POLITICAL PROFILE

Kieleweke isn't opposing Ruto presidency but defending Uhuru's legacy — Ngunjiri Wambugu

It was 'outright disrespect' to Uhuru to talk 2022 politics as if he wasn’t there.

In Summary

• My statement was directed at [Gatundu South MP Moses] Kuria, who was moving around promising the DP that Central Kenya will vote for him to a man.

•  It was not possible to achieve the Big Four agenda while campaigning.

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu
Image: EUTYCAS MUCHIRI

Sometimes he wonders to himself what he is doing, but this part of Nyeri Town is MP Ngunjiri Wambugu’s self-discovery journey.

Ngunjiri describes himself as a reader and a fundamental Anglican. His father and grandfather, whom he is named, were long-serving ACK clerics.

The political science graduate from the University of Nairobi came to the limelight through what has now become Team Kieleweke. It was to counter Team Tangatanga, which was affiliated with Deputy President William Ruto, which Ngunjiri accused of early campaigns. He took the pro-Ruto MPs head-on and despite their organising an event to silence him right in his own backyard, the first-time MP didn’t back down.

 

Ngunjiri says he did not expect Kielweke to become the movement that it is today.

“My statement was directed at [Gatundu South MP Moses] Kuria, who was moving around promising the DP that Central Kenya will vote for him to a man. One, why were we starting succession campaigns just after another election? Two, why was he speaking for my vote?” Ngunjiri asked.

Speaking to the Star in an interview on Wednesday, he said he is not opposed to Ruto’s presidency but he is fighting to ensure President Uhuru Kenyatta is respected and his legacy is achieved.

“I asked the Tangatanga MPs, how would you feel if as soon as you are elected, you hear your constituency manager is launching non-existent projects in your backyard, even without your knowledge? Isn’t that disrespectful? That is exactly what was happening to President Uhuru Kenyatta,” Ngunjiri said.

“Now, they came bullying me in Nyeri, ostensibly to hold a fundraiser, they put so much focus and attention on me. Actually, I say it’s they who made me.”

I asked the Tangatanga MPs, how would you feel if as soon as you are elected, you hear your constituency manager is launching non-existent projects in your backyard, even without your knowledge? Isn’t that disrespectful? 

He notes that it was not possible to achieve the Big Four agenda while campaigning. He also says it was “outright disrespect” to Uhuru to talk 2022 politics as if he wasn’t there.

This, he says, annoyed the President so much that he convened a Jubilee Parliamentary Group meeting where he read the riot act.

“That’s the meeting where Rift Valley MPs said tulisomewa (we were reprimanded). It is true it happened, but the President was justified and some of us had been waiting for that moment,” Ngunjiri recollects.

Uhuru has since then repeatedly told MPs to stop politicking and focus on development. His most recent tantrum was in Kasarani Stadium during the Akorino Convention on June 16.

The birth of Team Tangatanga is traced back to remarks he made about Ruto on May 30 last year. Speaking in Kiswahili, Uhuru said Ruto likes roaming around during the weekends.

“Hii kijana anaitwa Ruto unajua kila wikendi anatangatanga kila pahali. Atakuwa anapitia hizi machochoro. Akiona kitu inaenda konakona mmwambie. Tuhakikishe kazi ya wananchi imefanyika,” Uhuru said.

At the time, DP Ruto was moving around the country to launch and commission projects as well as participate in harambees. Although some commentators took issue with the wording of the statement, the Deputy President took it in stride and owned it. With it, Team Tangatanga was born and is comprised of MPs who accompany Ruto around.

Kieleweke started reacting to what Ngunjiri says were early campaigns.

“Actually, some were recently saying that we are campaigning. But we only talk when we see the other camp is losing focus. Have you heard anywhere that we have a meeting recently?” he poses.

DIVISIONS IN CENTRAL

Ngunjiri says it is not a new phenomenon.

However, he notes the leader who manages to pull people together automatically becomes the leader as Uhuru did.

He plays a clip of then Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru speaking at a Tuko Pamoja Rally in Murang’a in March 2011.

In the clip, Uhuru talks bitterly of the ICC cases and the divisions in the region, which he says denied Mwai Kibaki a clear win in 2007, thus resulting in violence and disputing of the election.

Translated from Kikuyu, he said: “We as the Kikuyu nation have this one disease that is selfishness. That no leader will listen to the other. That when we went to the 2007 election, we stood on so many parties I can’t even count because of our leaders’ selfishness. That’s why those we were competing with had an opportunity to claim we rigged the election because when the votes were counted, Kibaki’s party [PNU] didn’t have people [majority MPs] because people were in so many different parties.

"That’s why I am saying we must treat that disease. We must not be ashamed of being Kikuyu. Even the other communities sit down together and strategise. We must, therefore, plan ourselves and speak in one voice. This is William Ruto here. When they meet as Rift Valley MPs, they speak in one voice and vote as one in Parliament to protect their people’s interests. But for us, if you hear us in Parliament, you’d think one took themselves there. That even when Kibaki says this is the way to go, the first person to oppose him is from here. Let’s agree on this ground: any leader who will not toe the line, let them know their politics in this country is done. When Kibaki says go left, we will go left just like how Ruto tells his people to go right and they follow."

The father of three says this lack of unity is what Ruto is using to divide and control the region.

“But the difference between the MPs who keep following the DP and us is that for them, they are being sent to the ground by someone who has interests, while for us, it is the people sending us with the issues they want addressed,” he says.

Ngunjiri says, however, the political differences among the leadership of Nyeri have not stalled development.

“We lobby for development regardless of that. For instance, even though we are not good friends with Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, who sits in the Transport committee, he lobbied for the Nyaribo Airstrip, which is my constituency”.

There is a reason Ngunjiri has this clip on his phone. At the time, he was working for Raila and he criticised it that as propagating tribal politics. He believed in nationalism and was in ODM believing it was a national party. However, despite holding a senior position in the party, he felt he was not wanted there and there was a lot of mistrust.

TRIBAL POLITICS

There is a reason Ngunjiri has this clip on his phone. At the time, he was working for Raila and he criticised it that as propagating tribal politics. He believed in nationalism and was in ODM believing it was a national party. However, despite holding a senior position in the party, he felt he was not wanted there and there was a lot of mistrust.

“I realised our politics is tribal and it will take a lot of time to change that fact. I didn’t fall out with Raila, I just knew myself and where I wanted to go in terms of personal development,” he says.

Having worked with Uhuru and Raila, Ngunjiri believes the Building  Bridges Initiative will help end ethnicity as the two have a huge following that believes in what is happening.

The old boy of Nyeri High School says he studying for a master's of Philosophy and wants to lecture at the university when he is done with politics.

What plans does he have for 2022? “I will be at the negotiating table.”