The political rivalry between supporters of President Uhuru Kenyatta and those allied to his deputy William Ruto in the Mt Kenya region is increasingly taking a violent turn ahead of the proposed referendum on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report and the 2022 elections.
On Saturday, Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, who is leading the pro-Kenyatta forces in Nyeri County, confirmed that he had lodged a complaint with Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and his Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho over the rising cases of violence in political meetings convened by his faction.
In the latest incident at Giakanja Secondary School in Nyeri Town last week, violence erupted at a fundraiser presided over by Dr Ruto after rival youth clashed, forcing the police to intervene.
On Saturday, Mr Wambugu accused the police of being biased against his supporters and called for an overhaul of the entire Nyeri Central Police command.
But Regional Commissioner Wilfred Nyagwanga said he was not aware of the complaint letter.
“There were over 40 police officers and they left the goons to control the security. I have lodged a complaint with the Interior Ministry and copied the letter to the county commissioner. Police had taken political sides in the event and they were pro-Tangatanga,” said the MP, referring to the pro-Ruto supporters.
He wondered why Ward Representative Samuel Kariuki, who is allied to the Tangatanga wing, was briefly arrested and set free moments later despite his role in the violence.
It was the fourth time this year that violence has erupted in political rallies within the constituency.
In August, a group of rowdy youth disrupted an event organised by the Inua Mama lobby, which is allied to Dr Ruto, resulting in the transfer of two police officers who had been deployed to the event.
They were accused of failing to contain the situation, leading to disruption.
In June, some other police officers - including an inspector - were said to have been transferred to Lamu and the Eastern region following chaos witnessed in an event at Gatitu/Muruguru Ward graced by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri.
Mr Nyagwanga has however defended the police, insisting they remain independent and asked politicians to keep politics out of security matters.
“The police are independent. We have arrested and charged hooligans for disrupting political meetings. So anybody claiming that police are biased is lying. I have confidence in our officers and we are doing our part to ensure the violence ends,” he said.
The violence and intolerance has also been witnessed in the neighbouring Kirinyaga and Murang’a counties.
Dr Kibicho got a dose of the chaos during a fundraiser held in Ndia constituency last month when he was heckled by youth suspected to be allied to a local politician.
Nominated MP Maina Kamanda was also heckled at the event attended by over 30 MPs, including Dr Matiang’i.
Drama started after the MP failed to recognise DP Ruto as a national leader.
Mr Kamanda, who is a vocal supporter of the alliance between President Kenyatta and Mr Raila Odinga, was booed after he referred to the President and the former Prime Minister as the two political pillars of the country.
He also maintained that only Kenyans will decide who will be President in 2022.
At one point, Dr Kibicho appeared to lose his cool, telling those who were not interested in what was being said to leave the venue.
In Murang’a County, the Tangatanga and Kieleweke factions have engaged each other in dirty campaigns mainly on social media platforms and vernacular radio stations.
The fights have also spilt over to places of worship, with chaotic scenes increasingly being witnessed.
In June this year, Kiambu Woman Representative Gathoni Wamuchomba, a Kieleweke adherent, was heckled and jeered at while delivering her remarks at Mairuingi ACK Church in Kandara.
Trouble started after the former radio journalist criticised Kandara MP Alice Wahome. Some of the angry congregants could not hear any of it and started shouting and booing her.
Police intervened and bundled out some of them.
In September this year, a fundraiser at Gitui Catholic Church turned chaotic after Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro stormed in and vowed to preside over the ceremony, which was attended by about 20 Kieleweke members led by Mr Kamanda.
KURIA JOINS IN
Mr Nyoro, who belongs to the Tangatanga faction, maintained that he would preside over the event as the area MP, a move that was objected to by Mr Kamanda.
“I can’t allow people from Nairobi to come and take over my constituency as if they know this area. I am an elected leader and I tell Mr Kamanda to his face that let them produce the list of the guests so that I can invite them,” Mr Nyoro maintained.
Another Ruto ally, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, has also intensified attacks targeting the rival group on social media, exchanging harsh words with Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru over the BBI report and the 2022 succession.
By Nichola Komu, Joseph Wangui, Ndung’u Gachane and Wanjohi Githae