Pressure is mounting on President Kenyatta to name his successor in a bid to pacify his restive Mt Kenya backyard and check the growing support for Deputy President William Ruto.
Struck by the rising wave of Tangatanga activity in Mt Kenya and the unexpected defiance of Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata — who escalated his anti-Building Bridges (BBI) talk yesterday — the Kieleweke side believes it’s only Mr Kenyatta who can quell the fire, and fast.
Mr Kang’ata’s defiance has been supported by nominated senator Isaac Mwaura, who crossed over to the Ruto side, as well as Laikipia Woman Representative Cate Waruguru and Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, who has admitted publicly that the Ruto wave in the mountain is turning into a whirlwind.
Mr Peter Kenneth, who ran for President in 2013 and has been mentioned as Mr Kenyatta’s heir-apparent in the region, on Saturday hinted on the need for the Head of State to quickly name his successor and tame his deputy in Central.
‘Danger is looming’
“If the danger is looming, you don’t want to take a lot of time. We can see danger looming in our country. There’s no time [to waste]. People need to sort the problem now going forward . . . Kenya deserves the best,” Mr Kenneth said on Saturday in an event the President attended.
He added: “What we’re saying in Mt Kenya is that we want to be on the table, and we decide who goes to that table.”
With the delayed move by the President to name his successor in Mt Kenya — a possible running mate for a Handshake, Kenyatta-backed candidate — some of the leaders in the region now see the delay as the President sacrificing their careers to give his rule the comfort he needs.
“It is true that we’re suffering from grave disillusionment as we speak. It is as if the President duped us into backing the Handshake to give [him] an easy time ruling. It’s as if he doesn’t have a succession plan and we all risk sinking with his retirement in August next year,” lamented a female politician in the region.
There is also fear that talk of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga running for President might not be well-received in Mt Kenya, given inroads made by the DP, a scenario leaders say can only be put to rest by President Kenyatta.
“We already have [a plan] where the President will tour Mt Kenya with three action plans — launch completed projects and commission new ones, announce policies to increase agricultural returns, and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) be given a surprise zero-rated loan kitty,” former Maragua MP Elias Mbau said.
The politician said that will annihilate the ‘hustler’ and ‘wheelbarrow’ narratives and have the Mt Kenya voters trooping back to the central command of Mr Kenyatta, a thought shared by nominated MP Maina Kamanda who said “the ground visits might start next month.”
Keen not to further lose ground in Mt Kenya, Uhuru-allied leaders have divided the region into five blocs that will be bombarded with planned development visits by the Head of State accompanied by Mr Kenneth.
Nairobi has been identified as the first pool; Murang’a, Kirinyaga and Kiambu second; Meru and Tharaka Nithi in the third pool; Nakuru and Nyandarua in the fourth, with Embu and Laikipia closing the fifth compartment of the in-house battlefield.
Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe, a key Uhuru ally, is confident that the Ruto wave will be dealt with once the President visits the area.
‘Undo the nonsense’
“DP Ruto will be in for a rude shock once the President descends on the ground to undo the nonsense currently in play,” Mr Murathe told a vernacular television station recently.
Education Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Zack Kinuthia said the President will only require five public rallies to reverse the Tangatanga gains —one in Nairobi, another in Meru, then in Murang’a, Nyandarua and in Nyeri. But at the Senate, Mr Kang’ata yesterday escalated his anti-BBI rhetoric when he demanded that BBI be inclusive, and that Kenyans be given multiple-choice questions in the forthcoming referendum. The senator said some of the proposals in the constitutional amendment Bill are good but there is a risk that they could be rejected should the referendum be limited to a “Yes” and “No” answer.
“My aim is to ensure that everybody is on board and that the process is not politicised,” Mr Kang’ata said at a press conference in Parliament Buildings, remarks that echoed the DP’s.
The press conference left many unanswered questions on his controversial December 30, 2020 letter to Mr Kenyatta as the senator could not explain whether his treatise was meant for the President or the media.
Mr Kang’ata could also not explain whether, before writing the letter, he had reached out to the President privately to express his reservations.
He, however, insisted that anti-BBI sentiments in Mt Kenya region are fuelled in part by a feeling that the process is being pushed by a faction of the ruling Jubilee Party. While his views sounded every inch those of the DP’s, the departure point was the timing of the referendum. While the DP wants it held after the 2022 General Election, Mr Kang’ata rejected this, saying some of the proposals that benefit the Mt Kenya region are predicated on the referendum being held this year.
Some of the issues he noted are the proposal to create 70 additional constituencies and the increase of shareable equitable revenue to a minimum of 35 per cent from the current 15.
Mt Kenya is poised to get an additional 11 parliamentary seats.
“The new revenue sharing formula is predicated on more funds being allocated to the counties and if we don’t amend the constitution the formula may not serve the purpose,” the senator said.
Reporting by Patrick Lang’at, Mwangi Muiruri and Ibrahim Oruko