A week ago, I travelled to Maragua in my native county, Murang’a, for a cultural ceremony involving the completion of betrothal rites by a young gentleman who is now married to a cousin of mine. That requires the gifting of a full-blooded ram (ndurume) to the in-laws. By custom, neither the hubby nor his wife are expected to attend.
You have to be careful, though, how much you eat of the fatty animal, otherwise you will have a running stomach for days. I had the opportunity to connect with cousins and relatives about local politics, which is currently quite hot there. I was told an upcoming visit by President Uhuru Kenyatta to Central Kenya is being awaited with great expectations.
First of all, the Murang’a locals want him to bring along his wife, Margaret, whose family originates from the county. Trouble is, according to the locals, she doesn’t root for the county’s development the way they think she should, something they blame on her upmarket upbringing, which is entirely in Nairobi.
There is great discontent in Murang’a County with the Uhuru administration over its development record there. He should expect a mouthful of demands when he visits. They will remind him they are his second largest vote bank in Central Kenya after Kiambu.
Yet they have little to show of government investment in the county. Roads are being done, yes, but not a single government-backed employment-generating facility has been established. Health infrastructure, like the new health insurance scheme, was piloted in the neighbouring Nyeri County. A new project for TV and cellphone base infrastructure is also to be sited there. The multi-billion-shilling Bidco factory in Kiambu is also being seen as having been influenced by Uhuru.
I know Murang’a is well and highly represented in this government. Problem is the locals don’t consider somebody like the Murang’a native James Macharia, who is the Transport CS, as a compelling Jubilee influencer the way his peers like Interior PS Karanja Kibicho (from Kirinyaga County ) and Trade CS Peter Munya (Meru County) have become. Macharia by the way has the most sprawling docket in the Cabinet, encompassing Transport, Urban Development, Infrastructure, Housing and Public Works – whatever that means.
Incidentally, the same Macharia annoyed locals at a recent forum when he tried to explain the planned dualling of the Kenol-Sagana-Marua highway and the exclusion of the Kenol-Murang’a town-Sagana loop, which they had been led to believe would be done simultaneously. That was according to a reported undertaking Uhuru made to former Murang’a senator Kembi Gitura, who had passionately pleaded for the dualling to pass through Murang’a town.
I must say I am not particularly interested in the politics of Maragua constituency. Leave me to wrestle with the intrigues of Mike Sonko, who is my governor in Nairobi. I am told the Maragua MP, Mary Waithira, is in Tanga Tanga. My first and only encounter with her was at the burial of another of my cousins at the same uncle’s home the ram ceremony was taking place. My politics is actually more focused in Kangema in the same county, where the legendary John Michuki lorded over as MP and has since been succeeded by his close ally, lawyer Muturi Kigano.
At the end of the day, Uhuru remains a son of the region. That’s why they call him kamwana. He is the most powerful figure they have. The disaffection I sensed is really not about him, but his inattention. His word ahead of 2022 will certainly carry decisive weight. At bottom they have noted what they see as Uhuru subtly selling Raila Odinga to them through loaded symbolic events. Actually, I have witnessed the trend myself several times, like when Uhuru tagged Raila to join him at the funeral in Murang’a of the Kikuyu cultural icon Joseph Kamaru.
Baba got a rapturous welcome from the crowds. I don’t know whether it’s because of the ‘Handshake’ or it was because they have overgrown their decades-old phobia of the Odinga family as being against Kikuyu national leadership.
Powerful, new-fangled groups like the Mt Kenya Forum, which has luminaries such as former Head of the Public Service Francis Muthaura, Equity Bank founder Peter Munga, and former head of the Kenyan military Julius Karangi, are guiding this shift of thinking in the Mt Kenya region.
Heck, with a line-up like that, everybody in the region is bound to take notice. The forum announced its arrival at a recent convocation at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, and it made no secret that its aim is to project the political direction of the Mt Kenya region post-Uhuru.
Already, the signs are manifest with Uhuru’s usual critics in Central Kenya taking cover or going underground altogether. They’ll do that for a while, until they see what Kieleweke are up to. Sorry, they will be fighting Uhuru himself. The political ground in Mt Kenya is shifting rapidly.