Political battles for 2017 gubernatorial positions in Mt Kenya region are spilling over to public functions at an alarming rate.
This has led to premature campaigns and political competition that many fear will hinder development in the region.
Already, such rivalry has been displayed in Kiambu County pitting Governor William Kabogo and Kabete MP Ferdinard Waititu. In Murang’a County, Governor Mwangi wa Iria has been caught up in a face-off with Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau.
Just last month, Nyeri Governor Nderitu Gachagua had a public spat with Kieni MP Kanini Kega over the rejection of Monica Juma as Secretary to the Cabinet.
The duo had a fierce verbal exchange during a public function at Chaka Trading Centre in Kieni. And in Nyandarua, area Governor Daniel Waithaka has had differences with his deputy Mwangi Kirika.
With such rivalries, supporters of the different factions do not see eye-to-eye in what is developing into a worrying trend.
Supporters of Mr Kabogo and Mr Waititu clashed during the prayers for Deputy President William Ruto and Joshua Sang in Ruiru on Sunday. Area MP Esther Gathogo described such incidents as unfortunate and unwarranted.
“Those who organised the mayhem should be held to account and apologise to me, the people of Ruiru and the visitors for painting such a bad picture,” Ms Gathogo said.
She said leaders come from God and asked those angling for political positions in the next elections to be patient, meetings that are bound to create ension and fracas should not be organised in her constituency.
Her Thika Town counterpart Alice Ng’ang’a termed the incident as an embarrassment, saying those involved erred for turning a prayer rally in to a theatre for political duels.
The lawmaker said the General Election was still too far away, adding that leaders should focus on fulfilling development pledges instead of engaging in unnecessary political theatrics and side-shows.
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria said such a thing should not be allowed to happen again since it was a threat to the growth of democracy. He, however downplayed the incident saying it was an isolated case that does not paint the whole region as being notorious for political intolerance.
Concerning another political duel between supporters of Mr Iria and Mr Kamau witnessed in Murang’a during a function presided over by Deputy President William Ruto, Kandara MP Alice Wahome said the leaders should not turn the region into a battle field but should accept criticism as a pointer to making wiser decisions in future.
“I witnessed the whole scenario as the governor greeted other leaders present and ignored Kamau only to identify him as a person undermining his leadership,” Ms Wahome said.
Wahome was seated near Kamau when the governor burst onto their table followed by his supporters.
“I’m shocked by the level of political intolerance showed by certain leaders who feel threatened by the presence of others in venues,” she said.
Maragua MP Peter Kamande criticised Iria for failing to control his temper when he came across Kamau.
“I am ashamed. If the governor can dare an elected leader, what would happen if a resident challenged him demanding answers?” Mr Kamande wondered.
Speaking to The Standard, Kamau blamed the emerging trend on power-hungry individuals out to suppress their colleagues instead of addressing public interests.
“The political positions we are holding belong to the public. None should misuse them by declining to respond to public issues when asked to do so,” he said.
Iria said he was concerned with leaders spreading misinformation to the public.
“Leaders should not undermine others but in case of issues they should seek for information from the concerned offices,” the county chief said.
And speaking on what happened during the prayer rally at Ruiru, Kabogo said he wanted to remind his fellow leaders that he was the one who was in-charge of the county.
“I am the leader here and all of you should know that. This is my territory and I am the one who has the say here,” he said.
In the neighbouring Nyandarua County, political temperatures are already high with leaders popularising themselves ahead of 2017. Many politicians have been traversing the county drumming up support for their candidature in the next General Election, which is two years away.
But it is the seat of the governor currently being held by Mr Waithaka that has attracted the fiercest competition.
The talk that his deputy, who stepped down in his favour in 2013, might be his possible successor has caused a major rift between the two leaders.
In a bid to try and dilute his popularity, the governor has of late been touring Kinangop, the political backyard of Mr Kirika. Supporters of the deputy governor, however, insist they will be going for nothing less than the gubernatorial position in the next polls.
Former Head of Civil Service Francis Kimemia has also been touted as another possible contestant for the governorship.
The former powerful civil servant has been frequenting public functions with the latest one being in Mairo Inya two weeks ago. Mr Kimemia has however, not made public his intentions to run come the next elections.
Ol Kalou MP David Kiaraho is another politician who many people believe is eyeing the seat. The MP is a fierce critic of the governor.
Reports by Kamau Maichuhie, Boniface Gikandi and James Munyeki