DEFLATED CRITICS NARRATIVE

Uhuru's Mt Kenya focus sends Tangatanga MPs back to drawing board

Critics, allis say new focus on Central Kenya aims to win back region divided over succession.

In Summary

• With President's announcement on measures to save the food economy, Tantatanga MPs in Central have had to drop the 'he ignores agriculture' narrative.

• A poster invite to BBI Nakuru edition rally shared by Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria on Facebook notes 3.5 per cent share or revenue to the Judiciary and five per cent each to farmers, youth, SMEs and the landless.

President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives at Sagana on November 15, 2019.
COURTING HIS OWN TURF: President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives at Sagana on November 15, 2019.
Image: COURTESY

President Uhuru Kenyatta's recent reorganisation of government and announcement of measures to revamp agriculture in Central Kenya and elsewhere caught his critics from the region off balance.

With the President finally acting on January 14 — he did delay for a long time — MPs allied to the Tangatanga faction of Jubilee Party in Central have dropped the 'He has abandoned us' narrative. 

They are now pushing populist BBI proposals targeting the most vulnerable people in society.

 

A poster invite to the BBI Nakuru edition rally shared by Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria on Facebook notes a 3.5 per cent share or revenue [goes] to the Judiciary and five per cent each to farmers, youth, SMEs and the landless.

"The announcement by Uhuru completely derailed their plans. It destroyed their narrative that he didn’t know what was going on and had forsaken the region. Now they are trying to build afresh, again using populist agendas that aren’t very well thought out. For example, how do they implement these new policies that they are pushing?" the Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugun asked

Uhuru had become increasingly unpopular in the region over economic problems, making it essential for him to wake up, act and put in place measures to revamp the agricultural sector and to fire CS Mwangi Kiunjuri, a close ally of DP William Ruto.

President Kenyatta had met Mt Kenya leaders at Sagana State Lodge but the 10-point declaration largely focussed on the BBI process — neglecting bread-and-butter issues — further propelling the 'indifferent Uhuru' criticism forward. 

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, for instance, told a local TV station that organisers of the Sagana meeting “terribly failed the President as issues afflicting Mt Kenya residents were not well articulated".

A frustrated Kuria said, "We have our traditional issues, most issues to do with our agriculture and our tea. We were here in 2016 and I'm very sad that what we said then is the same thing we are saying today. You will assume there will be people from Mars who will solve the problems."

"It is so sad that we talk about coffee again and again but there has been no change, yet leaders who are tasked with directing the sector are from the region," Kuria added.

 

When the changes were announced, some Tangatanga MPs took credit, telling reporters in Parliament that the "noise" they made had finally prompted the previously do-nothing President to make the wide-ranging reforms to help farmers.

They included Rigathi, Naivasha MP Jane Kihara, Nyandarua Woman Rep Faith Gitau and her Nyeri counterpart Rahab Mukami.

The sectors Uhuru targeted include milk, tea, coffee, and rice; he announced funds to bail out farmers.

“I welcome and congratulate Uhuru for the various measures he has taken on the economic front. These are the issues I have been shouting myself hoarse about,” Kuria said.

Uhuru's critics and allies tell the Star that the new focus on Central Kenya is meant to win back the region, which remains divided over succession politics.

“Uhuru used the economy as a political defence in his speech to try and dismantle individuals who are not playing ball,” said International Centre for Policy and Conflict executive director Wainaina Ndung’u.

"However, it is too late since many youths are jobless and businesses are closing down."

President Kenyatta also extended a basket of goodies meant to quell the brewing rebellion against the President, DP Ruto's influence, allow Uhuru to push for the BBI report and cement his position as the region’s kingpin post-2022.

Uhuru has started building the Sh30 billion Mau Mau Road, which is to be completed in two years, just when his second term will be ending. He will also open 69 markets in Nyeri, Murang’a, Laikipia, Nyandarua and Kiambu counties, in line with his promise to ensure farmers access markets. The plan seen by the Star shows the road project will have four contractors.

The state has also initiated the rehabilitation of the 240km old Nairobi-Nanyuki railway line, which commenced in Laikipia last week.

The Sh3 billion rehabilitation works undertaken by the Kenya Railways Corporation is expected to be completed in five months. It will also ensure the 11 million-litre Nanyuki Petroleum depot that serves parts of Eastern and Northern Kenya can benefit more markets.

Rehabilitation is in three stages. One group will work from the Nanyuki-Marua section, the second group is allocated the Marua-Sagana section while the third will rehabilitate from Sagana-Thika stretch,” Laikipia Governor Ndiritu  Muriithi told the media on Tuesday.

The railway will open Kiambu, Murang’a, Kirinyaga, Nyeri, Laikipia and Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Embu counties. It will extend to Isiolo to link the region to the Lamu Port and Southern Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor.

“We have also seen a Sh30 billion road network take shape, the coffee, tea, milk and rice sector coming along, plus investment into horticulture. We also have the science and tech park in Nyeri, the dual carriage to Isiolo, etc,” Wambugu told the Star.

He said that the development projects are part of Uhuru’s scheme to open up the whole country to new markets for manufacturers and farmers.

“But the most important thing is that these developments — especially in agriculture — are not just about Mt Kenya; they affect anywhere else where such activities happen, and they cut beyond the region,” the Nyeri Town legislator said.

Already, Ngunjiri, Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga and Kieni MP Kanini Kega are leading barazas on the Coffee Cherry Advance Revolving Fund Regulations Bill. The bill a result of President Kenyatta's direction to the National Treasury to put the Sh3 billion fund into operation within the next 30 days to cushion farmers from the consequences of delayed payments.

“Uhuru wants to leave a united country where political competition between political elites does not affect the lives of ordinary wananchi,” Wambugu said.

Uhuru's allies believe the new focus on Mt Kenya region will cement his position as the region’s kingpin following the tough succession politics threatening to divide the region.

The Meru Council of Elders has, for instance,praised the appointment of Peter Munya as Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, saying he will weed out cartels in the department.

But not all are satisfied.

Kuria said the measures taken by the President are not enough. 

“These are the issues I have been shouting myself hoarse about. However, whilst the measures are good, there are several areas where they have fallen short. The more you try to satisfy your dynastic souls with more positions and power, the more we sing redemption songs,” he said.

Other issues being raised are historical injustices such as land and failed campaign pledges and unemployment.

"When the owners of labour who are mostly workers and hustlers want to have a discussion with owners of capital — owners of large idle land, industries, technology, banks — it benefits everyone," Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro said on January 25.

"Far-reaching change is usually difficult since the end losers in any debate about redistribution are always the bourgeoisie and owners of other forms of capital who in most cases are leaders and decision-makers at any given time."

In light of this, the Jubilee MPs who attended the Naivasha meeting want the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation and the Ndung'u Land reports implemented.