What you need to know:
- First term governor hints at possibility of running for a higher office after her second term.
This is part 2 of an interview with Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru. In case you missed it, read part 1 here.
There has been some quiet, some tranquillity in the county assembly since the attempt to impeach you. Did you strike a deal with the MCAs?
It was just that one person in government who was pushing for it. I cannot say that I struck a deal because it was instigated, not internal. Those allegations they were making, where are they? They are the same people who took EACC round and round and have now brought them back to this recent (land survey) case. What has that go to do with me? I do not benefit personally, unlike my colleagues, the likes of (former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand) Waititu. With this one, the guy was Martha’s (Karua) running mate. He is my political rival. It is not even in my political interest to pay him. How can I pay him for him to run against me? Because we need to give titles, as a leader you need to put your needs aside.
The reason I said they (EACC) were fighting me is they would start leaking the story. You do not have to summon me in Nairobi then call the media. And all this time you have done it even in NYS, where have you gone with those files? Then you write that we have closed this issue on page 6 of the EACC report, and a line somewhere in there that (NYS scandal suspect Josephine) Kabura was found to have lied. But when you are calling me there. It was a public issue but the day you find there is nothing, you do not want to call the media. Then they still call to tell me to give a witness in this issue. It is pure PR.
In the middle of all the political chaos, Kirinyaga is preparing to host a national function – Mashujaa Day.
The rabble-rousing and all that. If you are going to host a national holiday...
I want to correct the statement. There is no chaos.
Do you think it will be easy for you as the leader, given that the whole of government machinery will be there? Are you comfortable? Have you seen some power play?
I am not very comfortable because of my past experience. I am not extremely comfortable. I am not naïve, but I want to believe that people will be mature and civil.
In terms of the general preparations, we are finishing the stadium, putting the flag pole, dancers have practised. We have built roads and Kirinyaga has gained a lot in terms of infrastructure. We have roads that have never been tarmacked, walkways have been done, the county commissioner’s house has been renovated. On that front, Kirinyaga people are benefiting.
When it comes to political dynamics, I have not had a say on who is going to be at the stadium. He has not allowed me to have a say in that matter, that gentleman. He is the one in charge. Out of the 3,000 people that will be in there, they gave 150 cards for the executive and MCAs. They did not give me cards. That makes it a bit uncomfortable. Let us welcome all the guests. Once they leave, we can do our local politics.
When you were in the government, you worked closely with Interior PS Karanja Kibicho, yet today your relationship is not good. What was the point of departure?
Kirinyaga Politics. Just that feeling, undermining me, I think it is because I am a woman leader, because I do not see it happening in other counties. It just happened because there is somebody senior in government who, for whatever reason, I do not really know, wants to coordinate everything, including the leadership of Kirinyaga.
Is there any chance of a truce between you and Kibicho?
Let me say this: It is not like we are fighting. We are not. You have seen us meeting. It is because of the past that I find it difficult to trust him. I am not politically naïve. Because of what I have gone through; it is not that easy to say that I completely trust him.
You have made reference to Kabura and the final recommendation that was given/hidden somewhere. NYS was an issue and not good things were said at that moment. The debate even drew in the DP. Do you think that kind of experience may affect your relation with the DP?
I don’t want to be historical. That thing touched both sides. Who were the people who attacked me most? It was ODM and in fact I sued Raila and I have been working with him for the last two years on the Handshake. I am not historical. I am just clear where to focus.
Former Gichugu MP Martha Karua was made Mt Kenya spokesperson. Do you think that gives her clout? Does it threaten your chances of coming back?
I am not worried about what she is doing. In politics, you evaluate competition, come up with a strategy and push it to the end.
There is something I have wondered about. Jubilee was strong but where did the rain start beating it and allow UDA to crop up?
It is sad because this party was built for posterity and we imagined it would be like other old parties like Kanu and would determine the leadership of the country for long.
Is it a leadership, emotional or psychological issue? Ideological divide?
Once there was that fallout between the President and his deputy, technocrat handlers of the party did not manage it well and people lost emotional connection with Jubilee.
If you go to ODM, they feel they belong to the party. They own it. There is no such feeling with Jubilee and it is possibly because of that technocrat failure. Party structures were not active.
The other argument has been that the Handshake also played a role, that Tinga (ODM leader Raila Odinga) had been demonised in that part of the country for quite long so that when he was incorporated then the ground was bound to rebel?
I guess the incorporation also played a role. If you have demonised someone for 15 to 20 years, then you need to come and explain why this should be undone. The connection was not there and it was difficult.
You indicated that perhaps this is the moment the mountain will elect a non-local as president. Is the mountain warming up to Raila? Is it possible the damage can be undone even if not now?
Warming up is relative. As a bloc, they have a lot of work to do. It will require time. I don’t know.
If you met the President, what would you tell him about what the mountain wants?
The first thing I would tell him is that he has a huge responsibility to ensure a smooth transition. That should be his priority that this country holds together and the economy is not destabilised. It is a huge task and whatever decision he makes, politically or otherwise, that is something that he should remember.
It is my belief that the President will not endorse anyone because if he does then he has taken sides and it can be tricky when it comes to transition.
In a democratic space, he will play his part. When he shook Raila’s hand he said his role as president is first peace and to hold the country together. Since he still remembers that is one of his Constitutional duties, I don’t see him playing a role of saying this or the other side.
After Kirinyaga, what next?
It will depend on what the ground is saying. I will probably give a shot at the presidency or deputy after finishing my second term as governor. I still feel like I have the energy. I will want to give it a shot if I don’t do it this time.
I am not standing for the presidency is because I don’t have Sh5 billion. You know you need time and I don’t want to waste people’s time. People say they want to run for presidency but what they really want is the deputy presidency or governor of Nairobi. They are just upping their stake. I believe I can play a big role.
What are the interesting peculiarities you are forced to go through as a woman politician that male counterparts don’t?
They attack us personally. You are attacked on how you look. They don’t tell me the same. They go personal, then they draw in your family as they know that will hurt and you will likely withdraw. During my impeachment, they tried bringing in my son saying he did business with the county government. He doesn’t speak Kikuyu and doesn’t even do anything with the government be it Kirinyaga or anywhere in the country. They don’t do that for male governors. They know that as a woman you will feel pain because we are very sensitive about children.
They always draw in your family, trying to allocate your children to different men. For me, it wasn’t that much because I was allocated to one person and then it stuck and trying to undo it is a problem. It affects women leaders as there are people who don’t handle it very well.
What are some of your achievements since becoming governor?
My greatest achievement is in health. It is the one they wanted to attack the most during impeachment. We have done a Level 5 Hospital which we will open soon. There is no difference between it and Nairobi Hospital.
In the first year, I focused on upgrading small hospitals like in Baricho and in the second year we started building the Level 5 hospital. It will have ICU, HDU, oncology, special burns unit, children’s side. I got a special eye unit with support from external partners. It does between 10 and 12 cataract surgeries a day free for Kirinyaga residents. We have fully functional renal unit with eight beds serving 40 people daily. They used to go to other hospitals outside the county. I am also in the process of finishing 19 health centres. Some are finished and others are almost being finished.
In infrastructure, we have been grading roads. We receive about Sh4 billion, placing us in the bottom six. About Sh3 billion is recurrent expenditure and development vote is about a billion. All these I things I am doing with just Sh1 billion.
We bought equipment in the first year and we are now grading our own roads. We have done more than 2,000 kilometres but fully murramming is between 470 and 500 kilometres.
For trade, I have built 11 markets and another four are almost complete. I have ensured the recovery of 250 acres of land which was grabbed during the previous regime. We are in the process of doing an industrial park on that land, a golf course and a sports academy.
On agriculture, we have spent a lot of money on diversification. We have established four value chains in poultry, dairy, tomato and avocado.
Are you retaining your deputy?