Political temperatures in Meru County have risen in the last one month leading to what is now seen as cracks in the alliance between Governor Kiraitu Murungi and Senator Mithika Linturi.
The two political allies, who rode to power through the ‘Kikali’ (Kiraitu, Kajuju and Linturi) line-up, are at loggerheads after the senator launched criticism of the county executive.
While a section of ward representatives initiated the debate of the 2022 governorship race last year, the cracks widened following the release of the auditor general’s report for 2017/2018 financial year.
Senator Linturi took a swipe at Mr Murungi’s administration when he addressed the Meru County Assembly, forcing the governor and his allies to fight back.
The perceived falling-out between Mr Linturi and Mr Kiraitu comes even as East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) MP Mpuru Aburi intensifies his campaign against the governor, his former ally.
Mr Aburi has been rallying locals against the governor, through what he has dubbed “No Peu” (Kimeru for “disappear”) movement.
Recent reports indicate that the movement has already been reserved as a political party known as National Ordinary People’s Empowerment Union.
At the same time, some ward reps have taken advantage of the emerging political situation to propose that the governorship be a one-term rotational position for the three Meru subtribes of Imenti, Tigania and Igembe.
Former governor Peter Munya hails from Tigania while Governor Kiraitu is from Imenti and Mr Linturi is from Igembe.
“Even before the 2013 elections, it was agreed that the gubernatorial position would be rotational and governor Munya was to serve for 10 years. Now that Governor Kiraitu is the incumbent, we expect the next governor to come from Igembe,” said Kiegoi/Antubochiu MCA Kimathi Ithibua.
He said they are now rallying the Igembe people, who are the most populous in the county, to unite ahead of 2022 elections.
“If we support Governor Kiraitu in 2022, he must assure us of backing a person from Igembe in the future,” he said.
Athiru Gaiti MCA Adamson Muriki claimed that there was a pact among Meru Jubilee leaders that Mr Kiraitu would serve for one term.
“This was part of the agreement because Mr Munya was not easy to beat. Sacrifices had to be made by leaders within the Jubilee line-up. However, Senator Linturi is not interested in the 2022 politics now,” Mr Muriki said.
Late last year, MPs Kathuri Murungi (South Imenti) and Mugambi Rindikiri (Buuri) caused a stir when they gave a veiled hint of backing Mr Linturi for the top county seat.
CRACK THE WHIP
But it is the senator’s address to the assembly on April 10 heightened the emerging differences between Mr Linturi and Mr Kiraitu.
In his speech, the senator asked the MCAs to crack the whip on the executive whenever there are cases of abuse of public funds.
“I joined forces with progressive minds to campaign on the platform of change, transparency, efficiency, fairness and prudent management of county resources. We are almost two years into our present terms. The people are now asking; where is the transparency that our leaders stood for? Where is fairness in the allocation of County resources? Where are the resources that we were promised, but most importantly where is the senator’s voice in all this?” Mr Linturi said.
He said while he is a friend of the governor, he will not be deterred from playing his oversight role.
“The auditor’s report paints a gloomy picture of the state of our county. It raises valid concerns and supports the weighty allegations with evidence,” the senator said.
But Mr Linturi was quick to point out that his speech in the assembly was not a political statement but a part of his constitutional mandate.
However, Governor Kiraitu said that he read malice in the senator’s speech.
“The auditor’s report is yet to be probed by the assembly and the Senate. The senator should have waited for us to appear before the Senate Public Accounts Committee, where he is a member before commenting on it.
“It was unprocedural and I see there was malice. He wanted to create the impression that my administration is misappropriating funds so as to incite the public against us,” the governor said.
Deputy Governor Titus Ntuchiu dismisses Mr Murungi’s opponents as “people who backed the regime expecting to eat, but found that the loopholes of pilfering county resources have been sealed”.
In a rejoinder, Mr Linturi said he was shocked by the governor’s remarks since he expected him (Mr Murungi) to understand a senator’s roles.
“Let me remind the governor that we campaigned together and had agreed on how the county government should be run,” Mr Linturi said.
The public spat between the governor and the Senator has sucked in supporters from both sides with a section of MCAs threatening to impeach Mr Kiraitu.
On the other hand, supporters of Governor Kiraitu have hit out at Mr Linturi and Mr Aburi, accusing them of biting the hand that fed them.
Municipality MCA Elias Murega said the governor is a candidate for impeachment for fighting the senator who was playing his role.
Ms Ester Karimi, a nominated MCA, accused the office of the governor of attempting to sabotage the assembly’s business through divide and rule tactics.
Cracks in the union between Mr Linturi and Mr Kiraitu started emerging when the senator led Meru MPs in boycotting Interior CS Fred Matiangi’s meeting in Meru.
The legislators who boycotted the meeting blamed the county government and office of the county commissioner for keeping them in the dark on Dr Matiang’i’s itinerary.