MT KENYA TREMORS

Waiguru jitters signal major realignments in Uhuru turf

Kirinyaga governor hints at ditching the President's Jubilee Party, doesn't rule out Ruto's UDA

In Summary
  • Waiguru has lifted the lid on the fears troubling Uhuru's Mt Kenya allies over the future of Jubilee. Some say it's each man for himself.
  • However, some of the President's allies say they will stick with the troubled party to the end.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto outside Parliament after the National Prayer Breakfast on May 27, .
NEW ALLEGIANCES: President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto outside Parliament after the National Prayer Breakfast on May 27, .
Image: DPPS

Major political realignments are looming in President Uhuru Kenyatta's Mt Kenya backyard as uncertainty sweeps the vote-rich region.

A group of the President's troops are developing cold feet about playing on his team as bigwigs battle to claim the region's votes, at least four million.

Observers said the President's decision to operate behind the scenes could be hurting his succession plans. He doesn't want ODM leader and presidential aspirant Raila Odinga to be seen as his 'project' and will let him scale the mountain without Uhuru by his side.

Deputy President William Ruto’s perceived dominance and fears his UDA party could sweep Mt Kenya are unnerving Uhuru's allies seeking elective seats.

The death of the Building Bridges Initiative, which promised more constituencies and benefits to the region, has upset the President's turf.

There are growing fears Mt Kenya could be headed for major regroupings as politicians focus on their personal survival.

UDA is already angling to pick the spoils. 

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, who has been a staunch Uhuru supporter, issued a warning to Jubilee on Wednesday.

She said unless it urgently revamps itself to "resonate" with the people of Mt Kenya, it would be difficult to attract aspirants in 2022. 

“I am considering various options. There are quite a number of parties out here. If it is not possible, we have to consider other parties that people can accept you with on the ground,” she told Citizen TV on Wednesday.

The governor said if the party's top leaders fail to make correct decisions, aspirants will seek alternative tickets.

“For whatever reason,  we [Jubilee Party] don’t have a presence on  the ground and we do not have that emotional connection you need with a political party,” Waiguru said. 

She went on: “... if elections were held today, and I ran on a Jubilee party (ticket) and someone else ran on another party, I would have a hard time convincing people they need to elect me, even if they think I have performed.” 

Her bold comments have exposed growing fears among Jubilee politicians from Mt Kenya that won't be able to secure the numbers in the general election next year.

More than two months ago, Kiambu Woman Representative Gathoni Wamuchoma  jumped ship to Ruto's cam, saying she was following "the voice of my people".

Waiguru's criticism and uncertainty come at a time the President is trying to rally the region to support ODM leader Railq Odinga.

Last week, key Meru leaders including Governor Kiraitu Murungi agreed to back Raila. 

Agriculture CS Peter Munya, a close Uhuru ally, is also expected to be in the same camp.

However, Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, a Jubilee stalwart,  warned Waiguru to be cautious. He said while she is looking for the ‘easy way’, she should expect a lot more “weight-lifting” wherever she goes.

“If you are in Jubilee, you must be ready to work extra hard because even where you are going, some people have sacrificed and done the heavy lifting, there is no easy way in parties,” he told the Star. 

He went on: “If you cannot sell yourself, I don’t think you can sell a party. I think Jubilee would be a strong outfit if politicians market the party based on what the government has done because Jubilee is the government,” he said. 

Waiguru was in June last year impeached by the Kirinyaga county assembly with the majority of MCA's voting to send her packing. 

Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege told the Star that despite the challenges facing the ruling party,  she doesn’t hope ditching it ahead of the 2022 polls. 

“I am in Jubilee to the end whether or not we rebrand like it happened with TNA but for now, I am in Jubilee. We are not going for elections tomorrow so I am comfortable in the party,” she said. 

Reacting to Waiguru’s remarks, Chege said politics is usually about personal track record and not necessarily about political parties' popularity. 

“It is not about the jubilee party but the individual candidate. If you look at history from 2002, parties keep on revamping and rebranding. Am expecting that will happen with Jubilee party. For me it is about my ground and how well I have organized myself,” she said. 

National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya said there was hype about UDA wave in Central. 

"I have been on the ground in Kipipiri, and things are not as bad as described. There has been excitement with UDA, partly due to absence of other parties on the ground," he told the Star

"As we move into the campaign season, things are changing by the day, as more contestants emerge, and the conversation is changing towards the choices available, rather than the first mover. It's also worth noting that political hostility manifests itself at both party as well as individual levels, including the competitors, and it's difficult to generalize without looking at several variables"

However, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua a key ally of Ruto claimed that the DP’s camp was aware of plans by more governors and MPs from the region to join the hustler nation. 

“The centre can no longer hold and the dying Jubilee party is staring at a big hemorrhage in Mt Kenya as leaders troop to UDA,” Gachagua said. 

Gachagua said that most anti-Ruto politicians from the President’s turf are finding the going tough because of being forced to market Raila through the ‘moribund’ Jubilee. 

“UDA is the party of choice not just in Mt Kenya but across the country. In Mt Kenya it is either you are with us in UDA, or on the other side of Raila Odinga who is the president’s project in the 2022 general election,” Gachagua said. 

Jubilee has been rocked by internal wrangles that saw some of Ruto’s allies ejected from senior leadership positions in Parliament in what was seen as part of Uhuru’s plan to steady the ship. 

However, despite the move to kick out Ruto’s confidants, the ruling party is still facing massive hurdles even as it seeks new alliances with the ODM party ahead of the 2022 elections. 

With less than 320 days to the polls, there are concerns that the lack of clear structures at the grassroots has hurt Jubilee’s image.

This is said to be handing Ruto a field day to rebrand his UDA outfit as Mt Kenya’s alternative vehicle. 

For instance, the UDA affiliated candidates have trounced Jubilee aspirants in recent by-elections in Uhuru-s backyard.

The hustler nation clinched the Kiambaa and Juja parliamentary seats in Uhuru's central turf, demonstrating its growing influence in the region. 

Ruto has intensified his 2022 campaigns in Mt Kenya region and has been meeting sections of political leaders and small-scale business people at his Karen home as he moves to turn the tables on Uhuru. 

Analysts says that Ruto needs more than 90 per cent of the votes from the Mt Kenya region if he hopes to go against all the odds to romp to State House next year. 

The DP is said to be planning to dangle the running mate slot to the region to consolidate his support even after it emerged that he has mapped some counties in which he will field only women governor aspirants. 

As the Mount Kenya region remains at the cross roads, some leaders will meet in Embu on Monday for talks to cement their unity as they push for pre-election pact with presidential candidates. 

Narc Kenya Martha Karua, The Service Party leader Mwangi Kiunjuri and Chama Cha Kazi boss Moses Kuria, who are championing the region’s unity bid are leading the talks. 

However, other leaders invited to Monday’s meeting include Embu Senator Lenny Kivuti of the Rebuild and Restore Party), Esau Kioni of the Democratic Party (DP), Mpuru Apuri (National Ordinary People Empowerment Union, NOPEU), and Thuo Mathenge (The New Democrats). 

Others included the People’s Party of Kenya(PPK), Party of Democratic Unity(PDU) as well as Chama cha Kazi (CCK). 

(PPK) party leader Jacob Gitau said that the meeting will bring all leaders from the region together. 

He said that the agenda of the meeting will be about the unity of the region that seems to have been broken. 

“Leaders from all political parties from Mount Kenya region have been invited including those in Jubilee and UDA party, we need unity in Mount Kenya ahead of 2022 election,” said PPK party leader Jacob Gitau .