President Uhuru Kenyatta Sunday came out guns blazing against his critics in his Mt Kenya backyard, warning them that he was still the regional political kingpin, and that they should not mistake his silence for cowardice.
In a dramatic show of a worsening falling-out within Jubilee Party, the Head of State, who in a fit of rage switched from Kiswahili to his native Kikuyu language while addressing an Akorino gathering at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi, said those against the Building Bridges Initiative — the nationwide reconciliation drive he spearheads with Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga — will not stop him from pursuing peace and unity of all Kenyans.
The home-grown opposition, he added, will also not stop him from showing the Mt Kenya region the direction to take come 2022. And, to illustrate how serious he regarded the succession politics, he said leaders who have been on an early campaign rampage have been insulting him and vowed to go round the Mt Kenya region to “deal with them”.
He called the defiant leaders mikora, the pejorative Kiswahili word for “crooks”, saying they had failed to support him in his unity mission, which aims to leave “a stable and unified country and to end tribal ethnicity”.
An amorphous political grouping which refers to itself as Tanga Tanga has been campaigning for Deputy President William Ruto to succeed President Kenyatta, and has indicated that it is against the political truce between the President and Mr Odinga. The group draws significant membership from the Mt Kenya region, all the way from members of county assemblies to members of Parliament, senators and governors.
Deputy President William Ruto, who was also at Kasarani, has also previously poured cold water on the dalliance between the two top leaders, saying Mr Odinga’s aim is to wreck Jubilee Party from within.
As the President spoke , the Kieleweke faction of Jubilee Party, led by nominated MP Maina Kamanda and Cherengany MP Joshua Kutuny, also warned politicians opposed to the truce between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga to prepare to face the wrath of the electorate in 2022.
Speaking during a church service at ACK St Thomas Parish in Huruma in Nairobi, the leaders said the political truce between the two leaders has brought tranquillity in the country, and therefore Kenyans should vote out anyone opposed to it come 2022.
On Saturday, Mr Ruto told off a group of Nyanza leaders pushing President Kenyatta to pick Mr Odinga as his preferred successor, terming it “a pipe dream”.
During the funeral service of the mother of Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyongo on Friday, National Assembly Minority leader John Mbadi and Siaya Senator James Orengo, in a seemingly co-ordinated manner, asked the President, who was present, not to endorse thieves but instead to name Mr Odinga as his successor.
But on Sunday in a speech punctuated by name-calling and threats, Mr Kenyatta said he had no interest in retaining power, and that his only mission now is ending tribal politics. Calling for forgiveness among Kenyans, he urged political leaders to forget the past and embrace the spirit of a new Kenya.
Dismissing those campaigning against him as “rubbish”, he said once he goes all-out against them, they will have nowhere to hide.
The President did not name anyone in his speech, which appeared to be directed at the Tanga Tanga brigade allied to his deputy, who sat calmly through his rant. After he was done, the President slumped back into his seat and embarked on a chit-chat with Mr Ruto.
In his address before the President took over the microphone, the DP had announced that a title deed he had promised for land on which the Akorino church wants to build a pastoral college was ready. He said the President was there to fulfil the promise.
To the President, he said: “The way you trusted the Akorino church, I also believe that you trusted me to be your deputy. I am here today because you gave me a chance out of millions of Kenyans, to which I am grateful. Thank you for making me the person that I am today.”
The DP had earlier attended a church service-cum-funds drive in aid of 16 churches at Chebororwa in Elgeyo-Marakwet County, where he hit out at some forces he said were eyeing his job.
Reporting by Ndungu Gachane, Anita Chepkoech, and Leonard Onyango