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February 23, 2019

Inside the scramble for Central Kenya votes ahead of ’22 polls

Politician Peter Kenneth, Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu and Martha Karua during Mt. Kenya leaders' joint press briefing in Nairobi on January 9, 2019. /ENOS TECHE
Politician Peter Kenneth, Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu and Martha Karua during Mt. Kenya leaders' joint press briefing in Nairobi on January 9, 2019. /ENOS TECHE

Political bigwigs have begun strategising how to slice part of the populous Central Kenya votes in what is likely to make the region the epicenter of Kenya’s politics in 2022.

Previously, the Kikuyu vote has been under lock and key for one of their own but the impending retirement of President Uhuru Kenyatta has for the first time created a vacuum.

Nominated MP Isaac Mwaura says the region will evaluate all the presidential contenders and negotiate with the best.

“Our region will decide and negotiate with whoever is going to give us the best deal,” he said at a charged press conference by Mt Kenya leaders last Wednesday.

The political manoeuvres have also made Uhuru the most sought-after leader as politicians silently pray for his endorsement.

Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga as well as his ANC counterpart Musalia Mudavadi and Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka are all banking on Central Kenya’s support.

Mudavadi and his allies have made it clear that they are keen on an alliance with Mt Kenya in a strategy to get the “tyranny of numbers”.

The Kikuyus are the most populous community in Kenya followed by the Luhya and an alliance between the two can create a formidable team.

In 2013 Mudavadi picked Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni as his running mate but the pair performed dismally, coming a distant third after Uhuru and Raila.

But ANC deputy party leader Ayub Savula said Musalia is still scouting for a running mate from Mt Kenya region.

“Mudavadi is likely to go for a person who has zero score on corruption index, experienced, high achieving executive, enjoys commanding acceptability in Central Kenya and the country, demonstrates deep spirituality and fidelity to the rule of law, views the position not as waiting room to become president but as an opportunity to support the president in building an enduring legacy,” Savula said.

Musalia has been hobnobbing with Central Kenya elite, despite being the only opposition leader who has declined to team up with Uhuru.

Savula says Luhyas must work directly with Uhuru.

“We cannot join Ruto because has declared interest to succeed President Kenyatta and he is therefore a competitor to Mudavadi. Uhuru will be leaving the stage and we want to fill his space,” he said.

Ruto is hoping that Uhuru will honour his pledge of supporting his 2022 presidential bid, although some Kikuyu elite have ganged up to viciously oppose his bid.

Last week, Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe dramatically resigned and declared that he will he will form a stop Ruto movement, including leading a mass walkout from Jubilee.

Read: Murathe quits Jubilee party, maintains Ruto not fit for president

A poll by Radio Africa Group published on Saturday however indicate that 53 per cent of Nairobians are confident Uhuru will support DP Ruto.

Despite opposition to the DP from a section of Jubilee insiders, Ruto has ardent foot soldiers, especially among sitting MPs.

He is banking on these leaders to deliver the Central Kenya votes.

Among Ruto’s allies are Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika, Bahati MP Ngunjiri Wambugu and Kikuyu lawmaker Kimani Ichungwa.

Read: DP Ruto is fit to be the fifth president - poll

While Raila has kept mum about his future political game plan, his allies have asked Uhuru to back Raila for the top job.

Siaya Senator James Orengo made the hint publicly during Uhuru’s visit to Kisumu last December.

He is said to have made a similar request at State House, Kisumu, where the President met Luo leaders.

Raila and Uhuru have become unusually close and some political commentators claim the Kenyatta family is determined to pay the “political debt” going back to the role played by the two families at independence.

Former MPs, especially those who have fallen out with the Ruto, have become frequent visitors at Raila’s office.

Kalonzo, who is under political assault in his Ukambani backyard, has lately taken a backseat.

However, his declaration that he would henceforth be Kenyatta’s errand boy left tongues wagging.

“From today, let no one separate me and my brother Uhuru. I have accepted to run his errands. Those who will attempt to interfere will see my other side,” Kalonzo said in November last year.

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