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January 21, 2019

Hunt is on for Mt Kenya kingpin or queenpin to replace Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta hands a key to Nyeri governor Mutahi Kahiga to officially open the Karatina Market hub. /FILE
President Uhuru Kenyatta hands a key to Nyeri governor Mutahi Kahiga to officially open the Karatina Market hub. /FILE

The search for a  new spokesperson for Mt Kenya region has divided politicians.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is the de facto leader of the region but the search is on to find a replacement after he retires in 2022.

Those interested in being kingpin (or queenpin) and spokesperson include Governors Mwangi Wa Iria (Murang’a), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu) and former Kiambu governor William Kabogo.

Others are MPs Moses Kuria (Gatundu South), Cecily Mbarire (nominated), Kimani Ichung’wa (Kikuyu) and Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu).

Leaders are divided into pro-handshake and a pro-DP William Ruto camps.

 “Jubilee was a big tent with two poles, one called Uhuru and another Ruto. A camel came in the name of the handshake and tore the tent apart. Now we have Team Kieleweke and Team Tangatanga,” nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura said.

Behind the scenes, there’s a lot of activity, creating both fears and a sense of entitlement among leaders.

“Reckless utterances can lead to unnecessary divisions and chaos,” Waiguru said.

The Star has established that a number of politicians are ready to endorse Ruto. The other team wants to forge new alliances.

They want to fill the vacuum left by the confusion in the President’s turf —  following his deal with Ruto before last year’s polls and the MoU with ODM leader Raila Odinga on March 9 during the handshake.

“Since Uhuru and Ruto shared the government on a 50-50 basis, I think it would be fair for both to retire in 2022 and for Kenyans to be given a chance to usher in a new set of leaders,” Nyeri politician Gakuo Munene said.

Former Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe nearly destabilised the status quo enjoyed by current leaders when he publicly dismissed Ruto’s presidential bid.

“He came from nowhere and that is why you saw the leaders, including those who criticised Ruto, come together to dismiss him. If he had been left alone, he would have threatened a number of careers,” a Jubilee official allied to Ruto said.

The leaders said Murathe has enjoyed good publicity, is well connected in the corridors of power and should not be left to push an agenda at the expense of the current leaders.

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said Murathe has the right to say whatever he wants.

Wa Iria said transition politics involves many interests and urged Kenyans to support peace and development. 

“Personal ambitions shouldn’t jeopardise socioeconomic and political order. The republic is greater than anybody,” he said.

power brokers

The leaders have formed platforms to enhance their bargaining power. They include political parties, caucuses and amorphous movements to build grassroots support.

The Civic Renewal Party said to belong to Wa Iria was registered in November last year to exploit the succession battle in the region. 

Power brokers in Murang’a want to assume the Mt Kenya leadership mantle. They believe it’s their right after they supported presidents from Kiambu and Nyeri. Uhuru and founding President Jomo Kenyatta were born in Kiambu. Former President Mwai Kibaki is from Nyeri.

 “We are keenly watching those advocating our development. The person talking of roads, coffee, tea and rice should be our spokesperson,” Mbele Iko Sawa lobby coordinator Josiah Murigo told the Star. 

Mbele Iko Sawa supported Uhuru’s reelection.

Kuria has declared interest in the country’s top seat when Uhuru leaves office. 

Away from public view, Kuria has been meeting opinion shapers in the region. He has set up three private offices, a television station and taken over Mt Kenya United FC to support his presidential bid.

 Elders and other leaders recently criticised him for saying the region’s development has been ignored.

“Uhuru is 100 per cent right...We need development in every corner of this country. It is in that spirit and in line with the President’s position that I believe Mt Kenya region also deserves development, just like any other region. Right now it’s not happening,” Kuria said. 

Waiguru is the Council of Governors vice chairperson and chair of the Kirinyaga socioeconomic platform. She too wants to be the region’s spokesperson.

Other politicians and civil servants are manoeuvring behind organisations such as the Mt Kenya Foundation and the Mt Kenya Shapers. Their fights have spilt into the open.

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