Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, who in 2015 had a major political falling out after she was accused of being part of a scheme to embezzle funds from the National Youth Service, this week opened up about her love-hate relationship with opposition leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto, both of whom led separate choruses of condemnation against her when the scandal first broke out.
In a candid interview with the Saturday Nation, the governor said the Sh791 million NYS scandal stained her career as a technocrat at the Devolution ministry, where she was the Cabinet Secretary, but added that, despite the evidence presented in court against her, she was still cleared of any malpractice by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission in 2016.
Ms Waiguru has all along proclaimed her innocence in the matter, and at one point sued Mr Odinga for defamation after he linked her to the scandal. She has since withdrawn the case.
On her newfound rapport with Mr Odinga, who called for her sacking as Minister when hairdresser Josephine Kabura, in an explosive affidavit, accused the governor and her close associates of hatching elaborate schemes to cover up the loss of money at the NYS, Ms Waiguru explained that it was in the spirit of the ‘Handshake’, referring to the political truce between Mr Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“We agreed to settle our differences outside the court in the spirit of the Handshake, and for the cohesion and reconciliation of the country,” she said.
As part of the truce with the former Prime Minister, Ms Waiguru campaigned for ODM candidate Imran Okoth during the recent Kibra by-election, and has now become a regular visitor to Mr Odinga’s Capitol Hill office in Nairobi.
In the interview, Ms Waiguru defended her association with Mr Odinga, saying the handshake and the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) guaranteed Mt Kenya region, from where she hails, a stake in the country’s leadership beyond 2022.
She argued that the BBI report provided the best option for the region regarding the next political dispensation as it provides for the creation of the post of the Prime Minister and two deputies, in addition to the President and his or her Deputy.
Of the five top positions, Ms Waiguru argued, one must be from the region, possibly a woman, given its numbers.
“For the 2022 politics, I am reviewing the options available but I will be seeking to sit on the bargaining table since I want to contribute to the governance of this country, and I believe I have what it takes to contribute to the service of our people. We hope that we shall have two leaders deputising the Prime Minister and one Deputy President, totalling five positions, and 30 per cent of these positions must go to women,” she explained.
She said her political moves, including the recent ditching of Mr Ruto’s camp to lead campaigns for the BBI report in the Mt Kenya region, were well-meaning as the pro-Ruto group was only interested in criticising President Kenyatta’s development record and championing the DP’s political interests instead of pushing for the region’s interests.
“I have decamped from Dr Ruto’s camp and am now happy because the future of Mt Kenya has been secured by the BBI,” said Ms Waiguru, who also accused Dr Ruto’s allies of disrespecting the President instead of supporting him to realise his objectives.
“It is wrong when leaders, who are supposed to be busy making good laws in Parliament, and some Cabinet Secretaries, who should formulate polices to streamline the agriculture sector, become avid critics of the President instead of helping him,” she said, in an apparent jab at Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri, who has in recent days hobnobbed with the pro-Ruto brigade.
This, though, is not the first time the Kirinyaga Governor is clashing with Dr Ruto. At the height of the NYS scandal, Dr Ruto publicly challenged her to explain her role in the matter instead “catwalking” all over town with her innocence arguments.
They later closed ranks after the last General Elections, and Dr Ruto even presided over her homecoming ceremony, amid speculation that she could be the DP’s running mate in 2022.
And then, just as the cards appeared to line up for her within the Ruto circles, she decamped to the Kenyatta-Odinga faction.
During the interview, Ms Waiguru asked Dr Ruto to warn his supporters against insulting President Kenyatta, saying it could be misconstrued that such leaders have his blessings.
She added that, since her defection, her interactions with the DP are now limited to meetings of the Inter-Government Budget and Economic Council (IBEC), which he (Dr Ruto) chairs.