Allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday continued to fire back at Deputy President William Ruto’s camp over 2022 succession wrangles that have rocked the ruling coalition.
On a day of well-coordinated Press briefings in Nairobi by Jubilee Party Secretary-General Raphael Tuju, serving and former Mt Kenya leaders, Uhuru’s wing pushed back criticism directed at him while sending out a stern warning to leaders allied to Ruto.
It started with a surprise closing of ranks by at least 18 Mt Kenya leaders – some erstwhile political protagonists – led by Narc-Kenya party leader Martha Karua and former presidential candidate Peter Kenneth, who described the “tanga tanga” group as propagandists out to divide the region for selfish 2022 political interest.
Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu, who has been oscillating in Ruto’s spectrum, also switched camps and warned those hitting at Uhuru that they would soon regret their actions.
Notably, it is a function on rehabilitating alcoholics in Kiambu County attended by the President that Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria cited to justify his claims that Mt Kenya region had been neglected despite overwhelmingly voting for Jubilee, a narrative that was taken up and amplified by Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri.
The rebellion in his backyard prompted a reaction from an angry Uhuru, who declared he would not be threatened by “washenzi” (savages), a jibe his critics turned around to suggest it was a thankless dig at Jubilee voters.
It has caught fire among Jubilee supporters in Mt Kenya and instructively Ms Karua yesterday clarified that the President was not referring to voters but a group of MPs that had irritated him with political noise.
Mr Kuria, after the flurry of briefings denouncing him and his group, had initially planned to convene a Press conference yesterday to respond but called it off at the last minute under unclear circumstances.
In the build-up to yesterday’s three meetings to denounce critics of the President, scores of Mt Kenya MPs allied to him, and who had not attended Ruto rallies, had the previous day held a hastily convened briefing in Parliament.
Later on Tuesday evening, Ruto tweeted, asking those dissatisfied with affairs in the Jubilee Party to raise their grievances through formal party channels.
In an apparent reference to protests about perceived marginalisation of Mt Kenya by Kuria and Mr Ngujiri, who are for his presidency bid, Ruto said supporters were yearning for more development projects. Yesterday, in another corner of the city, a group of MCAs also came out to defend the President while castigating politicians against his rapprochement with Opposition chief Raila Odinga.
Later in the day, Mr Tuju capped the day of continued wrangling by declaring support for Uhuru’s resolution to unite the country and spread development in all parts of the country.
A well-placed source within the Uhuru’s camps said: “We have to fight back,” pointing to a day of a well-choreographed political battle within the ruling party.
“We are not surprised to witness a lot of hangover of the ethnic-based political talk. However, President Uhuru is very clear, consistent and focused on the vision and mission of Jubilee to take the first bold step away from ethnically based politics,” said Tuju during a Press conference at the party’s headquarters.
In a thinly veiled attack at some Jubilee politicians who had in the recent past attacked Uhuru for not taking more development to Jubilee strongholds, Tuju said the Head of State had no choice but to be the President of the whole country.
At the Serena Hotel, where Karua, Mr Kenneth and Mr Waititu led a host of Mt Kenya leaders, the hosts made it clear that no one was entitled to take over from Uhuru come 2022.
In a message targeted at Ruto, the leaders said the region had no leadership vacuum, thus would not allow an outsider to rock their unity with a view of bulldozing the region to back his political bid.
Future of Mt Kenya
“Leaders seated here are the future of Mt Kenya. We will speak with one voice and will not agree to be divided. We will negotiate with whoever will give us the best deal,” said nominated senator Isaac Mwaura.
Mr Mwaura said they would soon confront whoever was “paying” some Mt Kenya leaders to rock the region.
And in yet another strongest indication that the region might not fully back Ruto’s bid, Karua said anybody was free to run for the top seat. She stated that 2022 was still far away and some of them were already gearing up for the contest.
“Anybody is entitled to seek any seat he or she wants. Nobody is the presumptive president in 2022. Nobody is entitled to the presidency from any quarters and Kenya is bigger than any two communities,” Karua said.
She further hit out at Ruto’s allies, who she accused of being jittery with the renewed fight against corruption, stating that the war was not targeting communities but the corrupt.
Waititu said individuals who had decided to be used to fight Uhuru would soon regret their decision as the region was fully behind Uhuru.
Kenneth said Uhuru was not a lame duck president.
“We demand respect for the President as head of government, head of state and symbol of national unity. Individuals with divergent views must criticise or correct the President with decorum,” said Kenneth.
Leaders at the conference included MPs Maina Kamanda (nominated), Paul Koinange (Kiambaa), Muturi Gigano (Kangema) and a host of former MPs, among them Mary Wambui, Denis Waweru, Kilemi Mwiria, Joseph Gitari, Kiragu Chege and Peter Weru.
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