Why Muturi stands out among aspirants from Mount Kenya

OPINION |

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The political heat that has been building up in the central Kenya region could melt the ice caps on Mt Kenya by the time the electioneering fray reaches a climax in 2022.

Never before, since the advent of multi-party politics in 1992, has Mt Kenya become such a focal point of the presidential seat competition. By last week, it looked like the presidential race will only be conducted in Mt Kenya, going by the number of visits into the region by the top contenders.

The factors that have led to this scramble for Mt Kenya are clear. Key among them is that for the first time in a presidential election, the region seems to have started late in the day and without a domineering figure. The region has always voted for their own, whether they won or not.

The perception this time around, buttressed by President Uhuru Kenyatta when he said in January during the funeral service of presidential contestant Musalia Mudavadi’s mother Mama Hannah that Mt Kenya and the Kalenjin community should not field a presidential candidate, appeared to rattle the region’s ambition while Rift Valley was spurred to propel their own–Deputy President William Ruto.

However, the mountain now appears to have rallied late to claw back lost ground and make serious bids for the presidency while staking claims for other positions for its leaders.

Where Dr Ruto had initially seemed to ride downhill with little resistance, regional leaders have lately woken up to rally their people not to let go of the seat, or at least to bid for tangible positions in the next government.

Names that have launched a fight for the Mountain leadership include Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi, Murangá Governor Mwangi wa Iria and former Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri. Others include Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru. Health CS Mutahi Kagwe is also being mentioned as a likely contender.

Region’s spokesperson

Of the efforts launched by Mt Kenya leaders, Speaker Justin Muturi is seen as the most vibrant, having started by going to great lengths to position himself as the region’s spokesperson. He has said repeatedly he wants the top seat, marketing his bid with the mantra “order, integrity and prosperity”.

Over a week ago, Muturi was endorsed by the Democratic Party as their presidential candidate, which he has acknowledged. The party, that is credited with having propelled Mwai Kibaki, its founder, to State House, still holds forte and respect in Mt Kenya Region. A grand fete is expected to soon unveil the candidate, who has resisted overtures by several politicians to join the surging Ruto wave in the region.

Muturi has warned the region's leaders who have joined Ruto’s UDA party not to go into the 2022 elections without a party that is rooted in Mt Kenya.

None of the other regional contenders is seen to carry the leadership clout that Muturi has, having been National Assembly Speaker for two terms, placing him as number three in the executive pecking order behind the president and his deputy.

However, if Muturi or any other regional leader carries the Mt Kenya leadership clout to the 2022 elections, they will have to wear enough armour to contend with titanic battles from outside the region.

Ruto and his UDA party have shaken the region like no other contender from outside Mt Kenya has ever managed since 1992. ODM’s Raila Odinga has made forays in the past week that signalled his intention to take a chunk of the region’s support. Musalia Mudavadi of ANC and Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka have also been hunting in the shadow of the snow-capped mountain that locals call Kirinyaga.

What Muturi and other regional leaders are bound to consolidate in their home ground will be subject to the invasion of kingpins from elsewhere.

However, for Muturi, if he can sustain his upward trajectory, he would be the leader to contend with anyone seeking to scale the peaks of Kenya’s tallest mountain.

Prof Naituli, a former NCIC commissioner, is a lecturer at Multimedia University

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