that were perceived to be killing the entrepreneurial spirit of people from the Mt Kenya region. The fight against counterfeits and tax cheats was reported to have been politicised to a point that it ended up destroying stable businesses.
“Our President knows this and it is why he has tasked us to battle cartels that distort, and imperfect markets in the agricultural sector. We are also committing ourselves to respect established businesses. I have been assigned the task of battling these cartels and soon, the farmer will have money in his pocket. This is an area we are committed to pursuing with all we have,” Mr Gachagua said last month in Kirinyaga County.
Area residents want the agricultural sector to be rid of crop thieves, destructive wildlife, exploitative brokers and those who steal using weights and measures.
Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria said: “We are going to partner with county governments and development partners to establish industrial hubs in the agricultural sector so as to add value to our produce, hence increasing earnings and also creating employment.”
The Senate’s Education Committee chairperson, Mr Joe Nyutu, observed that “Education is another critical selling point for the President Ruto administration, especially on fair high school admissions.”
The Murang’a senator added: “We have been on a spree of transforming our schools into the national level and that has been denying our region an opportunity to study in the best institutions and we are seeking a serious review.”
The region’s school infrastructure, human resources and pupil welfare must be given the seriousness they deserve, he said.
Former long-serving administrator Joseph Kaguthi feels that organised crime in the Mt Kenya region is the sixth minefield for the Ruto administration.
“Forget the stereotypes … Mt Kenya people loathe those who reap where they never sowed … Thieves are categorised alongside witches. Grassroots gangs contribute greatly to poverty since they spread fear of investing among residents in affected areas,” he said.
The matatu sector is another area that will shape the relationship that President Ruto will have with the mountain people.
“We thank Mr Gachagua for coming out strongly and refusing matatu sector harassment by the County Government of Nairobi … many things will be said about the issue, but the bottom line is that this is a key industry that the Mountain is passionate about. This also goes to cargo transport where bad laws about axle load have been a real terror and we seek a reversal,” said former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu.
Mr Waititu said with Mr Gachagua in the picture, the President “will be made to understand the transport sector and how it can be made more profitable, safer and organised”.
Industry players are also complaining of corruption by traffic police who are said to consume between 10 and 20 per cent of profits in the sector through bribes.
“These traffic police officers wake up on daily basis, not to enforce the law, but to make money for the government through court fines and for themselves through bribes. These are the habits that we invested our trust in Dr Ruto’s presidency to deal with. We are watching,” said Mt Kenya Matatu Owners and Workers Association Secretary-General Michael Ngatia.
He said all traffic police roadblocks are largely illegal taxation bases in Mt Kenya “and the habit has spread fast from motor vehicles to encompass boda bodas and tuktuks”.
The eighth minefield for President Ruto is the alcoholic and substance abuse enterprise, said Mr Kaguthi.
“The desire to have killer brews, addiction to alcohol and abuse of substances crushed remains at the peak. The problem is that the vested interests and the money in these enterprises are so huge to a point of making the war a complicated project,” he said.
Mr Kaguthi added: “When the government launches the war against the criminals in the alcohol and narcotics industries, fightback budgets are rolled out and victims mobilised to see themselves as unjustifiably targeted so as to amass more power to defeat the noble cause.”
He said that President Ruto must get his maths right, to succeed where his predecessors failed.
Maragua MP Mary wa Maua said: “The biggest problem we have in the fight is that most of our security officers are also victims of the abuse and also love bribes hence sabotaging any meaningful gains against the killer brew merchants and drug barons.”
If there is a social constituency that played a pivotal role in handing Dr Ruto the presidency, it is the Church, which forms the ninth area of concern.
“We are happy that our President is a prayerful and God-fearing man. The country has been witnessing more renewed agenda of putting God first in all our daily endeavours. This is one area that our President has got right and if he sustains that route, his covenant with the Mountain people will be getting more solid every day,” said Nyandarua Woman Rep Faith Gitau.
However, a Kigumo constituency politician and former Sports Chief Administrative Secretary Zack Kinuthia, said:
There is an emerging trend where prayers are mostly being held in the Mt Kenya region while development talks dominate presidential functions in other regions and soon, we will demand the projects and real direct benefits. We are being rallied to invest in faith, then we must also reap the blessings only to be found in the elimination of generational poverty.”
Land conflict is the tenth front that will shape how President Ruto retains favour in the Mountain, Embakasi Ranching Company Chairman John Njoroge said.
“Mt Kenya lands have become a leading cause of death, as fraudsters that have government crooks as players make an investment in this sector so costly and dangerous. President Ruto must accelerate the issuance of title deeds to genuine land owners, eliminate cartels and support maximised utilisation of land as a factor of production,” Mr Njoroge said.
He urged Dr Ruto to ensure that all dormant land cooperatives are dissolved and shareholders issued with title deeds “and all crooks ascertained to have conned members jailed”.