How Mt Kenya split will jolt Raila, Ruto 2022 plans

Deputy President Ruto, ODM leader Raila and ANC’s Mudavadi are salivating for the votes.

In Summary
  • The President's Kikuyu community is keen in fielding a presidential candidate next year.
  • Main politicians are eyeing the rich vote bloc to shore their 2022 numbers.
Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at a past event.
Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at a past event.
Image: FILE

Political bigwigs jostling for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Mt Kenya voting bloc could be forced back to the drawing board as the region heads for a bitter political split.

Famed for its tyranny of numbers in previous polls, Mt Kenya faces the 2022 elections thoroughly divided.

This could diminish the hopes of presidential bigwigs to turn the region into an outright stronghold and reap a substantial chunk of the votes.

Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi are among presidential hopefuls salivating for the votes.

Over the weekend, enraged leaders from Mt Kenya East accused their Kikuyu counterparts of taking them for a ride and declared they are ready for a divorce.

Mt Kenya East leaders accuse their West counterparts of “disrespect” by opposing National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi despite their years of support to Kikuyu candidates.

“The disdain you are showing us, my friends, we are not going to be together. If it’s a split, let us split and people go it alone,” declared Meru Senator Mithika Linturi.

"We will not accept to be eaten from the pockets like groundnuts. It’s time for the pot to be broken and everybody goes his own way.”

Linturi’s sentiments were supported by Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi.

Ironically, Linturi is a diehard supporter of DP Ruto and his support for Muturi is intriguing.

The leaders were responding to political scheming by Central Kenya and a declaration by its governors that they would sponsor a presidential candidate in 2022.

However, even within Central Kenya itself several leaders are seeking to succeed Uhuru, making the unity bid a political nightmare.

Muranga Governor Mwangi Wa Iria, ex-Kiambu Governor William Kabogo and former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth are among those jostling for the top job.

In Mt Kenya East, there is Muturi and Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya.

Some political analysts, however, say that a split of Mt Kenya would deal a big blow to Ruto and favour Raila.

"A split Mt Kenya is good news for Raila. It is wonderful news for him because the region has traditionally united to defeat him…For Ruto, a divided Mountain is bad news. Remember the DP has put too much resources and a lot of time in the Mt Kenya community to have the region as a single voting bloc that fully supports him,” remarked political analyst Mark Bichachi.

But still, some of Raila’s think tanks have often claimed Uhuru could rally Mt Kenya to vote for Raila in 2022 as a bloc.

On Sunday, former Dagorreti South MP Denis Waweru told the Star that it would be undemocratic, unconstitutional and unfair for a region with over 35 per cent of the country's vote basket to fail to field a presidential candidate.

"Anyone from Mt Kenya has a right to run for president in 2022. It would be disenfranchising for the region if it will fail to run for president," he told the Star.

The Building Bridges Initiative co-chair said the fact that the region has had three presidents does not deny it the democratic right to field a presidential candidate.

" It does not make sense to say that a whole region does not field a presidential candidate. We shall field one and if there are any negotiations then they will follow later," he said.

There has been speculation that Uhuru could declare “Raila Tosha” and rally his backyard to support the former premier as the 5th president next year.

Some of the president's allies from the region including influential Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe and nominated MP Maina Kamanda had indicated that the region would support Raila in 2022.

However, Ruto has maintained some political grip of the region and has won recent by-elections, including in the President’s home county of Kiambu.

Raila is yet to declare his 2022 presidential ambitions but his close allies say he is in the race.

The One Kenya Alliance of Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Gideon Moi (Kanu) and Moses Wetangula (Ford Kenya) has also been scheming on how to win over Mt Kenya.

On Saturday, at least six governors from Central Kenya and the diaspora counties of Nakuru and Laikipia held a key strategy meeting in Nyeri where they declared the region will be on the presidential ballot in 2022.

They included Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), Nderitu Mureithi (Laikipia), Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua) and Muranga's Mwangi Wa Iria. Also present was Kabogo.

However on Suturday, Kiraitu said it's selfish for Mt Kenya West, referred to as Central, to imagine they can field another presidential candidate in 2022 after producing three presidents including Uhuru.

“We supported Jomo Kenyatta, Mwai Kibaki and now President Uhuru Kenyatta. It’s their time to support us. I think is Kenya should be looked at in ethnic architecture there are many communities. It is not fair for Mt Kenya West to reject our spokesman so that they can replace him with theirs. It’s not fair,” Kiraitu said.

On Saturday evening Kiraitu met leaders who included MP Kubai Kiringo (Igembe Central), Maoka Maore (Igembe North) and John Paul (Igembe south).

Former MPs, MCAs and residents from Igembe attended the meeting seen as a strategy season to fend off Central Kenya threats.

"They should count us out of that. We shall not be in that game if our unity is only supporting leaders from Mount Kenya West,” Kiraitu said after the session.

Three Mt Kenya East governors including Martin Wambora (Embu) and Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi) and Kiraitu have pledged to support Muturi as the Mt Kenya spokesperson.

 However, it remains unclear if Muturi would be going for the presidency.

Jitters have gripped Central Kenya with some leaders saying they cannot be led by a minority community yet they will have nearly 10 million votes by 2022.

There are reports that outside forces are also out to divide the East with Munya having rejected Muturi's enthronement as the region's spokesperson.

Tellingly, Munya was the chief guest during the Nyeri meeting by Central Kenya leaders who vowed that the region will field a presidential candidate in 2022.

Munya is engaged in a bitter supremacy battle with Kiraitu.

Political analyst Dismas Mokua said the implosion in the Mountain would herald  fresh realignment ahead of 2022.

"The President's bid for political and economic insurance would flop and so Ruto be forced back to the drawing board," he said.

But Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, a key Ruto ally, said Central Kenya will not seek to field a presidential candidate based on tribe but ability to revive it's dwindling economic fortunes.

He said the region is engaged with the DP whom he said has tabled a robust economic recovery plan for Mt Kenya, which the MP claimed has been ruined by Uhuru's government.

"Despite the fact that we have one of our own, the region has suffered more than any tribe has suffered under the Jubilee government. We refuse to vote based on one of our own," he said.

The vocal politician laughed off the unity bid launched by the Central Kenya governors, challenging them why they kept quiet when the region's economy was allegedly shredded.

" Let them use the unity efforts to ensure that the economy of the region is sorted and money is put into the pockets of our people," he said.

Edited by Henry Makori

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