VOTE SPLITTING

Muturi to play spoiler role in Raila-Ruto titanic battle

The split in the mountain is precisely what the organisers of the speaker's coronation set out to achieve.

In Summary

• Days after the coronation, it emerged Muturi was laying the ground to run for president next year. 

• Uhuru and his inner circle have now come to terms with the fact that he has lost the grip of Mt Kenya on matters of his succession.

National Assembly speaker Justin Muturi and Njuri Ncheke elders at Nchiru shrine in Meru
National Assembly speaker Justin Muturi and Njuri Ncheke elders at Nchiru shrine in Meru
Image: GERALD MUTETHIA

Mt Kenya is in turmoil. Even before a drop of goat blood hit the ground at the coronation of National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi as the region’s spokesman last Saturday, political fireworks had already lit up the skies.

Kirinyaga Governor Anne 'Minji Minji' Waiguru poured cold water on the rituals. “While one cannot begrudge Speaker Muturi and others of their desire for some form of enthronement, without consultations and consensus with the leaders and the people of Mt Kenya such enthronements have little meaning politically,” she sneered.

Mt Kenya never had cultural kingpins and spokespersons until the colonialists came and installed the generally unpopular ‘paramount chiefs’.”

If you think Minji Minji’s mockery is merely sour grapes of a politician who herself wants to be the region’s kingpin, you are mistaken. This newspaper reported that women were locked out of the men-only ceremony at Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga shrine in Murang’a. Muturi had spent eight days in seclusion where he ate a special diet, underwent secret rituals and was not allowed to see any woman.

Imagine how Minji Minji would love to crush Muturi using this exclusion in a region whose women are historically politically woke and militant. How does one so blatantly exclude women when public participation is such a key value in leadership? When Martha Koome has become the first woman Chief Justice?

Days after the coronation, it emerged Muturi was laying the ground to run for president next year. He will expect women in Mt Kenya and throughout the republic to vote for him.

Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria also protested, saying the speaker’s enthronement was irregular and desecrated the most important Agikuyu shrine. He vowed to organise a cleansing ceremony. Several groups of Agikuyu elders have deplored the event as an abomination.

On Wednesday, Wa Iria, Minji Minji, Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui and his Nyeri counterpart Mutahi Kahiga led a section of politicians from Mt Kenya West to rubbish Muturi’s elevation.

Mt Kenya East governors Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi) and Martin Wambora (Embu) support Muturi. Politicians from that part of the mountain are trumpeting the debt narrative. It is time for Mt Kenya West (meaning the Agikuyu) to support the East for the presidency, they say. Muturi is from Mbeere.

What is going on? Where did the idea of coronation of Mt Kenya spokesman come from? What’s its exact goal?

With the retirement of President Uhuru Kenyatta in just over a year, the region is obviously looking for a new kingpin. Some names have been floated in recent months. They include former presidential candidate Peter Kenneth, Minji Minji, Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua, former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo, ex-Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri and his successor Peter Munya.

The controversial coronation of Muturi is Uhuru’s project. The speaker is a well-known buddy of his. The President’s cousin Kung’u Muigai was among the high priests at the ceremony. Jubilee strategist Peter Kagwanja was one of the choreographers of the rituals.

The split in the mountain is precisely what the organisers set out to achieve. Uhuru and his inner circle have now come to terms with the fact that he has lost the grip of Mt Kenya on matters of his succession. The region has rebelled and largely supports the man he doesn’t want to succeed him—Deputy President William Ruto.

His last attempt to woo his people to back his handshake partner ODM leader Raila Odinga as successor through the Building Bridges Initiative backfired spectacularly. The region rejected the deal and the High Court dealt BBI a fatal blow. The judges went on to declare Uhuru unfit to hold office for violating the Constitution. Appeals to the higher courts will almost certainly fail.

The upshot of all this is that the Mt Kenya bloc vote for Ruto in the 2022 General Election is almost guaranteed. To forestall this, the best strategy (other than convincing Ruto to abandon politics and become a prophet of the Most High) is to attempt to split the region’s vote in favour of Raila – if he decides to vie for the fifth time – or the One Kenya Alliance, which is backed by some State House powerbrokers.

Muturi is, therefore, meant to be a spoiler for Ruto. He has no realistic chance of winning the presidency or even grabbing a substantial pie of the Mt Kenya vote.