Former Central Kenya legislators have hinted at forming a coalition with Opposition chief Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party.
The politicians, who held a four-hour closed-door meeting with ODM deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya, declared support for the ‘handshake’ between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.
The private meeting was held at Mr Oparanya’s home in Karen, Nairobi, on Tuesday evening.
Led by former senators Mutahi Kagwe (Nyeri), Kembi Gitura (Murang’a) and Muriuki Karue (Nyandarua), the politicians on Saturday said they were also checking on the Kakamega governor since he has been unwell.
They said although their discussion touched on the 2022 presidential election, the issue of a referendum to change the country’s governance structure from a purely presidential to a parliamentary system took centre stage.
In June, the same team and some businessmen from the region held a three-hour closed-door meeting at a Nairobi hotel where they vowed to work with Mr Odinga.
“There are going to be so many alliances and in politics, many things happen. We went to see Raila sometimes back and we are going to have many more meetings with other leaders all over the country,” Mr Gitura said.
Though the politicians were edged out of elective politics after the disputed Jubilee Party primaries last year, Mr Gitura said they are not bitter and are not against Deputy President William Ruto’s presidential ambitions.
A section of the losers in the primaries blamed Mr Ruto for their loss, saying he interfered with the nominations and "planted" his preferred candidates in the region.
Mr Gitura insisted the group is not hiding its activities and will continue engaging with Opposition politicians, although majority of Mt Kenya voters and elected leaders support Mr Ruto’s bid.
Asked about a political coalition between Central and Nyanza regions, Mr Kagwe did not rule out the possibility of the pact.
“These are communities (Kikuyus and Luos) that are very well-entrenched in terms of academic, political and economic life of this country. It is important for all communities to feel wanted and part of the country. It is not unusual for the Lake (region) and Central coming together,” Mr Kagwe said.
He referred to the 2002 general-election when President Mwai Kibaki won with a landslide after Mr Odinga endorsed his candidature and the two communities voted as a bloc.
Former Kandara MP Joshua Toro, who was part of the delegation to Mr Oparanya’s residence, said the meeting was part of the March 9 peace deal between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.
“The ‘handshake’ means we are working together politically as Jubilee and ODM. If we were not working together, maybe you will not see us visiting the deputy party leader of ODM,” Mr Toro said.
Others present were former deputy governors Gakure Monyo (Murang’a), Gerald Githinji (Kiambu) and former Kasarani MP John Njoroge.
But political commentator Phillip Kamau laughed off the former legislators’ political moves.
“They should have started by seeking the mandate of the Central Kenya people to shop for a presidential candidate since President Kenyatta is retiring. Their agenda and strategy are misplaced. They are shortsighted,” he said.
He said their political schemes will cause division in Central Kenya voting bloc.
“After the handshake, Mr Odinga has become a third centre of power after the President and Mr Ruto. There is a hidden memorandum; and as a community, Mt Kenya should be thinking of how they can benefit from their numerical strength,” he said.
However, Mr Kagwe said the caucus is yet to agree on a common presidential candidate.
“We are avoiding the 2022 issue because we are supporting different people,” he said.
Since the truce, Mr Odinga has met different political leaders and lobby groups for at least 13 times.
For instance, on August 14, another team of politicians from Mt Kenya East led by former Tigania West MP Kilemi Mwiria met Mr Odinga at his Capitol Hill office and pledged their support for him.
Mr Odinga also hosted Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, ex-Mungiki leader Maina Njenga and former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo.
Some analysts are speculating that the meetings are a pointer that Mr Odinga might take a fifth stab at the presidency in 2022.