SUCCESSION POLITICS

Raila, Ruto, Mudavadi headache in courting vote-rich Mt Kenya region

The battle for the vote rich Mount Kenya votes

In Summary

• The BBI, among other factors, is the latest headache for 2022 presidential aspirants over how to appease Uhuru's backyard to enhance their chances of succeeding him.

• Ruto, Raila, and Musalia are not sure whom to work with at the time experts say Uhuru is facing rebellion at the grassroots. 

Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga
EYES ON KIBRA: Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga
Image: FILE

Amid the anxiety over the Building Bridges Initiative report proposals, Mt Kenya leaders have already made their stand known: They will not support a recommendation for a parliamentary system.

At a press conference in Parliament Buildings last Thursday, the more than 30 legislators said they will reject a proposal to either elect a Prime Minister or President in Parliament.

Raila Odinga has in the past made it clear that he prefers a parliamentary system, which is one of the anticipated recommendations by the BBI task force.

 

Speaking on September 24 at the University of Nairobi during the launch of Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o's book  Presidential or Parliamentary Democracy in Kenya? Choices to Be Made, the ODM leader said BBI offered a platform to review the current structure of government.

"A parliamentary system is viewed as a better way to raise the majority threshold in a country where tribes view each other with suspicion in the race for power,” he said Raila.

If he then decides to vie in 2022, his position puts him at loggerheads with Mt Kenya elected leaders, Presidential hopefuls are in a dilemma on how to handle president Uhuru Kenyatta's vote-rich Mount Kenya voting bloc as succession politics gain momentum.

Deputy President William Ruto has sent mixed signals and has not outrightly opposed or supported BBI, instead saying he will back President Uhuru Kenyatta's position. It is, however, not a secret that his allies have said they will oppose a parliamentary system wit an expanded Executive, arguing the BBI team was out to create seats for election losers.

The BBI, among other factors, is the latest headache for 2022 presidential aspirants over how to appease Uhuru's backyard to enhance their chances of succeeding him.

Leaders from the region and political analysts say the three perceived frontrunners — Raila, Ruto and ANC leader Musalia Mudavad — face tough options in their arithmetics to craft a winning formula without Mt Kenya.

"Uhuru will give us the direction after the BBI. He is the boss," nominated MP Maina Kamanda said on the phone.

 

IEBC records show there are 2.9 million registered voters in Central Kenya.

“If you pick the voter register and the results of the 2017 election, you'll realize that the Mt Kenya region has a united vote bloc of 6.5 million registered voters. In the 2017 elections, Uhuru mobilised 4.8 million votes from this bloc as it is his stronghold,” Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said.

“Ruto mobilised 1.3 million votes from the Rift Valley vote bloc. The total votes from the two strongholds were 6.1 million votes.”

Experts and political leaders argue that the region might register seven million voters in the next polls.

 

DIVIDED CENTRAL

However, tough succession battles and divisions within the region itself are also making it difficult for the presidential hopefuls to consolidate the vote bloc, which has voted as a bloc since 1991.

They have found it hard to make inroads and also identify a running mate.

Ngunjiri, a Uhuru ally and the founder of Kieleweke wing of the Jubilee Party that supports the President, said the Sh 6.5 million votes include the Meru, Embu and Tharaka Nithi counties.

“When Uhuru came and told us about Ruto we were reluctant at first. I know he might come up with someone and we will definitely support him,” Ngunjiri said.

“Those MPs, senators, governors, woman reps and MCAs going against Uhuru will lose the 2022 polls,” he said.

At different times, instances and venues and Ruto, Raila and Mudavadi, as well as Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and his Kanu counterpart Gideon Moi have met the clergy, politicians and business leaders from the community.

They have not missed high-profile events in Murang’a, Kirinyaga, Kiambu, Nyeri, Laikipia, Nakuru, Meru, and Tharaka Nithi since Uhuru and Raila handshake on March 9, 2018.

Uhuru’s critic David Ndii asked the region to stand against the political establishment by saying, ‘it is imperative for the region to uproot the home guard menace for good” so that they can address the socio-economic challenges facing the region.

And frankly we’d rather the unpretentious crook who shares the loot, than selfish bloodsuckers who steal from us, despise us, and then expect to be treated like royalty,” he said.

“If the psychopathic megalomaniac Ruto is the price let it be so. If my friend Raila is collateral damage so be it.”

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria said in an interview that Mt Kenya votes as a bloc and it's in their DNA.

"I am not sure that Mt Kenya has come to consider who they are going to vote for. However, Raila is a tough sell,”  Kuria was responding to remarks that Mt Kenya is ready for Raila as suggested by Kirinyaga Governor  Anne Waiguru.

International Centre for Policy and Conflict Ndung’u Wainaina told the Star the region will vote alongside the interests of the counties.

“There is a big rebellion in Mt Kenya against Kenyatta, especially among the youths and the small traders. They will vote for anyone just to protest,” Wainaina said on the phone.

“Mt Kenya will be scattered in parties just like what happened in the 1997 General Election. In fact, there is no one crystal clear person for people to coerce around,” he added.

 

FOCUSED: Jubilee Coalition principals William Ruto, Musalia Mudavadi and Uhuru Kenyatta in Malava town on Saturday.Photo/Samuel Simiti
FOCUSED: Jubilee Coalition principals William Ruto, Musalia Mudavadi and Uhuru Kenyatta in Malava town on Saturday.Photo/Samuel Simiti

REVIVAL AND EMERGENCE OF NEW PARTIES

Matters have been made worse after the revival of PNU and the Democratic Party,  both associated with former President Mwai Kibaki.

“Trade CS Peter Munya is now the face of Meru. Governors Mwangi wa Iria (Murang’a) and Ann Waiguru (Kirinyaga) are coming out on the other side. Kiambu is in chaos,” Wainaina said.

Other parties that have emerged include the National Alliance Party (associated with Moses Kuria) and Civic Renewal Party ( Iria). Already, there is Narc Kenya (Martha Karua) and the ruling Jubilee Party.

Everybody has to first profile themselves to raise their stake. Parties will be used to bargain for a stake in the coming polls,” Wainaina said.

Succession politics among local regions have intensified as Murang’a, Kirinyaga, Embu and Meru believe it's their turn after supporting Kiambu twice and Nyeri once.  Uhuru and his father Jomo Kenyatta are from Kiambu, while Kibaki is from Nyeri.

But if he (Ruto) doesn’t offer Mt Kenya something substantive in his post-2022 government, they will not support him. In fact, they will support someone else,” Ngunjiri said.

The problem is that Ruto knows that with 4.5 million votes, anyone Mt Kenya supports, as long as it’s not one of them, will beat anyone else running in 2022 hands down, including Ruto himself,” he added.

The first-time MP, however, said Ruto has two options — ask for his debt or divide the region further so that they don’t have a strong negotiating power.