President Uhuru Kenyatta’s close ties with a section of elderly politicians has triggered a political storm in the Mt Kenya region.
The bone of contention is the President’s growing association with elderly politicians while shunning the mostly youthful sitting MPs.
Matters came to a head last week during the high-profile meeting at the Sagana State Lodge in Nyeri, in which the President’s open preference for the older generation was evident.
Not only were the youthful sitting MPs denied a chance to address the event, billed as key to the region’s political future, they were also kept off the main dais, with the President surrounding himself mainly with politicians who launched their political careers decades ago.
Those who sat at the high table during the Sagana meeting were Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi, Embu Senator Njeru Ndwiga, former Molo MP Njenga Mungai, former Nyeri Senator Mutahi Kagwe and retired Anglican Bishop Peter Njenga.
Mr Murungi, 67, has been in active politics since he was first elected as Imenti South MP in 1992, besides serving in the Cabinet under the Kibaki regime.
Mr Ndwiga, 65, was also first elected as Member of Parliament for Runyenjes in 1992. He also served in the Cabinet during Kibaki’s tenure.
Mr Mungai, 81, served as MP for Molo between 1992 and 1997 while Mr Kagwe is 61 and besides serving as Mukurwe-ini MP and later Nyeri senator, he also served in the Kibaki Cabinet.
Bishop Peter Njenga, 80, is a retired bishop of the Mt Kenya ACK Diocese. Other politicians from the region who fiercely support the President are nominated MP Maina Kamanda and Kiharu MP Muturi Kigano, also in their sunset years in politics. The presence of these politicians at the high table triggered outrage among the youthful MPs, who maintain the President is deliberately sidelining them yet they are elected representatives.
Matters boiled over during the Sagana meeting when the MPs booed and jeered Bishop Njenga when he rose to address the gathering.
The bishop had been asked to lead in prayer, but before he could do that, he opted to digress, engaging in political utterances that did not go down well with the audience.
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, one of the MPs who spoke on record, criticised the sidelining of elected leaders during the meeting.
“Some people are messing up the President’s legacy by misleading him. The meeting did not respect elected leaders and there was a narrative to show us that there were other people to sell BBI in the region,” Mr Kuria said.
Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri took to his Facebook page to express his reservations about the meeting, accusing the President of working with unelected leaders.
“I cannot comprehend why the President decided to work with people who are not elected. Mutahi Kagwe isn't elected, but was given a prominent role. Sabina Chege is woman representative for Murang’a and it was therefore against protocol to have her play the host. Why was the area MP not given a chance to speak if for sure this meeting was to bring leaders from Mt Kenya together?” he posed.
Some governors and senators who sought anonymity said it is clear the President is determined to work with unelected leaders.
“The President seems to be determined to work with the old guard who should be in their homes spending their sunset years with their grandchildren,” said a pro-Uhuru MP who spoke in confidence.
But Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata and Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, the young MPs in the Kieleweke corner, defended the President.
“Leadership is a function of experience, wisdom and tolerance. A good leader surrounds himself with people with these abilities. They are usually older,” Mr Wambugu said.
Mr Kangata added: “I lean on the President’s side despite my age. I also know several old persons who lean on the other side. It is not wise to underrate the influence of the old in Kikuyu politics.”
Reporting by Ibrahim Oruko, Ndung’u Gachane and Joseph Wangui