A meeting convened in Nyeri County on Friday that was used to attack Deputy President William Ruto had the blessings of top government officials, the Sunday Nation can reveal.
The meeting, organised by the Kikuyu Council of Elders (KCE) and attended by more than 2,000 elders, cost more than Sh10 million to organise, multiple sources revealed.
The elders were transported to the venue at Kabiruini on the outskirts of Nyeri Town in several buses and matatus, both from Mt Kenya counties and the “diaspora”.
Delegates came from Nyeri, Murang’a, Kiambu, Nyandarua, Kirinyaga and Laikipia as well as from Nairobi, Nakuru and even Lamu.
Sources within the KCE revealed that a senior government official based at State House, a powerful Principal Secretary and a wealthy senator from the Mt Kenya region were behind the meeting and picked the tab on all expenses.
Speakers at the meeting took turns to attack Mr Ruto and Central Kenya MPs allied to him, accusing them of “auctioning” the region for personal gain.
They demanded that Mr Ruto stops his aggressive campaigns that defy President Uhuru Kenyatta’s call to go slow on 2022 succession politics.
In unprecedented belligerence of language and tone, the elders said they would not sit back and watch President Kenyatta being defied with impunity while he enjoyed massive support in the region and country.
Chairman Wachira Kiago fired the opening salvo: “We love peace, but our silence should not be taken for granted. The community will not bow to intimidation and threats. This is the message we are sending today and we will be taking around the country.”
Vice chair David Muthoga accused Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu, Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa and Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro of promising Mr Ruto the support of the Kikuyu community before “consulting” the people.
Speakers also declared their support for the handshake between President Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, a member of the Kieleweke Team, also supported the elders meeting and accused DP Ruto’s allies of being sellouts who are betraying Mt Kenya residents.
He said the region’s vote cannot be brokered and those promising 2022 votes should stop.
But Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua countered that the elders who showed up were not genuine, adding that Kiama Kia Ma elders do not dabble in politics.
“Then, who has sent these people? The President has not publicly told us to stop supporting his deputy. He has also not told us he is being disrespected. Who are they to complain on his behalf?” Posed Mr Gachagua.
“Also, the DP visits Central because people request his presence. I will stop supporting Ruto when Mathira people tell me to stop and they show me who to support. As for the handshake, we are just saying the new bridges being built should not destroy old ones,” the Mathira MP added.
Speakers accused the DP of taking Central Kenya voters for granted.
Delegates of the meeting, which was streamed live in two national television stations, also passed resolutions that no Kenyan should be intimidated by threats of violence or displacement if they did not vote in a certain manner.
This was in apparent reference to recent statements by a section of leaders coalescing around Mr Ruto that any backtracking on the 2013 election agreement between President Kenyatta and the former could trigger violence between their respective communities in the Rift Valley.
“It is not right that our leader is defied and insulted as we watch. We converge here today to send a special message to our people. It is not courteous for Ruto to insist on invading our household without invitation and endorsement of the head of the household...
"President Kenyatta is the head of the Gikuyu household. It is the height of disrespect to come here behind his back and talk ill of him. Insulting our leader is insulting us all. It will not happen as we watch,” declared Mr Kiago.
But Mr Gachagua accused the elders of fanning a non-existent conflict. “The DP has clearly said that the community does not owe him any debt. Where is the issue of threats coming from?” He posed.
There was a brief confrontation when a group of youth led by one of the KCE mobilisers, Mr Simon Gitahi, stormed the stadium.
“I was angered because when I was told to mobilise elders to attend the meeting, I was told it is about traditional prayers. I got shocked when the KCE national officials started attacking the Deputy President in front of the media. I had to disrupt it,” Mr Gitahi explained.
Normalcy returned after police deployed to keep order at the venue ejected Mr Gitahi and his group.
Commissioner David Kipkemei said he was not aware of the meeting. He however clarified that he is not usually briefed on such meetings.
Sources said the meeting was planned early last month. “They were told to disguise it as mid-year traditional prayers but the message was respect for President Kenyatta and stoppage of early campaigns,” said one of the sources.
Each of those in attendance received some sitting allowance while those from Nyeri and neighbouring counties were refunded their transport expenses. Those from far-flung areas were transported to and from the venue.
An unspecified amount was paid to the local media vernacular stations for coverage and publicity while the county government was paid for the venue. The elders were also provided with lunch.
On Saturday, the KCE chairman denied that the meeting was funded by external forces so as to castigate the Deputy President.
He said that the KCE is an independent and not-for-profit organisation. “We only speak the truth and our position is that the President must be respected,” said Mr Kiago.
The meeting was a turning point of sorts ever since 2011 when the KCE and other central Kenya political and cultural groups embraced and endorsed the new-found rapprochement between President Kenyatta and Dr Ruto in the aftermath of bloody post-election violence of 2007/2008.
On Friday, however, the KCE chairman, Mr Kiago, seemed to suggest that the camaraderie may be over.