President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday told off those thinking he is a lame duck President and gave the clearest signal yet on his 2022 thinking.
In a rare, no-holds-barred public take on the country’s politics, the President also hit out at lawmakers from his Mt Kenya stronghold for focusing on his succession and “loitering” instead of working with the government to revive the coffee sector.
Speaking to Nyeri town residents in Kikuyu after a meeting with the lawmakers, the President said he will speak his mind about politics when the right time comes, and that his views will shock some people.
“Mareciria tondu Uhuru niakainuka gutiri kiugo akauga. Kahinda gakinya onanie no ngakorwo na kaundu ga kuga. Meciragia tondu nindakirire nidaremirwo ni kwaria. Ni kumaka maka maka (Some people think that, just because I am retiring, I have nothing to say (sic). I will say something at the right time. And some people will get shocked,” said the President, who also heads the Jubilee party.
The much publicised Jubilee pact stipulates that when President Kenyatta retires in 2022, the party will support his deputy, Mr William Ruto, for the top seat. Some Mt Kenya leaders have been drumming up support for Mr Ruto.
A week ago, the President told Jubilee followers in the Rift Valley, from which Mr Ruto hails, that the pact was intact, and blamed the media for causing splits in the party. But yesterday, he said it was too early to focus on the 2022 campaigns.
“Hingo ciothe no kanua kanua kanua. Mundu ararora cia ruciu na ndambite gutimiza cia umuthi? (Some people are always talking about tomorrow but they have done nothing today.) If you are not working, go home and let us get other leaders. People should reduce politicking and work,” said the President.
After commissioning the expansion of the Nyaribo airstrip, the President met Mt Kenya MPs in a tightly controlled meeting where he read the riot act to them for making demands through the media.
According to several sources at the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, the President was furious with the MPs for addressing him through the press.
He is reported to have told the MPs, "You know where and how to get me". He was apparently responding to their complaints that he is unreachable, and that they have not been able to meet him since the 2017 elections.
After the dressing-down, none of the lawmakers who attended the forum at the Central regional commissioner's official residence would speak to journalists on record.
“The President was particularly angry with an outspoken Kiambu MP for engaging the media. We have sworn not to speak to the press. The reports on our Naivasha meeting misquoted the proceedings,” one MP claimed.
The legislators presented their memorandum calling for more resources to be allocated to the region, but the President said all projects should follow the budget passed by Parliament and encouraged the lawmakers to engage with Cabinet Secretaries in implementing the programmes.
President Kenyatta, apparently not amused by the leaders' discussions during a recent retreat in Naivasha, said that he will not be dragged into their politics.
And speaking after opening the Karatina market, which has taken eight years to complete, President Kenyatta referred to his meeting with Western region leaders, whom he told to unite and look for solutions to the challenges facing sugar cane farmers. He said he will engage with Mount Kenya legislators only when they present development ideas as a united front.
“Hapa pia tunajua kuna shida ya kahawa badala ya kila saa ni stories mingi huko huko, viongozi wa hapa wakae pamoja na mawaziri walete plan. (This region has challenges facing the coffee sector. Instead of loitering, they should sit down with Cabinet secretaries and look for solutions,” he said.
He accused the leaders of engaging in baseless politics instead of discussing the problems facing the electorate.
“Let them make noise but I will not give them an ear. I will focus on the people's grievances,” he said in Kikuyu.
On succession politics, Governor Mutahi Kahiga warned the Kikuyu against being misled by politicians seeking to succeed the President as the region's kingpin.“ We have only one leader whom we will follow and we will not consider anyone else. We will take the direction the President gives us,” he said.
Mukurweini MP Anthony Kiai told the President to reciprocate the support they gave him during the last election by implementing projects.
Responding to a proposal by Senator Kangata to include the President in the next government, Mr Kiai said the President had shown no interest in ruling after his term expires and warned politicians pushing for constitutional changes to accommodate him.
“The President has already said he is not interested in extending his term and politicians should stop pushing that agenda. Let us allow him to implement his Big Four agenda and stop engaging in politics,” he said.
Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina said before the region can decide on the next kingpin, leaders must first unite and speak with one voice.
The President handed the market to the county government after eight years of long wait for traders who had been relocated to pave way for its expansion in 2010.