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Rift Valley leaders demand for meeting with Uhuru

Friday November 22 2019

Nandi Governor Stephen Sang speaks during the

Nandi Governor Stephen Sang speaks during the Talai Clan Centenary Prayers at Kapsisiywa, Nandi County, on November 8, 2019. He is one of the leaders asking for a meeting with the President to address vital issues their people are facing. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Hardly a week after President Uhuru Kenyatta met Mt Kenya leaders, those from the Rift Valley have also demanded a similar meeting.

Among the leaders rooting for the meeting, seen as part of the realignments ahead of 2022, are MPs, governors, senators and ward representatives.

In interviews with the Nation Thursday, several leaders said they too have issues they want addressed by Mr Kenyatta.

They named succession politics, Mau evictions and the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) as some of the pressing matters to be looked into.

Others are the dwindling agriculture fortunes – particularly maize and dairy farming – and the issues surrounding the Arror and Kimwarer dams.

"We want to meet him and discuss a number of issues, including those touching on development. We want clarification on the 2022 presidential race and the bid to change the Constitution," Nominated MP Gideon Keter said.

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SECURE RUTO'S FUTURE

He added that leaders from the region have made attempts to meet Mr Kenyatta without success.

"We even wrote a letter to him through former Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso and Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony but the meeting never took place," he added.

Kuresoi South MP Joseph Tonui said leaders from the Rift Valley “are very eager to meet the President”.

"We want to use the forum to know when work on stalled projects resumes," Mr Tonui said.

Others who want the meeting are Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot, Nandi Governor Stephen Sang, MPs Cornelius Serem (Aldai), Wilson Kogo (Chesumei) and Nelson Koech (Belgut).

"It is good the president began from home. We also want him to host us," Mr Cheruiyot said.

However, the leaders want Mr Kenyatta to assure them of his support for Mr Ruto’s presidential bid in 2022.

“A meeting with President Kenyatta will solidify support for Ruto, apart from addressing socio-economic challenges facing our people,” Mr Sang told the Nation.

BE FAIR TO US

They added that the BBI and the March 9, 2018 handshake between Mr Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga need not scuttle Mr Ruto’s ambitions.

Keiyo South MP Daniel Rono said Rift Valley leaders have a right to meet the President “just like our Mt Kenya counterparts”.

“He is everybody’s President and we also have needs. Mr Kenyatta should be fair to all leaders and regions,” Mr Rono said.

Rift Valley Council of Elders chairman Gilbert Kabage also asked Mr Kenyatta to organise a meeting bringing together elected and other leaders.

"If President Kenyatta is serious about uniting this country....1 challenge him to prove that by meeting Rift Valley leaders too," Mr Kabage said.

Moiben MP Silas Tiren – a perceived Jubilee Party rebel – and Baringo Woman Representative Gladwell Cheruiyot said there is nothing wrong with leaders from the Rift Valley meeting with the President.

“He is the party leader and the President of Kenya. They are free to request a meeting. If his diary allows, they can meet him,” Mr Tiren said.

Tiaty MP William Kamket, however, dismissed the demand for a meeting, saying the Rift Valley is part of the presidency as Mr Ruto is the second-in-command. “Why can’t they meet Ruto?” Mr Kamket asked.

UP TO NO GOOD

Such a meeting would exacerbate the political contest between Jubilee and Kanu in the Rift Valley.

Kanu got a boost recently when former Cabinet minister Musa Sirma ditched ODM to join it, while Mr Ruto has the backing of Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok, a former ODM party leader.

Mr Kenyatta met Mt Kenya leaders at Sagana State Lodge, Kirinyaga County, in what has been seen as an attempt to quell brewing rebellion in the region.

However, Ruto allies in Mt Kenya have dismissed the meeting, saying it will split the region further.

MPs Moses Kuria (Gatundu South) and Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati) have openly said the meeting was a waste of time.

Mr Ngunjiri, who has criticised the President in the past, said the meeting was organised by Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho to humiliate leaders opposed to the handshake and hoodwink the country that Mt Kenya speaks with one voice.

“The meeting was meant to unite the region but it achieved the opposite. Ushers humiliated MPs and other elected leaders. They made sure leaders opposed to the handshake did not get to the VIP tent,” he said.

PEOPLE-CENTRED

Mr Ngunjiri added that unelected leaders from the Kieleweke side (those supporting the President's agenda) were given prominent roles and allowed to speak while those allied to Mr Ruto were treated with disdain and contempt.

“There was nothing new at the meeting, just regurgitating old narratives. Our people are grappling with falling agriculture income. The meeting was called to hoodwink the world that everything is okay. There was no discussion on addressing problems affecting locals such as low tea bonuses, poor coffee prices and others,” he said.

The Bahati lawmaker wants the President to organise another meeting with elected leaders from Mt Kenya urgently “to put his house in order”.

“Fighting elected leaders is akin to waging war on people,” he said.

During the meeting, Mr Kenyatta told MPs to stop reminding him about his pledge to support Mr Ruto’s 2022 bid.

While some Rift Valley leaders like Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny want locals to make independent choices on who should be president, another group says they should vote for Mr Ruto.

“The DP is only interested in the presidency. There are many leaders who can give him a run for his money in the succession politics,” Mr Kutuny said in the past.

Report by Eric Matara, Barnabas Bii, Wycliffe Kipsang and Tom Matoke