President Kenyatta is slowly losing the political support of Mt Kenya leaders and their constituents to Deputy President William Ruto, who has focused on building loyalty and followers in the region.
Two groups have emerged in the region — one backing Mr Ruto’s bid for presidency in 2022, another solidly behind President Kenyatta and awaiting political direction from him on the way forward.
In Murang’a, Mr Ruto has three loyal Members of Parliament who defend him under the Tangatanga group, while four MPs are under the opposing Kieleweke, which is bitterly opposed to his presidential bid.
Pro-Ruto MPs in Murang’a are Ms Alice Wahome (Kandara), Mr Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu) and Maragua’s Mary Waithira, while pro-Kenyatta MPs are Senator Irungu Kangata, Mr Muturi Kigano (Kangema), Ms Ruth Mwaniki (Kigumo) and Mr Nduati Ngugi (Gatanga).
In Kiambu, Governor Ferdinand Waititu and MPs Kimani Ichung’wa (Kikuyu), Jonah Mburu (Lari) and Githua Wamacukuru (Kabete) are the DP’s lieutenants, while Woman Rep Gathoni Muchomba and Kiambaa MP Paul Koinange have affiliated themselves with President Kenyatta.
In Kirinyaga, Woman Rep Wangui Ngirichi has declared support for Mr Ruto’s presidential bid, with other leaders opting for the middle ground.
Ms Catherine Waruguru is the DP’s pointman in Laikipia County.
In Nyeri, Governor Mutahi Kahiga, Woman Rep Rahab Mukami and Mr Rigathi Gachagua are pro-Ruto while Mr Ngunjiri Wambugu (Nyeri Town) and Kieni MP Kanini Kega are in President Kenyatta’s camp. Other local MPs are silent.
Without an obvious choice of a leader to succeed President Kenyatta as the region’s political kingpin, the politicians could be looking outside for one.
“Leaders from the region doing their second term are countable. Central Kenya doesn’t nurture leaders. If they lose in elections, they are confined to the political dustbin and mocked. In other regions like Western, leaders who lose are still given credibility and respect. That is why Musalia Mudavadi is still relevant,” political analyst JM Waiganjo said.
The former Ol Jororok MP and Nairobi lawyer said that while the leadership of Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, who has been touted as the likely Deputy President William Ruto’s running mate, has been precarious, former presidential candidate Peter Kenneth, who is leading the anti-Ruto team, has been inconsistent.
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, who has announced he will vie for presidency in 2022, is yet to cut a national outlook.
The ground started shifting after the 2017 Jubilee Party primaries, which the DP managed and supervised.
The losers accused the President keeping silent “when things turned haywire and leaders were imposed on the electorate”.
Since then, the region, which has been voting as a bloc, seems to be confused, with leaders reading from different scripts on the 2022 political road map.
MPs, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, told the Nation they decided to decamp to the Ruto camp because the President does not hold any meetings with them, leaving them with no alternative but to take their problems to the DP.
“He doesn’t pick calls and does not give us any audience, while Ruto regularly invites us to his Karen home and supports us with money for fundraising meetings and development projects,” an MP said.
He said Mr Ruto often meets all leaders, from MCAs to governors, and that he even reimburses fare and expenses incurred.
“There was a time we tried to approach the President on development in our region. He bashed and scolded us,” another MP from Kiambu said.
Political analyst Bernard Mwangi said Mr Ruto was emerging as the electorate’s favourite due to his countless visits and his demeanour as a humble, genuine and submissive deputy, adding this has worked for him politically. “He’s a man who seems to be playing his cards well, keeping the region very close, a thing the region’s kingpin is not doing. This could frustrate the President in 2022 if he decides to name his heir because his deputy has a considerable following,” he said.
Mr Waiganjo said Mr Ruto pays attention to their needs. “This started during the 11th Parliament, which I served. The DP takes time to know the legislators and their constituencies. He refers to members by name and constituency. He would discuss with them what they want in terms of development and put in his diary,” Mr Waiganjo said.
Mr Waiganjo believes it would be difficult for President Kenyatta to win back the loyalty of Mt Kenya MPs as he would not be vying in the 2022 polls.
“It is not clear whether President Kenyatta’s new found ally, Raila Odinga, would run or not. The MPs would not be forced to abandon their principal whom they always text and get feedback from,” Mr Waiganjo said.
A Maragua constituency politician Antony Chege, who lost in Jubilee Party primaries in 2017, said most of the office bearers in the region were ‘imposed’ by Mr Ruto, adding that they must protect and adhere to their master.
“The President left Mt Kenya leaders in their time of need and left Mr Ruto and Mr Raphael Tuju to manage the party primaries and the result is we have a crop of leaders who got the seats on a silver platter and must therefore defend and protect their master,” he said.
However, Mr Chege noted that Mr Kenyatta has never received full support from the region, referring to 2002 when Mt Kenya preferred former President Mwai Kibaki.
“In fact, we backed him in 2013 due to sympathy over the ICC cases,” he said.