SUCCESSION DEBATE

Uhuru's Mt Kenya allies want him to lead Raila campaigns

Say President's absence and silence on the direction of his succession have triggered confusion in the region.

In Summary

•But ODM leader's Mt Kenya backers rebuff calls for President to lead campaigns.

•Politicians say the burden of incumbency will negatively affect Raila's stakes.

ODM leader Raila Odinga receives a cow from Central leaders during a tour of Murang'a County on July 27, 2021.
ODM leader Raila Odinga receives a cow from Central leaders during a tour of Murang'a County on July 27, 2021.
Image: TWITTER/RAILA ODINGA

President Kenyatta’s allies from Mt Kenya have embarked on a push to have the Head of State hit the ground and be the public face of ODM leader Raila Odinga’s campaign.

The MPs say Uhuru’s absence and loud silence on the direction his succession should take has triggered confusion in the region and given undue advantage to their rivals.

Uhuru is quietly backing Raila for the top job against his Deputy William Ruto in 2022 but is yet to publicly declare.

The Star has established that there is a bitter split within the Kieleweke faction of Jubilee with two MPs considering moving to Tangatanga.

The fear among the lawmakers is that without the President taking charge, even the ODM-Jubilee pre-election coalition could be a poisoned chalice.

“This is why some MPs have turned their guns on top Jubilee officials that gave nod to the pre-election deal,” a high ranking Jubilee MP told the Star.

The Jubilee support for Raila was deliberated at length during a meeting of MPs from the ruling party at Windsor last Wednesday.

It’s here that a section of MPs drew their guns at Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju and vice-chairman David Murathe who okayed the ODM-Jubilee deal.

The other concern is that Uhuru is taking long in cutting down Ruto to size with just one year to the polls.

Another strategic retreat on which way for Mt Kenya was held in Laikipia on Saturday.

At the Laikipia meeting, a section of President Kenyatta’s allies who had previously backed Raila appeared to make a U-turn.

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru who just over a week ago lavished Raila with accolades let the cat out of the bag with her sentiments that they have never backed the former prime minister’s 2022 bid.

“We have opened the region to any candidate. Let each come and tell us what they have in store for us. We have not said on whose side we are. Nothing is predetermined,” the county chief said after a closed-door meeting in Laikipia.

Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni who was part of the Laikipia meeting, however, dismissed Waiguru’s assertions as personal.

“Those were, therefore, personal statements by Waiguru and Nyoro. It was not part of the meeting’s resolutions,” Kioni told the Star.

Laikipia Governor Nderitu Muriithi said the Laikipia meeting was about crafting a unity plan from which the region can bargain its economic and political interests.

On Wednesday last week in Nakuru, Waiguru described Raila as the father of devolution with an unmatched CV in Kenya's democratisation process.

“No one has a CV that can match Raila’s in the bid to take the country towards political democracy. We never understood his plea for decentralisation, being at the Treasury then, which was the centre of power. But now all of us boast because of devolution, courtesy of Raila,” Waiguru had said.

Ironically, sources at the Laikipia meeting said the leaders were unanimous that the region was better off with Raila compared to Ruto.

A question was posed on whether there was anyone for UDA and there was none on the affirmative.

The meeting was also attended by Laikipia Governor Muriithi, his Kiambu counterpart James Nyoro, Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege and former Nairobi County Speaker Beatrice Elachi.

The dilemma the leaders are facing is how to tell their supporters that Raila is the best.

 “The grand question is, how do we make our people understand? That is the thing we have to face. We agreed the biggest player in this ordeal is Raila himself,” an insider who attended the meeting said.

Leaders, the source added, were in agreement that Mt Kenya people have a soft spot for ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi but the concern is that he stands little chance to win the presidency.

As a result, it was resolved that all efforts should be made to ensure Raila and Musalia work together.

But contacted for a comment, Kioni, National Assembly Majority Leader Kimunya and Igembe North MP Maoka Maore dismissed claims of a push to drag the President to the campaign trail.

They said some of their colleagues making such demands are being derailed by Tangatanga.

The leaders said Raila had pledged to hit the ground himself and ask for votes in Mount Kenya.

 “Those who want Uhuru to lead the campaigns are asking for the impossible,” Kioni told the Star.

“The issue is that there would be a backlash if we don’t handle the public well. However, the backlash will not stop Raila from being the president and Ruto going to the opposition.”

According to the Ndaragwa lawmaker, “Raila is 50 per cent done with forming the government...how we make our region part of the 50 per cent is what we are working on.”

For his part, Maore said the narrative that Uhuru should lead the campaigns “is a creation of a leader seeking a slot at number two.”

“Most of those who attended [the Laikipia meeting] were not of that view,” the MP told the Star.

Kimunya said no one was being cagey with endorsing Raila.

“The main issue is that leaders cannot endorse any of the candidates before they have had a chance to engage with him to appreciate what he stands for, and his handling and protection of the region's interests,” the MP said.

He added, “The talk of endorsement is, therefore, premature. We want to avoid the mistake that some of our colleagues made by endorsing the DP and then trying to negotiate with him later.”

Gatanga MP Joseph Nduati said the President would hit the ground after Raila is hosted in Nyeri this weekend.

“We are hosting the former prime minister in Nyeri as a follow-up to the Bondo meeting. After that, boss (Uhuru) will start campaigning for him,” Nduati said.

Even so, a section of the leaders observed that the BBI ruling is a blessing in disguise as it has revealed the persons with the region’s interests at heart.

“If you observed, people did not celebrate the BBI ruling in Mt Kenya yet it was celebrated in Eldoret hence we are not at the same level as we were in Kiambaa,” Kioni said.

 “Those pushing the President to hit the road are just trying to make it difficult...I don’t believe that is what the President would wish to do,” Kioni said.