Raila deputy: Peter Kenneth has to fight perceptions that he is elitist

Peter Kenneth

Former presidential aspirant Peter Kenneth.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • To supporters, Mr Kenneth “is generous, sharp, cultured and a perfectionist”.
  • Critics though say he is  “socially selective, sensitive to criticism and highly secretive”.

If there is one man in the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya alliance with all reasons to remain with fingers crossed about being named running mate, it is former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth.

All appeared well with Mr Kenneth until Narc-K leader Martha Karua joined the Raila Odinga led alliance.

With Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya and Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui as well as Laikipia county boss Ndiritu Muriithi showing little interest in the position, Mr Kenneth has been mobilising troops on the ground to keep him in contention.

To supporters, Mr Kenneth “is generous, sharp, cultured and a perfectionist”.

Critics though say he is  “socially selective, sensitive to criticism and highly secretive”.

Born in 1965, Mr Kenneth is described by Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi as “the best in our wing of politics to deputise Raila Odinga owing to his detribalised demeanuor, non-parochial politics, tested and certified to be a leader”.

Mr Kenneth was named Co-operative Development assistant minister in 2003 before being moved to the Finance docket in the same capacity in 2005.

He was transferred to the Ministry of State for Planning, National Development and Vision 2030 in 2008.

Before these appointments, Mr Kenneth was Kenya Football Federation chairman in the late 1990s and a Fifa Committee member.

He was also with the Africa Reinsurance Corporation, the Industrial Development Bank and Zep Reinsurance Company.

The incumbent Gatanga MP says Mr Kenneth carries with him the ideal standards of being the Mt Kenya bet for the future shot at power “since he has experience and the years to his favour”.

Should he be named Azimio la Umoja running mate and Mr Odinga serves for one term if he wins the presidency on August 9, Mr Kenneth will be 61 by 2027.

If Mr Odinga runs for a second term and still have Mr Kenneth as his running mate, the 2032 elections would find Kenneth aged 66 – not too bad to gun for the presidency.

Mr Kenneth attracts admiration and derision in equal measure, making Mr Odinga’s task of weighing him up for the task complicated.

“The functions of the deputy president as captured in the Constitution are easy to understand and internalise. Loyalty and patriotism are key,” Mr Kenneth, who is a banker and a lawyer, says

“Obedience to the president is important and serving to make the country prosper the key agenda. I will not have problems helping the president deliver the collective mandate.”

But does he have the numbers to take to the negotiation table since winning is all about the votes one can deliver?

Mr Kenneth has first to assure Mr Odinga that he can mobilise most of the 600,000 votes in Murang’a county to vote for Azimio, a tough task given that Governor Mwangi wa Iria wants to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta this August.

Then there is the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) that has firebrands in Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, Kandara’s Alice Wahome, Mary Wamaua of Maragua and Senator Irungu Kang’ata courting voters for Deputy President Dr William Ruto.

“This makes Mr Kenneth’s candidature for the running mate a very complicated matter, given that he is expected to solidify the whole Mt Kenya to rally behind him and Mr Odinga. The possibility of that is difficult to discern,” says Mt Kenya political analyst Ngugi Njoroge.

Of the eight sitting Murang’a MPs Mr Kenneth enjoys the support of Mr Ngugi, woman rep Sabina Chege, Mathioya’s Peter Kimari and Kigumo’s Wangari Mwaniki. Beyond Murang’a, Mr Kenneth has not been endorsed.

A man of high financial might, long serving administrator Mr Joseph Kaguthi says “Mr Kenneth can be very helpful in assembling together the business community to help the president tap investments and taxes.” He also terms Kenneth as someone who is internationally grounded.

He says Mr Kenneth brings with him the advantage of someone who vied for the presidency in 2013 and attained 72, 786 votes accounting for 0.60 percent of the national tally.

“At least he bit Karua who scored 43, 881 votes in the same general elections. But the question is whether he enjoys a solid following in the area. That will be the key determinant and it can only be defined by a popularity poll,” Mr Kaguthi said.

Mr Ngugi says another advantage for Mr Kenneth is his friendship with the president and Mr Odinga.

“When all is said and done, the decision about the running mate in Azimio will be agreed upon by the president and Mr Odinga. Mr Odinga will announce. We all know that the key partners in Azimio are Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and Jubilee Party. The only running mate from Jubilee is Mr Kenneth,” said Mt Kenya MCAs caucus chairman Mr Charles Mwangi.

Mr Mwangi says the president knows Mt Kenya must see something tangible in the power matrix for area voters to vote for Azimio hence “unimaginable that the seat will go elsewhere apart to Kenneth.”

When it comes to past service to the nation and integrity queries, Mr Kenneth remains in a fluid situation. His most famous attribute is that his Constituency Development Fund (CDF) when he was MP for Gatanga topped performance rating for eight consecutive years.

One of his harshest critics Miguna Miguna, in 2017 had claimed that Mr Kenneth is an academic dwarf. He said Mr Kenneth harbored power ambitions via ethnic gerrymandering.

“Mr Kenneth attempted to sell Kenya-Re a public asset with a value of more than Sh2 billion to Monarch Insurance Ltd. and Zimbabwe Reinsurance Corporation at Sh800 million before parliament stopped him on his tracks in 2003,” Miguna said.

Mr Kenneth says “that is wild since in the first place there was no scheme to corrupt anything…not what I know of.”

“I served Kenya Re for only five years from 1997 to 2002. There is always confusion between Kenya Re and Kenya National Assurance. It is Kenya National Assurance that went under, not Kenya Re. Kenya Re is a stock-listed company that is doing well. As late as last week Monday, your own paper carried the annual results where Kenya Re recorded Sh4 billion profit,” Mr Kenneth told Sunday Nation in an interview on April 17.

“I do not know what people talk about because we have never had any formal issues or complaints of mismanagement and it is 20 years later. Let me also add this, at the time, when Moi wanted to dispose of Kenya Re and we were there as a management team, we worked behind the scenes with the current Kisumu governor, Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, to go to court to stop the privatisation. What I see on social media is a total misrepresentation of the facts but the truth never dies. That is the truth and they can verify it.”