The big fightback: Uhuru sets off on a quest for his backyard

Wednesday March 18 2020
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President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses residents of Igembe Central, Meru County, where he led the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of New KCC Nyambene Milk Plant, on February 1, 2020. He is doling out development goodies. PHOTO | PSCU

By OSCAR OBONYO

President Uhuru Kenyatta has started an aggressive fightback to regain his political backyard and stem rebellion from MPs in Mt Kenya that is threatening to make him a lame duck President three years before the end of his term.

In a carrot-and-stick strategy, the President has already toured four counties this week and more are planned in his itinerary.

In addition to tours, he is also punishing rebels, doling out development goodies, realigning Parliament’s leadership and resorting to sharp campaign language in a bid to recover his backyard from the grip of Deputy President William Ruto.

Since teaming up with President Uhuru Kenyatta to deliver crucial wins in the 2013 and 2017 presidential elections, Dr Ruto has enjoyed near fervent support among residents of Mt Kenya region and received an arousing reception whenever he visits.

ALLIES HONOURED

MPs from the region have also pledged their allegiance to Dr Ruto, breeding disquiet among a section of leaders over the intensity of the DP’s political activities.

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The initial alarm bells were sounded by former Limuru MP George Nyanja, the self-styled ‘General Kayaba’.

“You are not welcome in this county unless you are accompanied by Uhuru. How can someone go to another person’s home without his knowledge?” posed the combative politician in January last year.

And now, the President is reacting. This week, President Kenyatta toured four counties in a carefully scripted tour in which detractors have been locked out and his allies given prominent roles.

He has toured Nakuru, Nyandarua, Kirinyaga and Meru. Dr Ruto’s allies have been locked out of the meetings.

In Kirinyaga on Saturday, entrance was restricted to a list compiled by the provincial administration and Uhuru allies led by Governor Anne Waiguru.

During his tour of Nakuru last week, he targeted Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, accusing the abrasive politician of repeatedly abusing him and “for selling fear” to the people of Rift Valley.

HYENAS ON THE LOOSE

The President’s critics, like Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika, were also locked out.

And on Friday, while launching the construction of the Sh1.8 billion Naivasha to Njabini road in Nyandarua County, MPs allied to Dr Ruto were chased from the meeting by area Governor Francis Kimemia.

The President hit out at political leaders who were preoccupied with the 2022 premature campaigns and, in a language last seen in 2017, threw down the gauntlet at Dr Ruto and his allies.

“I no longer trust anyone,” said the President in Githioro, Kinangop, visibly agitated but still careful not to drop any names despite prodding from a jubilant crowd.

He used the sharp metaphoric Kikuyu language that was employed in 2013 to rally the region behind him as he was facing ICC cases at The Hague.

“Those I used to send to represent me and ensure that development projects are on the right track started behaving like hyenas and doing their own things to enrich themselves. Let no one cheat you; from today, I am not sending anyone to help me. I’ll do it myself.”

Dr Ruto has been attending events and harambees and giving contributions to churches saying they are from the President.

KIUNJURI SACKED

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu claims the DP has tried to deliberately undermine the President’s political clout and influence in Mt Kenya so that the region supports him directly rather than through Mr Kenyatta.

“Ruto does not want this as it would have made it harder to manipulate the region and it’s leaders as we head into 2022”.

However, Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro maintains the President enjoys unrivalled support in Mt Kenya region.

The problem, according Mr Nyoro, is the few politicians in the region who purport to speak for the President and who “are always lighting fire under his (President) seat with the view of seeking political relevance and favours”.

The President is also politically neutralising rivals and firing those who refuse to toe his line in Mt Kenya.

He fired the first salvo by sacking Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri.

Two weeks later, former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu was impeached and his ouster hurried through a Kenya Gazette notice.

His deputy, Dr James Nyoro, was sworn in as the governor a day after the ouster.

LEANINGS

Mr Nyoro is an ardent Uhuru supporter, unlike Waititu who was backing the deputy president.

Senators allied to President Kenyatta and his new-found ally, ODM leader Raila Odinga, voted for Mr Waititu’s ouster while those allied to DP Ruto tried to save him.

The fact that Waititu was facing corruption charges did not help his cause.

It is instructive that Friday’s swearing-in was attended by politicians allied to the Kieleweke wing of Jubilee, which is associated with the President, led by Maina Kamanda (Nominated MP), Gathoni Wamuchomba (Kiambu Women Rep), Jude Njomo (Kiambu Town), Peter Mwathi (Limuru), Isaac Mwaura (Nominated), and former MPs George Nyanja (Limuru) and Dennis Waweru (Dagoretti South).

Kiambu legislators allied to the DP skipped the event as the crowd resisted attempts to be addressed by Ruiru MP Simon Ng’ang’a, who was in attendance.

The message from the speakers at the Nyoro swearing-in event was uniform and clear — that the President’s home county, as Mr Waweru put it, had been “liberated by the Senate Handshake team” and that going forward the region would solidly rally behind the President.