When Environment minister John Michuki declared Uhuru Kenyatta the Kikuyu spokesman and heir to the throne, politicians went for his jugular.
But when Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka this week announced his intention to take a second stab at the presidency in 2012, the response it elicited was at best cursory.
Mr Michuki’s anointing of Mr Kenyatta seems to have divided the central Kenya politicians, with some dismissing it as tribal and a step into the dark ages and others supporting it.
“If you ask me,” said the straight-shooting minister, “anyone who wants to work with us must go through Uhuru (Kenyatta) who is the Kikuyu leader. Otherwise we are going to fight you politically.”
The statement was made at a time when the Deputy Prime Minister had displayed uncharacteristic bluntness. Early in the week, Mr Kenyatta had said he was not worried by the International Criminal Court investigations into the post-election violence.
Mr Kenyatta had moved to court seeking to expunge his name from a report linking him to the violence which claimed more than 1,300 lives. The report by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights was presented as evidence to the ICC, but Mr Moreno-Ocampo is conducting independent investigations.
Mr Michuki’s statement struck at the heart of the Kibaki succession and raised political temperatures, coming from an influential politician, no less a confidant of the President. This has sparked speculation that it may have come from “high up”.
Narc-Kenya chairperson and presidential hopeful Martha Karua led a group of politicians in dismissing Mr Michuki and accused him of seeking to impose the Kanu chairman on the community. “Coming up with another Uhuru project after the first one failed hoping it will work this time is wishful thinking,” Ms Karua said.
MPs Kabando wa Kabando (Mukurweini), David Ngugi (Kinangop), Joseph Kiuna (Molo) and former Subukia MP Koigi wa Wamwere also dismissed Mr Michuki’s declaration. “Mr Kenyatta is being anointed by people intending to use the community as a stepping stone to hold on to power in order to protect old money,” Mr Wamwere said. He advised Kenyans to reject any attempts to build “ethnic dictatorships.”
“Mr Michuki was speaking on behalf of the Kikuyu ruling class. He was announcing a decision made by people who don’t believe in nationalistic leadership and integration,” Mr Wamwere said. But a close ally of Mr Kenyatta and former MP David Murathe sees nothing strange with the minister’s comments, arguing that the DPM has been endorsed by others before.
Ahead of the constitutional referendum, Mr Kenyatta was endorsed as the leader of central Kenya during a meeting in Limuru. The Molo MP said Kikuyus in the Rift Valley would not blindly follow the political decisions by those in Central Province.
“In the next political contest, we’re not going to sing the song of Rift Valley. Our main focus now is how to live peacefully with our neighbours,” he told the Sunday Nation. He said leaders who don’t support the view should not be fought politically.
Sources have indicated that the President has been unhappy with the divisions among central Kenya politicians and has asked them to put their act together. This has led to meetings between Mr Kenyatta, Internal Security minister George Saitoti, Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi and Mr Musyoka.
There are plans to hold a meeting early next year at Kasarani, where supporters of Mr Kenyatta, Mr Musyoka and Prof Saitoti are to pick a presidential candidate for 2012. Mr Murungi has been tasked with organising the Kasarani meeting.
At a meeting at the Norfolk, two weeks ago, the three are said to have resolved to face the electorate, with the winner being the PNU coalition flag bearer in 2012.