Uhuru Kenyatta
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Uhuru, Karua blamed as Mt Kenya reacts to widening split

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President Uhuru Kenyatta having a word with Nark Kenya leader Martha Karua in this photo taken on April 21, 2022 during the inaugural Azimio la Umoja Coalition Party Council meeting at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre  

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta and Narc-K Party leader Martha Karua have come under fire from President William Ruto’s loyalists, who dismiss Friday’s Limuru III conference as an ethnic congregation.

Mr Kenyatta’s allies declared him the spokesman of Mt Kenya, stirring reactions from Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua’s backers.

Ms Karua, Jubilee Party Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni, former governors Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia) and Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu), Githunguri MP Gathoni Wamuchomba and the other leaders present declared the formation of Haki (Justice) coalition, to “protect and champion the interests of Mt Kenya”.

Dr Ruto’s supporters now accuse Mr Kenyatta and Limuru III organisers of tribalism “when the country is on a path of cohesion”. National Assembly Majority Leader, Kimani Ichung’wah, his Senate colleague Aaron Cheruiyot and Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri condemned the summit that has left Mt Kenya deeply split.

They said Mr Kenyatta is using the community tag to make a political comeback against the dictates of the Constitution, “which bars retired presidents from active politics”. According to Limuru III conference organisers, Mr Kenyatta is the leader of Haki Coalition.

“More than 70 National Assembly members, eleven woman representatives, ten senators and governors from the region did not attend the meeting because it was meant to propagate lies and falsehoods,” Mr Ichung’wah said yesterday.

“We have a deputy president, several Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries, ambassadors, parastatal heads and many other appointments in the government. Nobody should say we are not part of the current government.”

The Kikuyu MP added that most statements issued during the Limuru III conference were aimed at scuttling President Ruto’s development programme.

Mr Kiunjuri said leaders from Mt Kenya condemn the meeting and the “unfortunate” resolutions that came out of it. “Uhuru needs to emulate (former president) Mwai Kibaki. When Kibaki succeeded Daniel arap Moi, people thought he would frustrate his predecessor. That never happened.

When he retired after serving his two terms, Kibaki never returned to mess the government. The country cannot afford two centres of power,” Mr Kiunjuri said.

He added that elected leaders from Mt Kenya skipped the meeting “because they understand the region has not been sidelined by the current government”. Mr Cheruiyot said meetings like Limuru III are taking Kenya backwards, “when the country is striving to be one invisible nation with one agenda of development”.

The leaders spoke during a fundsdrive at Tombo Primary School in Malava constituency, Kakamega County. They called for unity of Kenyans, which, they claimed Dr Ruto has been championing since being elected president on August 9, 2022.

Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa said President Ruto is a unifying factor and must be respected by all, including leaders who served before him. “We want Kenyans to speak the language of unity.

We can only achieve development by putting tribal groupings behind us,” Governor Barasa said promising to lead Kakamega from the opposition to the government in 2027. Present at the Kakamega fundraiser were MPs Elijah Memusi (Kajiado Central), Michael Muchira (Oljororok), Fred Outa (Nyando) and Elisha Odhiambo (Gem).

Others were Bernard Shinali (Ikolomani), Mark Nyamita (Uriri), Christopher Aseka (Khwisero), John Waluke (Sirisia), Malulu Injendi (Malava), Caroli Omondi (Suba South), Mohamed Ali (Nyali) and Senators Tom Ojienda (Kisumu) and Wamatinga Wahome (Nyeri).

Some observers say that apart from rattling political elites, the Limuru III conference also amplified differences that continue to spread among Mt Kenya leaders where the opposition Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition has also splintered into several camps.

Factions are now emerging in the ruling Kenya Kwanza alliance too.

Civil tongues

Mt Kenya Foundation, which spearheaded and bankrolled Azimio la Umoja One Kenya campaigns in 2022, has since bolted to President Ruto’s side while individuals like Ms Wamuchomba – elected on UDA platform – have shifted allegiance to the opposition. The Githunguri MP has been a fierce critic of President Ruto and Mr Gachagua.

Contacted, Ms Karua said Limuru III “was just weather forecast”. “The political thunder is coming,” the Narc-K boss said. Said Mr Kioni: “When at war, you don’t display your armoury. Of importance is that we will deal with this disaster that is the sitting government”.

It is a case of two Mt Kenya camps attepting to suffocating each other, each side upping the pressure of the thumb on the windpipe of the other. “The Mt Kenya Azimio side has effectively ensured that the former president does not relinquish the kingpin title while the Ruto camp has ensured that no one – not even Deputy President Gachagua – exercises the functions of region kingpin.

That is what each camp is trying to expand,” Kirinyaga County Jubilee chairman Muriithi Kang’ara said. Murang’a Senator Joe Nyutu dismissed Limuru III.

“What we saw was nothing like a uniting meeting but the coming together of 2022 election losers bitter to the core. They are willing to go to any length to poison the political environment,” Mr Nyutu told the Sunday Nation.

The Murang’a senator, however, added that the summit raised three debates about Mt Kenya – the relationship with the Ruto administration, consolidation of voting numbers and the region’s 2027 strategy. Public Service Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria wanted to be part of the process but later said he was not aware of the agenda.

“The grievances raised are valid in the measure of the democratic space but how they were packaged and aired reeked of desperation,” Mr Kuria said. “You cannot oppose without proposing.

After all the talk, they should have given their followers a roadmap they intend to use towards fulfilment, complete with timeframes.” Kikuyu Council of Elders chairman Wachira Kiago said some politicians contravened what organisers of the summit had agreed on, “especially on keeping our tongues civil”.

Mr Waititu remained unapologetic saying:

“Never again will we support a non-Mt Kenya presidential candidate.” The former Kiambu county boss added that President Ruto’s administration has taken the region for a ride. “He considers us fools because we trusted him with our votes without demanding any written agreement,” Mr Waititu said.

“Nothing will stop us from demanding that Mt Kenya, as the custodian of the country’s biggest voting bloc, must always be the winner. Every top seat, including Nairobi governor, must be centred around us.” UDA chairperson, Cecily Mbarire, said leaders from Mt Kenya are first working for the region.

“That is the core mandate. Behind the scenes, we are working out a flawless plan that will suffocate this Azimio group,” the Embu governor said. She added that UDA grassroots elections would put in place “reasonable, decent and respectful counter-attack party officials.

“This Haki thing they are struggling to establish will be irrelevant by 2027,” she said.