Moment of truth as battle lines drawn for top Kiambu positions

Kiambu people have ended up paying a high price for the leaders they vote in.

In Summary

• Despite the adoption of Kenya's progressive Constitution of 2010, the attitude by the Kiambu electorate towards elections might be translated as either ignorance or lack of knowledge on the quality of leaders they go for.

• Kiambu people have in the recent past ended up paying a very high price following the choice of leaders they vote in.

Raila Odinga's rally in Thika on Saturday, January 15, 2022.
Raila Odinga's rally in Thika on Saturday, January 15, 2022.

Ethical Leadership is a myth and a fallacy in the choice of leaders especially for the top positions in Kiambu if the past two general elections are anything to go by.

Despite the adoption of Kenya's progressive Constitution of 2010, the attitude by the Kiambu electorate towards elections might be translated as either ignorance or lack of knowledge on the quality of leaders they pick.

Promoting political leadership anchored on integrity is something that many have been grappling with since independence.

Kiambu people have in the recent past ended up paying a very high price as a result of the choice of leaders they vote in.

Populism and loyalty

The fall of the former second Kiambu Governor Hon. Ferdinand Waititu was a scary tale of politics and poverty leading to the perceived ‘poor’ in the society becoming angry and eventually leading a massive collection of signatures to oust him and depositing them with the County Assembly.

The Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) who had previously been ignited by Waititu’s popularist-leadership turned against him in what could have been termed as politics of betrayal.

“Kiambu people do not choose leaders, they vote populist politicians whose agendas are anchored in propaganda, poverty eradication and witch-hunt,” says Mr Macharia Wainaina, a political analyst and activist.

Whilst Wainaina’s statement may be a true reflection of the voting pattern in Kiambu, leaders are elected on a platform of their populism.

Other factors that determine and still influence political dynamics are; leaders previous or current performance track records, their choice of running mates specifically for governor position, integrity, and their affiliations to political parties and presidential candidates.

From the above, another failure that led to Waititu’s fall could be seen by political pundits as ‘disobedience and arrogance’ towards the powers that be and his perceived affiliation to Deputy President William Ruto.

A recent research paper by UKaid Department for International Development found out that during the 1990s, donors came to realize that development required that political settlement that does not exclude powerful players and it is more likely to prevent conflict because it is central to all development.

However, in Waititu's case, many odds worked against him from the poverty level (where he had initiated a popular programme dubbed ‘kaa sober’ targeting the youth and women landing him to court) to failure to hearken to political calls to cut links with the DP.

Attack on the President

He would later continue to unleash serious attacks on President Uhuru Kenyatta who hails from the county after making public remarks like ‘I am a three-phase electric wire, who only fears God and hot porridge’ among others.

All these factors put together would only see his governorship prematurely terminated followed by unending court battles following corruption allegations during his tenure in office.

Also, failure to play the political card with the top leadership saw his predecessor Hon. William Kabogo axed out of power in 2017 through first being edged out of the Jubilee Party Nominations where he accused the party leadership including the DP of rigging in favour of Waititu.

He would later be hit with fictitious allegations that he had insulted women in Kiambu, a move that angered the commoners and therefore lost during the general elections.

Kabogo, has since decided to register his own Wakenya Tujibebe Party which he has been popularising in Mt. Kenya.

Kiambu County has two political splits, Kiambu West and Kiambu East. Each region has six municipalities.

In most likely scenarios, a candidate running for either of the top positions would likely appoint a running mate from the opposite side in order to balance and attract votes from both splits.

The county has 12 sub counties in which the six municipalities are created, each municipality shouldering two Sub-Counties.

The 12 are Limuru, Lari, Kikuyu, Kabete, Kiambaa, Kiambu Town, Githunguri, Ruiru, Juja, Thika, Gatundu North and Gatundu South.

Choice of Political Party and presidential Candidate

Kiambu, just like the whole of Mt Kenya region is no exception from voting a six-piece leadership going by the past two general elections.

However, the current new political parties euphoria in the country may change the narrative. 

The current push to have the Political Parties Amendment Bill is also something to consider if it is passed by Parliament.

Those eyeing the gubernatorial position are; Hon. Kabogo who hails from Ruiru sub county, the incumbent governor H. E James Nyoro (Kikuyu), Senator Kimani Wamatangi (Kabete), Thika MP Patrick Wainaina (Wajungle from Thika), Hon. Waititu (Limuru) and Kiambu County Assembly Speaker Hon. Stephen Ndicho (Ruiru).

The position has attracted four Women; Community Development Worker Agnes Njoki (Kiambaa), former Kiambu CEC Hon. Juliet Kimemia (Kiambu), ICT guru Mwende Gatabaki from Githunguri who is also the wife of economist David Ndii.

The Senatorial position has so far attracted candidates among them Director of Political Affairs, Office of the President Dr Michael Waikenda from Gatundu South sub county, former Kiambu County Speaker Hon. Gathii Irungu (Ruiru), former Sigona Ward MCA Mutonya Njenga (Kikuyu), former MCA and Kiambu Youth and Communications CEC Hon. Karungo Thang’wa (Githunguri) and Biashara Ward MCA Hon. Njoroge Kururia (Ruiru).

Those eyeing to succeed Kiambu Women Rep Gathoni Wamuchomba who hails from Githunguri sub county include Nominated MCA Hon. Njeri Bakari (Kikuyu), former Kiambu TNA coordinator Ms Gladys Chania (Thika), Lawyer Alice Gathekia (Thika), Gospel Musician Loise Kim (Kiambaa) and Grace Wanjiku Wangui (Juja).

Former Governor Kabogo will be vying using his newly established Tujibebe Wakenya Party as well as Wakili Gathii who is the Secretary-General of the Party and Gathekia who will run for women rep on the party ticket.

Waikenda, who was appointed by Gatundu South MP Hon. Moses Kuria as CCK Elections Board Chairman will vie on the party ticket.

According to him, several MCAs and MPs candidates have shown interest to use the party as a vehicle to their career political jobs.

Nyoro and Wamatangi are yet to announce whether they will still use the Jubilee Party while Wainaina who initially branded his campaign vehicles with United Democratic Alliance (UDA) has since removed the party symbols from his campaign materials without indicating whether he is still interested in the party ticket.

Madam Juliet will be vying on Kanu ticket, Gatabaki on UDA while Hon. Ndicho and Njoki are yet to declare their parties of choice.

Hon. Bakari will be seeking to secure the women's rep position on the CCK ticket while the political activist and humanitarian Madam Chania is yet to make public her party of choice though she is a staunch follower of Hon. Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja and a staunch member of Kanu.

Party affiliations key to voting patterns

According to political analyst and politician Kimiri Kahenya, affiliations to the major political parties and their party leaders including UDA and the Baba led Azimio la Umoja anticipated coalition may define who takes the mantle on the various positions in Kiambu.

Kabogo and his Tujibebe party has been warming up to OKA and Azimio recently with Kabogo having hosted OKA principles including presidential candidates Hon. Musalia Mudavadi (ANC Party) and Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka  (Wiper Party) as well as Baringo Senator Hon. Gideon Moi (KANU) and Bungoma Senator Hon. Moses Wetangula (Ford-K party) at Thika stadium.

The CCK party which has stood to be independent of late seems to be in competition with UDA with many MP and MCA candidates eyeing to board either.

For instance, former Limuru MP Hon. Chege Kiragu is said to have had a meeting with the Deputy President and since he is popular following his track record in infrastructural development, is a worry for incumbent Hon. Peter Mwathi’s camp and his move might be a game-changer in constituency politics.

“We visited the DP in his residence with all those vying using UDA including Kiragu and MCA candidates. The DP was elated and this is just the beginning. So, this tells you that affiliations with a certain political party will play a key role during the August 9 elections,” said Kimiri.

Choice of Running mate and integrity

In most scenarios, an aspirant would be tempted to split the two positions of governor and his deputy for each to come from either Kiambu West or East. 

This would scare off voters who may feel shortchanged if a certain governor candidate picks his or her deputy from the same region he or she hails from.

In 2013, Kabogo, who hails from Ruiru, picked former East Africa Breweries Company Limited boss Gerald Githinji from Limuru as his deputy governor while Nyoro who was competing against him as a new entrant in politics picked Elizabeth Wangui from Thika.

In 2017, however, the geographical factor was subdued by the anti-Kabogo wave where Waititu, the former Kabete MP paired with Nyoro despite them hailing from Kiambu West.

But they had to balance with the assembly speaker’s position picking Ndicho from Ruiru.

Ndicho was vying for the Senate seat then but they entered the pact after Jubilee Party nominations to pave way for Wamatangi who was running on the party ticket not to have a challenge from Ndicho if he moved to another party or vied as an independent.

Later, when Waititu was impeached, Nyoro played the geographical factor again and picked former Gatundu South MP, the late Jossy Ngugi’s wife Joyce to deputize him in a bid to balance the regional equation.

Integrity and past performance

Meanwhile, integrity is also shaping the choice of aspirants, with Waititu and Kabogo facing criticism over their past deeds and being viewed as politicians.

During the 2013 and 2017 elections, each had to pick a running mate who was perceived to be technocrats and politically ‘clean’.

In other words, the electorate has been going the populist way in the two elections with less consideration of integrity.

However, the past performance of Kabogo, especially his efforts in revamping the health sector has enabled him to endear himself again to the people.

“Initially, the position of governorship was viewed to be a reserve of the elite and technocrats but it was overlapped by the degree of popularity each candidate had either negative or positive and they both went for running mates who they thought were technocrats,” says Wainaina.

He adds, “it seems people were less concerned about the Senate and Women Rep positions which together with the MPs and MCAs positions, were being defined more by the political parties."

Campaign agenda and financial muscle

Political parties financing and the agenda set out as a manifesto seems to be a pivotal cornerstone of how politics shapes up in Kiambu with the different players heading parties of interest in the region.

Ruto’s UDA party has started gaining ground in Kiambu and while its agenda is based on a ‘bottom-up’ economic model, the party funding largely is seen to be from the party leader himself.

The Deputy President not only uses state resources during his tours like government vehicles and personnel in charge of his logistics but also enjoys state protection.

He is able to host tens of delegations organized by his pointmen in Kiambu who are vying for various positions in the region.

Most of the Kiambu UDA candidates’ competitors find it difficult to have a party leader who can do the same.

This has made it easy for the candidates to sell their ideology without incurring a lot of expenses and time ahead of the massive campaigns which are known to consume a lot of resources.

In some instances, sources close to the DP disclosed that there are delegates who visit the DP premises and go home with cash rewards ranging from Sh2,000 and Sh20,000 depending on their opinions and how they found their way to the party leader.

This is an indicator that UDA campaigns might be well oiled and handouts will not be a problem because it’s affordable.

Kabogo’s Tujibebe Party might have an uphill task.

The party has been founded on the principles of national unity, peace and an indivisible country that prides itself on integrity, economic empowerment and safeguarding the wellbeing of the people of Kenya. 

However, the Governor has been saying in his region tours that he wants to take over from where he left Kiambu during his exit in 2017.

As such, he has been trying to woo aspirants to his side so that he can build the party not only in Kiambu but the whole republic.

He is seen to have branded his vehicles among them fuel guzzlers like the ‘hummer’ model.

With the party being young and yet to attract funding from party-related activities, such as fundraising events and membership dues; contributions from the private sector; public funding schemes; individual donations from citizens; and foreign donations, most of the financing might be from him.

“He will do anything possible to make sure he gets candidates who he will campaign for and win so that he can remain relevant in the political spheres,” said Simon Kimani, a political analyst.

He adds, "it is therefore apparent that those in various parties and those who own them will have to flex their resources to show their might.”

And while Waititu, Gatabaki lean on UDA, others are careful not to have a bruising battle during nomination with some leaning on parties that are not attracting massive competition.