President Kenyatta’s influence over Mt Kenya politics faces a new test following a split among his supporters on whether the region should field a presidential candidate next year.
The emergence of two factions- Mt Kenya east and west- has polarised relations among leaders within the president’s camp, the divisions likely to weaken their offensive against Deputy President William Ruto’s hustler team in the region.
Despite the president’s insistence that it’s the turn for other communities to hold the presidency, the declaration by some of his loyalists that the region will still field a presidential candidate could be interpreted as defiance.
Politicians from Mt Kenya west, who are opposed to National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi’s coronation as the region’s spokesman, at the weekend further infuriated their counterparts from the east with the declaration that the region will field a presidential candidate.
Leaders from Mt Kenya east, who have backed Mr Muturi’s coronation, insist they must chart their own path, and yesterday, they described as “selfish” plans by their colleagues to sponsor a presidential candidate.
On Saturday, the leaders who met in Nyeri declared that they would not settle for anything less than having a candidate for the presidency, citing the region’s six million votes that they would put on the negotiating table.
Those present were governors Mwangi wa Iria (Murang’a), Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Martin Wambora (Embu), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua) and Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri).
Also present were Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, former Kiambu governor William Kabogo, MPs Kanini Kega (Kieni), Jude Njomo (Kiambu town) and James Gichuki (Othaya).
The rival group that supports Mr Muturi’s coronation, which includes Mr Wambora, Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki and Meru’s Kiraitu Murungi, criticised the pronouncement by their colleagues.
Addressing leaders from Igembe at his home on the same day, Mr Murungi hit out at the leaders from the west, accusing them of “selfishness”.
Those present were Senator Mithika Linturi, MPs Kubai Kiringo (Igembe Central), John Paul Mwirigi (Igembe South) and Maoka Maore (Igembe North).
Mr Murungi said there was no way leaders from the region would allow those from the West to continue fronting their own and ignoring calls for unity in the region.
“I think it will be grossly unfair and greedy for leaders from Mt Kenya west to imagine they can field another presidential candidate after we religiously supported Jomo Kenyatta, Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru,” said Mr Murungi.
“Kenya should be seen from its ethnic architecture and there are many other communities living in this country and it will not be fair to other Kenyans especially now that they are rejecting our spokesperson so that they install theirs,” the governor said.
“We want unity from them supporting us and if they go on that way, count us out. I want to tell our people to stop being selfish. Let us not hear of another candidate from that side of the mountain,” Mr Murungi added.
Mr Linturi said for a long time, the east and west have been referred to as Mt Kenya region only during the time of voting.
He said before Mr Muturi was crowned, there was nobody from the region who had come out in the open to declare their stand.
“When Muturi came into the picture, leaders from the west started saying they would install their own. What we are saying is that we are not people from a lesser God. We have stood with you for a very long time and if you find that Muturi is not fit, don’t hurl insults at him because you look down on us.”
Speaking in Embu County on Saturday, Mr Muturi alleged there was a plot to divide Mount Kenya East region to ensure that it doesn't produce a leader in 2022. He claimed plans were at an advanced stage to crown another leader from the area as a Spokesman to compete with him.
“I have information that those opposed to my recent coronation at Mukurwe Wa Nyagathanga in Murang'a are scheming to plant another spokesman to spoil for me,” he said, adding that some of his political opponents from Central Kenya are behind the scheme to split the region.
“Those opposed to my coronation are even meeting in Nyeri but I'm not scared,” Mr Muturi said in reference to governors and other leaders from Central Kenya.
Yesterday, Mr Muturi said he was helping President Kenyatta unite the region that has been divided into several 2022 succession political formations.
Mr Muturi attended a church service at the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) Njeru branch in Kangema, Murang’a accompanied by the host MP Muturi Kigano, Defense Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma, Water Principal Secretary Irungu Wairagu, Kieni MP Kanini Kega, area woman rep Sabina Chege and Jubilee strategist Prof Peter Kagwanja.
His supporters said he was the second in command in Mt Kenya region hierarchy of political power hence the best placed to be the president’s point man.
Prof Kagwanja hinted that the president had run out of patience with the politics of rebellion played out in the region and has decided to change his succession plan to work with someone who can bear absolute loyalty to him.
“The president has realised there is a problem in Mt Kenya politics. A major one where we have formations being led by those aspiring for his office in 2022, another wing composed of brokers, others being led by those aspiring to be kingpins hence candidates for running mates,” Prof Kagwanja said.
To that end, Mr Muturi who constitutionally ranks third after the president and his deputy was fronted as the best suited to implement the president’s wish to the letter.
Mr Kega said six million votes split into several political compartments won’t help the region in the next elections.
“We must be cognisant of the fact that even if we are the majority in this country as a tribe, we are not liked. But our strength is our unity that makes our political numbers respected. The president would love to see us united all through into the next government,” Mr Kega said.
Mr Muturi said serving as a Speaker has given him enough insights into how unity can be forged “since I deal with all the members of these many factions that we have in our politics.”
Mr Kigano said those preaching disunity in Mt Kenya region and trying to balkanise some parts as strongholds of some to exclude others “is the political nonsense that our president is running away from.”
Reports by Gitonga Marete, George Munene and Mwangi Muiruri