Fresh Raila, Ruto headache in battle for Mt Kenya

Uhuru is said to have given his allies the green light to attend a political meeting on Monday in Embu.

In Summary
  • It has emerged that there is an elaborate plan by a section of politicians from Mt Kenya to play hard ball.
  • Ruto's allies have said they have not been invited to the meeting.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto outside Parliament after the National Prayer Breakfast on May 27, 2021.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto outside Parliament after the National Prayer Breakfast on May 27, 2021.
Image: DPPS

A fresh unity bid by the vote-rich Mt Kenya region could complicate the 2022 political calculations of Deputy President William Ruto and ODM boss Raila Odinga.

It has emerged that there is an elaborate plan by a section of politicians from Mt Kenya to play hard ball to both Raila and Ruto in a bid to raise the region's stakes for 2022.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is said to have given his allies from the region the green light to attend a political meeting on Monday in Embu that will include some 20 leaders of political parties.

However, Ruto's key allies said they will not attend the meeting by leaders who will be seeking how to share positions .

"We have been invited but we will not attend. For us, we have our presidential candidate, our economic model and a party, we have moved on," said Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua.

The MP said there is no common agenda between the hustler nation and the leaders convening the meeting as they are at variance.

There is a plan to unite all political parties from Mt Kenya region under a single alliance to ensure structured engagements between Mt Kenya and presidential candidates ahead of the 2022 polls.

The region has been seen as largely divided without a clear political direction, a situation leaders have warned could for the first time reduce the region's political negotiating power.

With Uhuru not likely to play an active political role in the region's negotiations, there is  a push to pick an alternative leader who will take over the President's place at the negotiating table.

On Friday, former Dagorreti South MP Denis Waweru, a key Uhuru confidant, told the Star that efforts are underway to form a major political movement for Mt Kenya region ahead of 2022.

The ex-MP, who is also the co-chair of the Building Bridges Initiative secretariat, insisted that in 2022 the President's backyard will negotiate as a block, dismissing claims of widening cracks.

“As Mt Kenya, we have agreed that we are going to negotiate as a region under one coalition. We shall negotiate as a unit,” Waweru said.

The MP revealed plans to build a bi-partisan approach in settling on the region's political leader whom will lead Mt Kenya to 2022 political negotiations.

“We will agree through consensus on a leader who is agreeable and has the right standing to represent the Mt Kenya interests and any presidential candidate will have to pass through that person,” the ex-MP said.

The former MP was quick to add that Mt Kenya people will be free to negotiate with all the presidential candidates before "picking the one with the best deal for us.”

This is the first time the President's men are opening up about the future of the region's political bargain as part of efforts to rally unity of purpose after months of anxiety.

The President's failure to provide political direction and lack of a clear succession plan has fueled a lot of confusion in Mt Kenya, threatening to diminish its tyranny of numbers.

Kieni MP Kanini Kega said the Jubilee Party will attend Monday's session, insisting that the President had given the go-ahead for the meeting.

Urging leaders to attend the meeting, Kega maintained that Mt Kenya will not be lured into supporting a presidential candidate in exchange for political goodies.

“We will not be sweet-talked to follow someone blindly simply because they are promising an offer that sounds big yet hollow,” he said.

But Mathira MP Gachagua, a key Ruto stalwart, said the hustler nation is committed to building an alliance with Kenyans ahead of next year.

The meeting, which will take place at the Izaak Walton Hotel in Embu, will be attended by among others National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua and former Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri.

The Service Party, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria’s Chama Cha Kazi, Esau Kioni's Democratic Party, People’s Party of Kenya and The New Democrats party led by Thuo Mathenge are invited.

Others present will be Rebuild and Restore Party and the National Ordinary People Empowerment Union.

The meeting comes against the backdrop of heightened political campaigns by possible 2022 presidential candidates who are eyeing a share of the Mt Kenya vote block.

Although Kiunjuri and Kuria have been backing Ruto's 2o22 bid, they have lately been flip flopping in their support, protesting against a push to fold their parties.

Ruto, who has fallen out with his boss, has intensified his vote-hunt in the region with his United Democratic Alliance already causing ripples among Uhuru's allies.

However, the DP's tough stance against his UDA entering into a coalition with small parties from Mt Kenya has triggered a political standoff in his Tangatanga camp.

Waweru said the region will not accept any leader who will be telling them to fold their home grown parties. "We don't want anyone to fight our parties," he said.

The President's allies are said to be taking advantage of the deadlock in Tangatanga to woo the DP's Mt Kenya allies into the Jubilee bandwagon ahead of the 2022 polls.

However, the troubled Jubilee is also facing tough times with a proposed alliance with Raila's ODM party in disarray amid strong opposition from a section of Uhuru's men.

As the Mt Kenya leaders push for an umbrella alliance and political leader, the President is already walking a political tightrope to position Raila as the ultimate Mt Kenya choice.

The President, who is retiring next year, appears to be going flat out to aggressively prepare his Mt Kenya backyard for a Raila presidency, but there is resistance.

Ruto's perceived popularity in the President's backyard could threaten efforts by his boss to bolster Raila's fortunes in the region ahead of the 2022 polls.

At the same time, a move by Raila's estranged partner and ANC party boss Musalia Mudavadi to hint at picking his running mate from the region could also complicate Raila and Ruto's plans.

Tongaren MP Eseli Simiyu insisted that should Musalia pick his running mate from the region, then that would dramatically erode Raila's fortunes in the President's turf.

“No candidate can afford to loose any single vote from Mt Kenya region. It is true that the entry of Musalia could complicate Raila's support and chip away his votes,” Simiyu said.

While analysts argue that it is Ruto and not Raila who desperately needs a bigger chunk of Mt Kenya, there are concerns that Musalia's 2022 ticket could significantly chip away Raila's votes.

On Tuesday, Musalia said he could pick his 2022 Number Two from the President's backyard, raising the stakes in the battle for the region's over four million votes.

The ANC party has said it is courting Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru as a possible running mate.

There are fears that Musalia's candidature could jolt Raila's plans to lock Western Kenya - a key political bastion that has remained loyal to him for over a decade despite being Musalia's backyard.

The region backed Raila in 2007, 2013 and 2017.

Concerns that a porous Western might complicate the ODM boss's presidential arithmetic had informed Uhuru's earlier efforts to reunite Raila with Musalia and other ex-Nasa chiefs.

The President's allies have been bullish that if he locks Western, Nyanza, Coast and gets at least 30 per cent of Mt Kenya votes, then he will romp to State House.

The President's strategists are said to be banking on Mt Kenya votes to make up for what the ODM boss would lose in Western Kenya.

Raila is already said to be about to inch a deal with Wiper boss Kalonzo Musyoka as he seeks to bag the more than two million Ukambani votes.