Battle for Mt Kenya

Why there is disquiet in Uhuru's Mt Kenya backyard

The confusion in Mt Kenya linked to succession politics and the BBI.

In Summary
  • The 2022 presidential battle and the alignments by politicians seeking county seats are part of the causes of the disarray in Mt Kenya.
  • The DP, who is said to have invested heavily in the region between 2013-2017, is seen as seeking a substantial stake of Mt Kenya votes. 
President Uhuru Kenyatta when he was hosted by ODM leader Raila Odinga during a tour of KIsumu county on October 22.
PALS: President Uhuru Kenyatta when he was hosted by ODM leader Raila Odinga during a tour of KIsumu county on October 22.
Image: RAILA ODINGA

The scramble by political bigwigs for Central Kenya votes has triggered confusion in President Uhuru Kenyatta's backyard, threatening the BBI fortunes in the crucial region.

The Star has established that positioning by the country's top political leaders ahead of the 2022 general election has sparked major alignments and realignments in Uhuru's backyard.

Deputy President William Ruto, ODM boss Raila Odinga and ANC's Musalia Mudavadi are the fore most opponents battling to court Mt Kenya region ahead of next year's presidential duel.

The bitter falling out between the President and his deputy coupled with Uhuru's blossoming camaraderie with Raila have partly stirred as storm in central, 17 months to next year's polls.

President Uhuru

This even as it emerged that Uhuru's impending retirement after serving the constitutional two five-year terms, is fuelling intense regional positioning as leaders fight for political survival post 2022.

There are fears that the lack of a clear region successor after the President exits next year has also opened a vicious battlefront among the region's heavyweights seeking to pull strings after Uhuru.

Information gleaned from interviews with a couple of leaders from the President's home turf, painted a picture of a region whose leaders are embroiled in politics of individual survival.

“The whole of Mt Kenya region is in disarray because of the national succession politics, local battles for political survival as well as rebellion against the Building Bridges Initiative plans,” lamented an MP from central Kenya.

The lawmaker aligned to the President's Kieleweke wing of Jubilee said the despondence in the region is likely to be sustained until President Uhuru 'gets out of his laurels' to provide direction.

“The BBI is the elephant in the room because there are some politicians who are aligning themselves to national politicians they believe will pull the strings after 2022,” the MP said.

There are reports that some counties in central Kenya are Ruto strongholds among them Murang'a where the DP's fiercest defenders in the region come from.

Influential politicians from the region are said to be locked in vicious fights for local political seats including positions governor, further complicating any bid to rally a unified front to market BBI.

At the same time a section of politicians are quietly angling to succeed Uhuru as the de facto Mt Kenya kingpin despite their public claims that the President would remain the region's spokesman after retirement.

Deputy President William Ruto addresses the press from his Karen office on April 9.
DP RUTO: Deputy President William Ruto addresses the press from his Karen office on April 9.
Image: DPPS

While many of the President's allies did not want to go on record about the raging political undercurrents within Central Kenya, former Githunguri MP Njoroge Baiya lifted the lid.

“The region(central) will not be very fortunate because it will not have a president after 2022 and that is why we are seeing some politicians trying to align themselves with those they think would be powerful after 2022,” Baiya told the Star.

The former chairman of the National Assembly's Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee revealed that Deputy President William Ruto is at the heart of the storm roiling Uhuru's 'bedroom.'

“What we are seeing is the cumulative effort of what Ruto did on the ground in central during the first five years he was working with the president and the president gave him a freehand to run the show and even appointing leaders,” Baiya said.

 Ruto is spearheading the claim for a substantial stake of central Kenya votes, he said.

Baiya said the Tangatanga brigade which he said the DP picked and sponsored is now leading the charm offensive for him in appreciation, threatening the BBI fortunes in the region.

When the President was getting support from Ruto, Ruto was on the other hand planting seeds of the kind of support you are seeing he is receiving from central Kenya
Njoroge Baiya

“When the President was getting support from Ruto, Ruto was on the other hand planting seeds of the kind of support you are seeing he is receiving from central Kenya,' the ex-MP said.

There are concerns among the President's allies from Mt Kenya that some key and influential politicians have been sidelined in the Building Bridges Initiative campaigns, stoking disquiet.

A governor from the region who sought anonymity told the Star that the BBI steering team from the region was randomly picked by some Jubilee operatives with the held of a powerful public officer from the region.

“Nobody consulted governors about the BBI team spearheading campaigns on Mt Kenya region, they were selected with a political agenda to punish some of us but that has now backfired,” the county boss said.

According to the governor, the ground is increasingly becoming hostile for BBI because the people do not have access to information on how the document would turn around their lives.

“Governors have elaborate political and administrative networks at the grassroots yet nobody cared to leverage on their strengths to take charge of the campaigns,' the governors said inn confidence.

On Wednesday, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru said BBI should be taken to the grassroots and people given copies to read before being asked to make choices.

The governor who has been quiet about the BBI issues for a while, broke her silence suggesting that the BBI coordinating team in the region has its work cut cut out.

"On matters BBI, what do I say? Let me go quiet for a while, we all heard there is a committee that will be selling BBI (in Mt Kenya), we were told that committee is the Chairman of the process....let us wait and see.." she said in Kirinyaga.

Speaking in Kikuyu dialect, Waiguru continued: " Let them bring us the BBI booklets so that you ( the people) read.....let them bring BBI so that the County Assembly and the People of Kirinyaga read."

Waiguru was at the fore front popularising the document and had been touted as among the political heavyweights from Mt Kenya that would land a key post in the proposed expanded executive.

The simmering disquiet in Mt Kenya was exposed after Senate Majority whip Irungu Kanga'ta authored an explosive letter to the President warning that BBI was unpopular in the region.

Kang'ata had cited opposition to the expanded Executive, the involvement of provincial administration and campaigns by former MPs as some of the issues working against the initiative.

The Senator said the role of chiefs and county administrators - and other forms of hard tactics - in BBI mobilisation is a challenge in the region.

However, Baiya said there are what he termed as serious political undercurrents that would impact on the region's political direction in 2022.

“If the region is not going to consolidate its voice, it would have an impact on BBI but I don't think the last word has been said from central to the country,” Baiya said.

He added: “Lest assured that at the critical moment the decision will be made and it may have nothing to do with the kind of shenanigans we are witnessing.”