COMPETING INTERESTS

East vs West: Mt Kenya headed for bitter political split after Uhuru exit

Governors launch drive to reach out to politicians to speak in one voice ahead of next years polls

In Summary
  • The enthronement of National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi as regional spokesman could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
  • Worse still, there have emerged internal fissures in both Central and Mt Kenya East blocs that might further vanquish the region's bid for residents to cast their votes in a single basket in 2022.
President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives in Nyeri county at the start of his 4-day working visit of Central Kenya Region on January 29, 2021
President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives in Nyeri county at the start of his 4-day working visit of Central Kenya Region on January 29, 2021
Image: PSCU

Mt Kenya is hurtling towards an unprecedented political split that could ruin its perennial tyranny of numbers and diminish its bargain on the national scene.

President Uhuru Kenyatta's Central backyard is pulling apart from their political siblings from Mt Kenya East, a move that could deny the larger Mt Kenya region its much-hyped numerical strength.

Worse still, there have emerged internal fissures in both Central and Mt Kenya East blocs that might further vanquish the region's bid for residents to cast their votes in a single basket in 2022.

Stung by the divisions, four governors from the region yesterday promised to ensure that the cracks are stemmed ahead of next year's General Election.

Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga, Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru) and Mwangi Wa Iria of Murang'a declared that Mt Kenya will jealously protect its 'tyranny of numbers.'

"As a people, we have started meetings to ensure that we start focusing on speaking in one voice," Kahiga said after a meeting at Panafric Hotel in Nairobi.

He added, "This is just but the beginning of very many meetings that will come involving many of us."

The controversial installation of National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi as the Mt Kenya spokesman has triggered the divisions pitting Central Kenya against Mt Kenya East.

Muturi is supported by all the three Mt Kenya East governors including Public Service Cabinet Secretary Margret Kobia.

However, Agriculture CS Peter Munya has rubbished the coronation.

In Central, there are several politicians positioning themselves to take over from Uhuru who retires next year.

They include Wa Iria, Waiguru, former presidential aspirant Peter Kenneth, former Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri and ex-Kiambu governor William Kabogo.

According to the 2017 IEBC register, there are over five million registered voters in the whole of the 10 Mt Kenya counties including Nakuru and Laikipia.

However, a breakdown of the registered voters per county shows that the three Mt Kenya East counties of Meru, Embu and Tharaka Nithi have 1.2 million votes.

Central Kenya region, referred to as Mt Kenya West, has a total of 3.9 million votes including Nakuru which has 949,618 registered voters.

The figures give Uhuru's base a head start in the battle for numbers ahead of the 2022 polls.

Yesterday's meeting affirmed that Central Kenya will fight against any infiltration by 'outsiders' that could weaken the region's political muscle.

Former MPs Jamlek Kamau and Dennis Waweru and former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo attended the meeting.

"We have kept quiet enough. It is time for us to speak. Let it be known that our numbers are our strength," Kabogo said.

He warned politicians trying to traverse Mt Kenya for votes that the region will henceforth speak in one voice.

"The journey to start preparing ourselves starts today," he said.

The leaders are scheduled to hold another round of talks in the coming weeks in a bid to consolidate Mt Kenya into a single vote bloc.

"We consulted as leaders from Mt Kenya region and agreed to reach out to other stakeholders so as to secure our votes and make them count in 2022," Waiguru said.

Muturi was enthroned on Saturday as the region’s spokesman at the sacred Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga shrine in Murang'a county amid heavy deployment of security.

There had been threats that roads leading to the shrine would be blocked by those who had opposed Muturi's installation.

Leaders from Mt Kenya West have rebelled against the coronation, saying it is meant to upstage the Kikuyu's ahead of Uhuru's retirement.

Politicians from the East are now calling on their counterparts to return a hand to them and support Muturi in the 2022 polls.

The argument has been that the East has supported leaders from the West since independence—nearly six decades. The eastern bloc says it is time the debt was paid.

While the East is comprised of the Embu, Meru, Mbeere, and Tharaka, Central Kenya is predominantly Kikuyu. It has produced three presidents since independence.

Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi said Muturi's enthronement would be the straw that might break the camel's back.

“We are always together as the Gema community. We want the West to support Muturi the way we have supported them in the past. This is a litmus test of whether or not we are together,” Kiraitu said.

Murungi made a special appeal to Kikuyus to support Muturi saying, “I have heard some of them say Muturi is not Kikuyu…let us not allow the mountain to separate us.”

Mt Kenya has historically voted in one basket, making the region the single largest vote bloc in the country.

In the 2002 General Election, the region voted for President Mwai Kibaki and so was in 2007. In the 2013 and 2017 elections, the Mt Kenya bloc voted for President Uhuru Kenyatta.

However, competing political interests, the impending retirement of Uhuru and the succession battle have sparked fears of cracks.

Even in Uhuru's Central bedrock, various politicians are engaged in supremacy battles with others pulling in different directions.

For instance, some of the heavyweights including Peter Kenneth, Mwangi Kiunjuri, Governor Wairia and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria are reading from different scripts.

The divisions among the central Kenya leaders are fueled by competing political interests. Analysts say that would be the bane of the region's unity.

It is the same scenario in Mt Kenya East where Agriculture CS Munya appears to be on a lone ranger mission, stoking divisions.

Governors Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi), Martin Wambora (Embu) and Kiraitu of Meru have rallied behind Muturi, leaving Munya to play his own music in the Mt Kenya East bloc.

It is not clear if the unity bid triggered by yesterday's meeting would spark political realignment that might cement the Mt Kenya vote bloc ahead of the 2022 General Election.

"Mt Kenya has never been divided and will never be divided. Today is the start of that journey to ensure that Mt Kenya remains united forever," former Kigumo MP Jamlek Kamau said.

"I know that there have been some issues here and there, but we are starting today. Watch this space, Mt Kenya must and will remain united."

He spoke after yesterday's meeting.

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

Wa Iria has said Muturi is not a Kikuyu and a different ceremony will be held to anoint one of their own.

“A proper ceremony will be held to anoint one of our own," the Murang'a county chief said.

However, Kiama Kia Ma national patron Kung’u Muigai has said Muturi was coronated as their spokesperson and not as the political leader of Mt Kenya region.

“Muturi was made the spokesperson by elders for elders. If others want other people, they can go ahead and get them,” Muigai said.

 

Edited by P.O