In an interview with Saturday Nation, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria says a cabal of 'clueless' people close to Kenyatta have captured the presidency and edged out the thinkers who understand the Jubilee dream.
What is your issue with President Uhuru Kenyatta?
I have no personal differences with President Kenyatta. Since the 2007 elections, we have worked very closely and very well.
We found ourselves in the thick of things in 2007, when he was in Kanu, which had just decided to support PNU’s Mwai Kibaki.
Since he had to campaign for Kibaki, I had to cover for him in Gatundu South, in addition to my duties as director of programmes at the PNU headquarters.
So when did you break up?
On December 31, 2018, I made the now famous – infamous to some – Thika Speech about the development in Mt Kenya region, or lack thereof.
As a member of the Budget Committee since 2014, I was aware that Parliament has never rejected any budget proposal from the President and the Treasury.
But we had a huge problem with work execution. I had knowledge of the workings of ministries, departments and agencies and I knew the problem was not money but inefficiency on the part of those the President had assigned responsibilities.
Even worse was the takeover of the policymaking by an emergent elite squad whose appreciation of the real issues was suspect.
Those who understood the issues did not have the requisite experience and capability to formulate solutions. The rest were living in utopia.
The more the top-heavy policies failed to trickle down to the people, the more the people got more disenchanted and angry with the Jubilee government.
In the entire 2019, most of your speeches pointed out neglect of Mt Kenya by Jubilee
As the fires of disenchantment raged, the elite squad that was now fully in control of policy had only one tool at their disposal – blame the politician, demonise the politician.
This was the perfect tool after my Thika Speech. This was a convenient answer to the so-called Tangatanga forays.
Blaming the politician for an elite-driven policy misadventures was easy, convenient and reassuring on the part of the cabal that had taken over the Jubilee policy machine.
The more I complained of the low returns to coffee and tea farmers, opportunistic industry practices that nearly brought the milk farmers to their knees - awkward regional cooperation protocols that heavily disadvantaged the local dairy and poultry farmers - the more the clueless and elites worked hard to paint me as a rebel without a cause in the eyes of the President.
Rather than respond to the issues I was raising on the foreign-driven policies that were driving small traders to the point of committing suicide, the elitist cabal convinced the President I was the enemy and the problem.
It was criminal to stand with local suppliers and contractors and pushing law amendments to address the pending bills.
It was a crime standing with the likes of Keroche Breweries and fighting the weaponisation of our tax regime to drive out local manufacturers to the advantage of foreign manufacturers.
The President has kept asking what leaders have done with their allocations
Governors from the Mt Kenya region need to account for their contribution to development of the region.
For instance, how does Nyandarua’s potatoes, cabbages, onions and carrots go to waste when the county gets billions, which it can invest in agroprocessing?
What has Nakuru done to revive pyrethrum farming? How do Kirinyaga leaders watch as the price of rice plummets while they have has billions that can effect market interventions?
How does Kitui manage the Kitui County Textiles while the Mt Kenya counties cannot set up even a single coffee processing plant?
When I persisted in asking these questions, the Mt Kenya governors convinced the President that I was a rabble-rouser inciting the people against him, at the behest of William Ruto.
Did the handshake between the President and Raila Odinga push you to the periphery?
After the handshake, a team that again did not know why we wanted to form government and what the core elements of Jubilee were took over at the Office of the President and State House.
The narrative was very simple: rather than explain to us and discuss the rationale behind the handshake, this cartel brought in the narrative that some of us were beneficiaries of the divisive politics of the past and therefore we could not support a process that ended the divisions.
We were portrayed as investors in chaos and division. This presumption of guilt till proven innocent is what has led us to where we are.
To those like us who had navigated the post-2007 election torturous journey with Uhuru Kenyatta through consultation and lots of team work, this came as a total surprise and disappointment.
To date, close to two years since the March 9, 2018 handshake, there has never been a meeting of the Jubilee Parliamentary Group to discuss the 'handshake' or the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
I will continue insisting that Jubilee leaders are not irrational or irresponsible people who are not amenable to reason.
I am sure when the President sits down with Jubilee leaders in a Parliamentary Group, he will easily convince them of his BBI position and ensure we achieve a national consensus to move the nation forward.
The President should take this historic opportunity to bring his house together and avoid the temptation of fighting with his own child.
Do you feel vindicated by the President’s Tuesday policy direction?
Absolutely. The President addressed most of my concerns on tea, coffee, milk, bananas, potatoes and rice.
He also recently signed the Kenya Roads Board Amendment Bill into law.
This is a bill I pushed aggressively as vice-chair of the Transport and Infrastructure Committee and which brings my experience from banking into our infrastructure sector by raising funds from capital markets backed by the Fuel Levy to finance the completion of the remaining roads under the 10,000 kilometres programme alongside the national highways and urban roads.
Accordingly, the President announced the first tranche of Sh150 billion Roads Bond that will be floated on the capital markets by the first quarter of 2020.
Obviously, there is still more work to be done – like the passage of the Guaranteed Minimum Returns Bill, which I will be moving in partnership with Ndindi Nyoro when House business resumes.
We will also be moving to zero-rate VAT on all local teas to boost value addition of teas and increase farmers’ income.
But it is refreshing to see the President address the issues I have been pushing.
What is the genesis of the problems in Jubilee?
After victory in 2013, that was the end of the heavy involvement in strategy development and execution by those who had travelled the journey with Uhuru Kenyatta.
All of a sudden, the space was occupied by people from nowhere, who did not know why we wanted to win the election and what we wanted to do in government.
I was banished to Siberia and was jobless until I found myself in Parliament in August 2014, courtesy of a by-election following the demise of MP Joseph Ngugi.
The hostile takeover by people who didn’t understand why we wanted to form government with Uhuru Kenyatta after 2013 is the genesis of the current problems bedevilling Jubilee.
Without understanding the history, it’s impossible to understand what is going on.
In 2017, you were instrumental in the President’s re-election campaign
The year 2017 was difficult for me. First, forces I believe are from the President’s closest relatives sponsored candidates against me in Gatundu South.
This is despite the fact that I had worked very hard to deliver to my people, lifting the place from near-total darkness to electrification, initiating a roads upgrade programme and upgrading 75 per cent of secondary schools to have boarding facilities.
The 2017 Jubilee nominations were supposed to rig me out despite the fact that I was largely popular.
This shook me to the core. I am not sure I have fully recovered from that treachery.
But you still campaigned hard for Uhuru
We had to campaign for the President. The Mbele Iko Sawa team, which I led, combined in 40 of 47 counties and was made over 200 campaign stops in the period leading to the first and repeat presidential elections.
After the 2017 victory, it was back to post-election Raila management headache, which we had been involved in 10 years earlier.
Did you work closely with Uhuru in the 2007 post-election period?
When the post-election violence broke out, I had that onerous duty of assisting the then Deputy Prime Minister in navigating a very trying period for him personally.
Remember this was a conflict that pitted the Kikuyus against the Kalenjins, who had overwhelmingly voted for Uhuru only five years earlier.
It was a heavy and emotional moment for Uhuru. I was the only person who really understood the dynamics of both communities and for the entire 2008, I did nothing but camp in the Rift Valley to help Uhuru sort out the internally displaced persons (IDP) mess and post-conflict relations between the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin, which ultimately culminated in the political union that became the Jubilee Alliance of 2013.