By Juma Kwayera
Confronted with questions of whether President Kibaki should be succeeded by a kinsman or risk fuelling ethnic tension that characterise every election cycle, the Mt Kenya bloc is having a relook at its options, with pressure piling on Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta to defer his presidential ambition.
Uhuru, now the axis of central Kenya politics, is playing his cards close to the chest as he evaluates his chances of winning the top perch, the pressure from local opinion leaders notwithstanding.
Consequently, his allies say it would not surprise if he broke ranks with G7 in response to ‘prevailing conventional wisdom’ that a Kikuyu should not succeed another lest it rekindles 41-versus-1 ethnic animosity that precipitated the 2008 post-election violence.
Notably, the Deputy Prime Minister’s aides have lately been unwilling to broach the subject underlining his dilemma, with director of communication Munyori Buku wondering why the same question is not being asked of potential competitors — William Ruto, Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka or Martha Karua.
“Uhuru has not told anybody he wants to quit the race. To respond to such questions is to validate a non-existent issue. Those are malicious rumours,” Mr Buku says. But political undercurrents in Central suggest otherwise, with pointers to a gradual drift to the willingness to support a non-Gema candidate.
Pressure on Uhuru has been mounting with the entry of the United Democratic Forum (UDF) led by Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, who during a tour of the region last week challenged his counterpart “gucokia guoko” (return favour). Mudavadi sacrificed his political career in 2002 to be his Uhuru’s running mate.
In a rare show of a break with Mt Kenya conservatism, Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni and Laikipia West MP Nderitu Murithi were candid with the electorate, telling them at rallies Mudavadi addressed in Maua, Sagana, and the Methodist Church in Meru that it amounted to political bigotry for the region to ask other communities to support their candidate yet they do not reciprocate.
Murithi and Kioni have been particularly candid in arguing that ethnic hostility in Rift Valley is still palpable and reconciliation is only possible if they supported a non-Gema candidate. Kioni argued it is bad faith for Gema to vote for one of their own yet they constitute just 20 per cent of the electorate. Mirithi went further and used the biblical Esther and King Modechai parable to implore the region to accept to be kingmakers for the national good.
Prior to the tour, Public Works Assistant Minister Mwangi Kiunjuri had expressed concern that ordinary Kikuyus have been “persecuted because of 20 filthy rich people.