But even as central Kenya aspirants fight off the ‘lock-out’ strategy, they are grappling with an intra-region power struggle. Karua and Mr Kenneth are against a push by Uhuru camp’s push for ‘regional unity’. They see this as an inwardly directed ethnic card intended to force them to back down for Uhuru. Narc Kenya leader Karua says every candidate should rise or fall on merit alone.
She says Kenyatta and Kibaki were elected in their personal capacity, not for a tribe, clan or family. She read mischief into calls for leaders from the community to stay out of the race noting former President Moi’s presidency hasn’t evoked similar criticism against aspirants from Rift Valley.
Kenneth, who intends to run on a Kenya National Congress (KNC) ticket, says the Constitution does not bar anyone from vying on basis of tribal origin. “The issue of tribe should not arise as I will vie as a Kenyan, not a Kikuyu,” he says. “Track record and what the candidate stands for should be the key determinants.”
The Gatanga MP’s successful management of his Constituency Development Fund, ranked highly in successive years, is one of the pillars of his candidature.
Uhuru’s camp declined to comment saying doing so would lend legitimacy to the outrageous campaign. “Mr Kenyatta has not been and will never be a Kikuyu candidate,” said an aide who declined to be named, underscoring the contempt with which Uhuru’s camp views anyone propagating such strategy. “He will vie and compete according to the conditions set by the law. He has always been steadfast in refusing to be dragged into reinforcing a debate on a non-issue.”
The Gatundu South MP has in the past insisted his candidature shouldn’t be viewed in the narrow prism of tribe or his father’s tenure.
The chairman of the Central Kenya Parliamentary Group Ephraim Maina said it is wrong and dictatorial to ask people to give up their ambitions.
President of the African Policy Institute Prof Peter Kagwanja sees the affront as chiefly directed at Uhuru and Ruto who present credible oppositions because of their political shrewdness and financial muscle.
“From the day the ICC confirmed charges against Uhuru and Ruto, it became evident that having their names on the ballot paper was going to be a very steep and slippery climb,” says Kagwanja. “The two are wealthy, and potentially the only ones, together with the Prime Minister, capable of financing their own elections even before fundraising.”
Prof Kagwanja said an Uhuru-Ruto ticket is potentially a winning card, commanding about 25 counties in the Rift Valley to Central and Eastern Kenya.