Unity eludes Mt Kenya leaders as reality of losing power looms

Wednesday March 18 2020
BBI

Governors Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua) and Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) at the Kenya Methodist University grounds in Meru on February 28, 2020 during a meeting to discuss issues to be presented during BBI rally at Kinoru Stadium. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By KENNEDY KIMANTHI
By WANJOHI GITHAE

The political future of the Mt Kenya region is expected to feature prominently in today’s Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) rally at Kinoru Stadium in Meru.

Without an agreed-on strategy ahead of the 2022 General Election, the region — the country’s most populous — finds itself in a political quagmire.

The reality has been slowly sinking in that exiting from State power carries the risk of marginalisation by rival power elites.

And that although the region could still produce a candidate to vie for the presidency in 2022, it could be forced to support an aspirant who is not one of their own.

POLITICAL LEADERSHIP

The meeting is expected to feature the political leadership of Embu, Meru, Kirinyaga, Laikipia, Murang’a, Nyeri, Tharaka-Nithi, Nyandarua, Nakuru and Kiambu.

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Even as governors and delegates from the participating counties met at Kenya Methodist University (KeMU) in Meru yesterday, what is worrying many observers is that in the last two years to the end of Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidency, there seems to be no clear leader from the region to pick up the baton.

Several meetings held across the region in the run-up to today’s rally were boycotted by some members of Parliament who support Deputy President William Ruto. The meetings were co-sponsored by Mt Kenya Foundation and Central Kenya Economic Bloc (Cekeb).

The Mt Kenya Foundation is made up of wealthy individuals from the region. The jury is still out on whether it has an impact at the grassroots level.

Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia was categorical that Mt Kenya region leadership needs to play a role in refining the BBI report.

The Cekeb chairman is also of the view that an expanded Executive will enhance national cohesion and representation of regions at the helm of the country where major decisions are made.

INCREASED ALLOCATION

In his address, Mr Kimemia pushed for increased allocation of funds to Mt Kenya counties, saying their combined economy is a major contributor to the national GDP.

“We need to push as a region, balanced sharing of resources and this can only be achieved if we talk in one voice,” he said

The open hostilities between camps allied to President Kenyatta and Raila Odinga on one hand and DP Ruto on the other also played out yesterday during the meeting.

MPs allied to DP Ruto accused Mr Odinga of “political conmanship” by using the handshake and BBI to advance his personal interests.

Chuka/Igambangombe MP Patrick Munene set the political tone, saying the notion of inclusivity in the Odinga-led BBI drive is doubtful given his future political interests.

Others who questioned Mr odinga’s presence at the Kemu meeting were MPs Gitonga Murugara (Tharaka), Beatrice Nkatha (Tharaka-Nithi woman rep) and Dr John Mutunga (Tigania West).

TRIVIALISATION

Mr Odinga’s involvement was however supported by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya and Kieni MP Kanini Kega.

Mr Munya told off those against Mr Odinga’s involvement in the BBI, arguing it was meant to unite Kenyans from all walks of life.

“We must stop this personalisation and trivialisation of the BBI. We must have changes that benefit each and every one of us,” he said.

Mr Odinga steered clear of the regional political wrangles, only insisting that the BBI meetings were the way to go for the good of the country.

Previously, the Gikuyu, Embu, Meru (Gema) vote has been under lock and key for one of their own, but the impending retirement of President Kenyatta, with no clear leader emerging to take over, has caused worry.

It is for this reason that the region’s leadership is pushing for the expansion of the executive, which has been proposed as the best way to achieve inclusivity.

KEY PROPOSALS

One of the region’s key proposals is the creation of the positions of prime minister and two deputies, which they see as a way of ensuring the region stays in power.

It has also made proposals touching on economic empowerment, protection of rights to own property and do business, and equitable sharing of resources.

Additional reporting by Gitonga Marete