By Gakuu Mathenge
Leaders from three Central Kenya communities are planning a second meeting of political, community and religious players to discuss various social and political issues. There are doubts, however, whether any resolutions the elders and other leaders reach will have any impact on the electorate.
The gathering of the so-called â Gema nationâ elite is planned for Thursday this week at the Jumuiya Conference Centre, Limuru. It comes in the wake of the recent deaths of prominent leaders John Michuki and Njenga Karume, and Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, which have been seen as the end of an era for the region and the beginning of a new one.
It also comes at a time the rallying of voters into ethnic blocs has come under sharp criticism.
President Kibaki, another leading light in the region, retires next year and is expected to leave active politics, opening up both the region and the nation to a leadership contest.
Sources told the Standard on Saturday that all Members of Parliament from counties dominated by the three communities, civic leaders, former MPs, former mayors and chairmen of local authorities, have been invited, as well as women, youth and religious leaders. Dubbed Limuru II, the meeting follows another attempt in 2010 to chart a joint political course for the communities.
A key player in the regionâs politics is Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, 50, who says he plans to run for the presidency in the next election despite being weighed down by an impending trial for crimes against humanity at the International criminal Court at The Hague.
His local competition mostly lags well behind him, with Narc-Kenyaâs Martha Karua, 54, having the strongest showing in opinion polls. Several other players from outside the community are also making strong plays for its support, hoping to break through with issues that cut across superficial ethnic divisions.
The prospect of an ICC trial not long after a Trial Bench is set up in May getting in the way of Uhuruâs presidential ambition has left the elite in the region in a bind. A transitional General Election is just months away and they must decide behind which candidate to rally to protect their interests. Their decision, however, will be tempered by an understanding of their sway with the masses they claim to represent.
"Major issues of concern to the country and region are lined up for discussion and a major announcement will be made after the meeting," says Major (Rtd) Stephen Karau, CEO of the Mt Kenya Foundation, the lobby group hosting the event.
Chaired by Equity Bank Board Chairman Peter Munga, an influential elder, MKF brings together business, political and cultural leaders. It is the most powerful community lobby group in the area.
A similar meeting ( Limuru I) was convened during 2010 Referendum to whip the region behind the new constitution after it emerged a section of the Gema community, especially influential landowners and church organisations were thinking of voting âNoâ. The return to the historic Limuru venue, which is also where pioneer nationalists formed Kanu in 1960, is hoped to achieve a similar rallying to a cause.