Kiunjuri’s mastery of proverbs serves him well

Saturday March 11 2017

A caricature of Mwangi Kiunjuri, the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning. JOHN NYAGAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A caricature of Mwangi Kiunjuri, the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning. JOHN NYAGAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By WANJOHI GITHAE
More by this Author

When the International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted then Deputy Prime minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto they immediately started what was dubbed as “prayer rallies”.

And everywhere they went were two constant politicians by the side of Mr Kenyatta. One was the flamboyant Mike Mbuvi Sonko and Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri.

Mr Kiunjuri was particularly ever present in areas dominated by the Kikuyu community. This trend continued until Mr Kenyatta left Kanu and formed TNA, while Mr Kiunjuri was in GNU. Though Kenyatta advocated for the entire Mt Kenya region to join TNA he never estranged with Mr Kiunjuri. Then towards the General Election Mr Kiunjuri was suddenly dropped from the then candidate’s entourage. It was unceremonious and quiet.

Unknown to many, Mr Kiunjuri had been a guest to one of the vernacular radio stations where he made remarks about the ICC that did not go well with Mr Kenyatta. Weeks later the Jubilee duo descended on Laikipia and campaigned against Mr Kiunjuri and the die was cast.

It is these events that the Devolution CS was attributing to at the burial of Governor Nderitu Gachagua in Nyeri last Monday.

“Up to the last day I believed I am winning in Laikipia (gubernatorial seat) until I saw some helicopters branded TNA…. The President did not say a word, it is Deputy President who said something and I lost the seat,” recalled the CS. Mr Ruto later clarified that he spoke on instructions of Mr Kenyatta.

A GLIMPSE

Mr Kiunjuri used the burial ceremony of his friend to give Kenyans a glimpse of his political life where he has risen from an obscure tout in Nanyuki to the high echelons of political power. His story mirrors that of Mr Ruto, two men without powerful surnames to shepherd them rising to the high table of who is who and are now forces in their own right. Though both blossomed under wings of second and third presidents, their gift of the garb came in handy.

Though he is still subservient to Mr Kenyatta in Mt Kenya, the situation may change the day after the President takes his final oath of office, if it happens.

Born 48 years ago, Mr Kiunjuri wows Kikuyu masses with his deep knowledge of Kikuyu idioms and proverbs. It’s for this reason Mr Kenyatta kept him close during prayer rallies.

Mr Kiunjuri yarns his message in a string of proverbs and leaves his listeners trying to decipher his message long after he has left the podium.

On Monday, he spoke for 16 minutes but it is his two and half minutes speech in Kikuyu that sent his admirers into fits of jubilation and awe and set social media ablaze among the Kikuyus.

His eight or so proverbs and idioms when interpreted asked the people of Nyeri not to abandon Mr Kenyatta at the ballot because of a poor development record in Mt Kenya region in the last four years, saying they won’t regret in the second term. He said in one fell swoop what the President had struggled to say over the last few months in his forays to the region as reports of voter apathy abounded.

THREE YEARS

The CS holds a Global Masters in Business Administration (GMBA) from USIU and a Bachelor’s in Education from Moi University, Maseno Campus. He also had a stint of three years studying Law at the University of Nairobi.

 But this beautiful resume has not prevented English from interfering with his mother tongue especially when speaking in the former. His pronunciation of certain sounds like “sh” and “ch” in English is a source of mirth to many.

His accent has been subject to many humorous quips like when Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed qualified for the fourth round against expectations of a quick win at African Union Commission chairperson’s election. Mr Kiunjuri, who had accompanied her to Addis Ababa, is said to have quipped “its chad really”; although he meant to say “It’s sad really”, his statement may have sent other African countries to vote for the Chadian candidate who eventually won.

His appointment to the Cabinet by President Kenyatta after three years in the cold to the chagrin of Kirinyaga and Nyeri people who lost their places to him, and subsequent decision not to relive him to rejoin Laikipia politics may be seen as a pointer for bigger things for the 48-year-old man from Laikipia.

We can only wait.