What you need to know:
- The leaders from counties that make up Gikuyu, Embu and Meru Association (Gema) communities will start the talks at Lusoi Lodge in Nyeri in an attempt to chart a joint political course.
Allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta are meeting in Nyeri on Saturday to plot his succession and unite his supporters in the face of growing rebellion in his backyard.
The leaders from counties that make up Gikuyu, Embu and Meru Association (Gema) communities will start the talks at Lusoi Lodge in Nyeri in an attempt to chart a joint political course in a meeting that they say has the blessings of the Head of State.
Governors Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri), James Nyoro (Kiambu), Ndiritu Murrithi and Mwangi Wairia (Murang’a) are expected at the meeting.
Former governor William Kabogo is also part of the group as well Cabinet secretaries Peter Munya (Agriculture) who confirmed attendance last evening.
"I have been invited and I'll be involved in the discussions for the political unity of Mt Kenya," Mr Munya said. MPs allied to Deputy President William Ruto and a faction that was involved in the coronation of National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi have also been invited. Also to feature prominently in the meeting is a group under the umbrella of Former Parliamentarians Association (Fopa), who lost in the 2017 Jubilee Party primaries.
They promised a “major announcement” at the close of their talks.
They have three agenda items; agree on a process to pick a leader to replace President Kenyatta, prepare for a voter registration exercise, lobby for a free trade area within the counties and push for unity so as not to “dilute or divide” their big numbers.
The leaders are divided into two groups; those who want a process agreed on how to pick President Kenyatta’s successor and the contenders subjected to a legitimacy vote and public opinion and the second group that believes that coronations and a consensus will be the way forward.
“However, we all agree that we need to go to the next elections united and with a candidate in mind. The candidate and how they will picked is the point of discussion,” said a governor who did not want to be quoted for fear of antagonising others.
Former Mathira MP Peter Weru, an Uhuru ally, 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.
Governor Wairia said major issues of concern to the country and region are lined up for discussion.
“The meeting is part of the normal housekeeping for our region. The socio-economic political issues will feature prominently because Mt Kenya is a bloc that must be taken seriously. We’ll also discuss how to consolidate and solidify our votes through ramped up voter registrations as other issues of national interest,” the county boss said.
National Assembly deputy majority whip Maoka Maore, one of the most prominent political associates of President Kenyatta, said the meeting is about taking stock of the recent events and transitional dynamics and charting the way forward.
The Igembe North MP warned that the region’s large number of votes would be meaningless if Gema leaders are scattered.
“It’s a meeting in the right direction. The region has always spoken in once voice and this will not change this time round. Those trying to insinuate otherwise are evil forces that want to split and get a chunk of Mt Kenya so that we don’t vote as a bloc,” Mr Maore said.
Kieni MP Kanini Kega said he has been invited to the meeting.
Governor Kahiga expressed hope that the planned meeting would draw a full house and said, all the leaders from the region have been invited irrespective of their political affiliation.
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.
But Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua said he had turned down an invite for the meeting as it served no meaningful political purpose for the region.
The MP, a DP Ruto ally, stated that the meeting was conceived out of the realisation that the political direction President Kenyatta had promised to those behind the meeting is not forthcoming, 13 months to the next General Election, leaving the region rudderless.
He remained categorical that the political destiny of the Mt Kenya region remains in the DP Ruto’s camp.
“These are rudderless politicians who have been sitting pretty for the last one year awaiting for political direction that is nowhere to be seen or heard. That is the reason those of us who stand with the DP have already developed a framework of engagement aimed at empowering residents if he is elected President in next year’s General Election.”
It remains to be seen whether the resolutions of the planned meeting will have a bearing on the 2022 campaigns in a region where the scramble for the inheritance and control of Gema’s six million votes is climaxing.
DP 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.
Saturday’s meeting comes at a time when President Kenyatta is serving his final year and has refused to be drawn into the succession debate.
Also, 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, opening up both the region and the nation to a leadership contest.
Mr Kibaki could not shepherd central Kenya, a region that had religiously voted for him in 2002 and 2007, to one particular candidate.
Mr Kibaki’s predecessor, president Daniel arap Moi was also unable to do so ahead of the 2002 elections when the country defied him to vote in Mr Kibaki, and not Mr Kenyatta.