RACE FOR TOP SEAT

Eight Mt Kenya bigwigs tussle to succeed Uhuru

Murang'a Governor Mwangi wa Iria takes race notch higher after unveiling presidential secretariat.

In Summary

•Political observers say it is too early to tell whom the region will prefer.

•Activities of the seven politicians continue to stir a storm in the region.

Some of the pro-Uhuru politicians from Mt Kenya region during the dinner at Safari Park Hotel on February 25, 2020.
Some of the pro-Uhuru politicians from Mt Kenya region during the dinner at Safari Park Hotel on February 25, 2020.
Image: COURTESY

At least eight bigwigs have lined up to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta as Mt Kenya’s political supremo with one setting up a presidential secretariat two years to the 2022 polls.

The Building Bridges Initiative is set to expand the Executive, creating three additional positions at the apex, which has become an irresistible menu for political leaders across the country.

Apart from the President and the deputy, the BBI process is expected to birth a premier and two deputies in a bid to enhance inclusivity.

 
 

Mt Kenya has a population of about 7.9 million, according to the 2019 population census, which by far is the country’s largest, making the region the epicentre of 2022 politics.

The Star has established that Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria has quietly established a presidential campaign centre, complete with a secretariat at an upscale estate in Nairobi.

Murang'a Governor Mwangi wa Iria's presidential campaign secretariat in Lavington, Nairobi
HEADQUARTERS: Murang'a Governor Mwangi wa Iria's presidential campaign secretariat in Lavington, Nairobi
Image: COURTESY

His operations, however, remain low key so as not to be seen to be antagonising President Kenyatta who is also his party boss.

 “He [wa Iria] will contest the presidency. He has been very clear about that. This is his second term [as governor] and hence cannot contest for the seat again. He can only go up,” James Mwangi, the governors’ private secretary, told the Star.

Murang'a Governor Mwangi wa Iria
Murang'a Governor Mwangi wa Iria
Image: ALICE WAITHERA

The Murang'a governor registered Civic Renewal Party (CRP) in June last year leaving Jubilee’s future in Mt Kenya uncertain as leaders pull in different directions.

CRP headquarters called “Usawa House” is located at Nairobi’s Lavington.

But apart from wa Iria, there are seven other politicos scheming to take over from President Kenyatta.

 
 
 

These include former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe.

Others are former Justice Minister and Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua, Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia, and former presidential candidate Joseph Nyagah.

Former presidential candidate Peter Kenneth.
Former presidential candidate Peter Kenneth.
Image: Alice Waithera

But the man who has taken the region by storm in recent weeks is former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth who is rallying the region’s senior most political leaders to back his bid.

Kenneth has increased his political activities in Central Kenya amid talk that President Kenyatta has been reaching out to him in the anticipated Cabinet reshuffle.

“I am ready to help the President and I have been helping him so that in the next two years he can finish all that he wants to do to the people of Kenya. But when he retires, we the people of Mt Kenya have the largest population in Kenya. We have to be on the table,” Kenneth declared late last month.

One of his closest political allies Alhajj Amin, however, told the Star that it’s the people who have asked Kenneth to take over the leadership mantle.

“It’s the people who are seeking his leadership. Peter Kenneth is a polished politician, experienced, has a development track record, zero record of corruption and is an agent of political tranquility," said Amin.

Incidentally, Amin is a younger brother to Suna East MP Junet Mohammed, a close ally of ODM Leader Raila Odinga.

Amin told the Star that Kenneth would be the leading champion of the BBI crusade in Mt Kenya.

 Dr Charles Nyambuga, a political commentator from Maseno University, says that Peter Kenneth will have an upper hand in the Uhuru succession race.

“He is an older hand, more tried and tested by the key Mt Kenya politicos," says the university don.

For Waiguru, Nyambuga holds that how she manages her local politics will determine whether she ascends up or not.

Waiguru recently survived an impeachment motion in which MCAs sought to expose multimillion graft scandals in her administration.

Kenneth has been touring Central, presiding as chief guest at various project launches.

 Some of his allies are MPs Joseph Nduati (Gatanga), Peter Kimari (Mathioya), Gichuki Mugambi (Othaya), Water PS Joseph Irungu and Education CAS Zack Kinuthia.

A desire by Mt Kenya to front him as their kingpin came to the fore recently when he joined several leaders for a lunch meeting at Panafric hotel.

Speaker Justin Muturi, Agriculture CS Peter Munya, Governors Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia) and Majority leader Amos Kimunya attended.

Governors Lee Kinyajui (Nakuru), Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka-Nithi) and Kirinyaga Senator Charles Kibiru were also present.

On Saturday, he held a lengthy meeting with Senator Irungu Kang'ata, Maragua MP Mary Wamaua, Wangari Mwaniki of Kigumo and Gatanga’s Nduati Ngugi at Thika Greens Hotel.

Kiunjuri is equally busy, having hit the ground running to popularise the Service Party (TSP) - an entity said to be among those DP Ruto is seeking to work with.

Former CS Mwangi Kiunjuri.
Former CS Mwangi Kiunjuri.
Image: FILE

The TSP leader is yet to declare the seat he is interested in but was once touted to be angling to work with DP Ruto as running mate, claims he has denied.

He recently said, “I have not made up my mind on which position I will go for. I want to give full attention on popularising the party across the country.”

“With 25 years experience, I will be naïve to think that positions are given,” Kiunjuri said even as he remains the most prominent face from Mt Kenya in the DP’s camp.

Waiguru was among the maiden faces of BBI in Mt Kenya before the likes of Kieni MP Kanini Kega and his Nyeri Town counterpart Ngunjiri Wambugu joined the fray.

Kirinyaga Governor Ann Waiguru.
Kirinyaga Governor Ann Waiguru.
Image: FILE

In her view, the bid is to secure a space to represent the region in terms of political leadership – and is not out to dislodge Kenyatta “as there is no vacuum”.

She is coalescing around the handshake, and hence may be positioning for a stake in the expanded Executive. Her survival of the impeachment impasse adding her steam.

Little is said of Karua, Kimemia and Nyaga's activities but the former Gichugu MP has become one of the anti-referendum forces in Mt Kenya.

Former Transport PS Irungu Nyakera, a key observer of the goings-on, says it is too early to tell which of the contenders will be backed by the region.

“There will be a lot of agreements and disagreements and MOUs for the next one year. But until the President gives a direction that people can either follow or not, there is not a lot that can be read in the meantime,” he said.

UISU don Macharia Munene was also of the view that it was too early to tell who will make it, as “it is possible all that all of them may not as someone else who is more credible than they are in the public eye may come up.”

He holds that apart from Mwangi Kiunjuri who appears to be on his own, the others may not operate boldly as they may wish to latch on the President’s endorsement.

“Each of them seems to have an understanding that they will not be opposed, hence are out to try their luck,” Prof Munene said.

“Bottom line, that person who will command the respect and who will rise to the occasion when there is need for someone to be seen to show the way will take the mantle.

“Right now, there is no way to show and there is no crisis that requires someone to stand out, so they are kind of in a plain,” Munene said.

Edited by Henry Makori