As the Uhuru Kenyatta succession war within Jubilee intensifies, the main political poser for the two camps in the party is now on how the Mt Kenya bloc will vote and whether the populous Kikuyu community will field a serious challenger to Deputy President William Ruto.
This week, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, in a bid to test the political waters, asserted that Kenyans were not ready for another Kikuyu President — a rather out-of-the-blue remark, as there is no serious contender from the community for the 2022 race.
Ms Waiguru, who recently shifted her alliance from DP Ruto to Orange Democratic Movement leader Mr Raila Odinga — perhaps Mr Ruto’s most serious challenger — forced the DP to challenge her on social media, accusing the Kirinyaga governor of driving a tribal ideology. Whether Ms Waiguru’s salvo was directed at DP Ruto, by extension, is not clear.
In a country where only the Kikuyu and Kalenjin have produced a President since independence, Ms Waiguru had remarked that another Kikuyu presidency would make other communities feel excluded from the country’s top leadership. She did not mention Mr Ruto.
While advocating for a system of government that creates the posts of a prime minister with two deputies, the governor said only two communities (Kalenjin and Kikuyu) have continued to dominate the presidency.
Kenya’s founding President Jomo Kenyatta, retired President Mwai Kibaki and President Uhuru Kenyatta hail from the populous Kikuyu community while former President Daniel Moi is from the Kalenjin community.
Mr Ruto, who is seeking to succeed President Kenyatta in 2022, is also a Kalenjin — which explains the DP’s response.
On Thursday, Mr Ruto said President Kenyatta was not elected because of his ethnic background but competency. “We supported and voted for Uhuru to succeed Kibaki not [because] of ethnicity but competence,” stated the DP on Twitter.
Lately, he has been using the microblogging site to attack or dismiss individuals who have taken political positions that he is uncomfortable with.
He continued: “[President Kenyatta] is not leader of any ethnic community but that of Jubilee, the largest political party with MCAs, MPs and Gov’s (governors) in 41 of 47 counties and President of Kenya. Muwache kasumba ya ukabila pls (please stop the ideology of tribalism)”.
While a number of nondescript leaders from the Mt Kenya region — Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria and Tharaka-Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki — have shown interest in succeeding President Kenyatta, who is serving his second and last term in office, the region has become the main hunting ground for votes and their perceived candidacies have been drowned by the din of the Kieleweke and Tangatanga supporters.
For her part, and to the chagrin of the Tangatanga team, Ms Waiguru had previously stated that she had received offers to be a presidential running mate, thus putting her in the front row as titans fight for the ultimate trophy.
Ms Waiguru, a close ally of President Kenyatta and who has indicated that the Mt Kenya region was ready for an Odinga presidency, is a key proponent of the unity between the President and the ODM leader in the region.
There are widespread predictions that the Building Bridges Initiative task force, which was formed by President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, would propose an expanded Executive to create the position of prime minister to ensure more communities are represented.
“When we have more seats in the government, Kenyans will feel well represented and there will be no chaos after the elections. I do not advocate for the government whereby the winner takes it all,” said Ms Waiguru.
But this has been opposed by DP Ruto’s supporters, who argue that such changes amount to constitutionalising exclusivity.
Speaking in Nyeri recently, Mr Ruto dismissed the proposal. “I want to tell our friends who are making ridiculous proposals, if you say you want to change the Constitution so that you can have five positions for five ethnic communities, what will happen to the rest of the communities?’ he posed.