Why Kiraitu, Meru leaders are at odds over mega projects

Igembe South MP John Paul Mwirigi
Igembe South MP John Paul Mwirigi. [File, Standard]
Vicious turf wars have erupted between two groups of Meru politicians. On one hand, there is a war of nerves between Governor Kiraitu Murungi and Igembe North MP Maoka Maore, a fourth term MP re-elected in 2017 after a 10 year break.

Maore, who has been in and out of the country in the last one month, has publicly accused Kiraitu of sneaking into his constituency to launch a water project the MP claims credit for.

Kiraitu, accompanied by State Department of Water and Irrigation’s Principal Secretary Joseph Irungu, launched the Sh20 million Ndumuru Earth dam in Igembe North on February 1.

The governor said at the time that the dam in one of Meru’s driest areas would not only address water shortage but reduce conflicts over the resource.

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The Ndumuru reservoir is one of the five major water projects being undertaken by the national government and Maore was not impressed that the governor was seeking to take credit for this project.

“We know this is the driest area because there is not even a single river. That is why we are searching for underground water here,” Kiraitu said at Ndumuru where Maore claimed the governor’s delegation had to ask around for the way.

On the day Kiraitu and the PS launched the earth dam, Maore made a scathing public statement castigating the visit while he was in Dubai.

Water woes

“The ever sober Igembe North residents should note that the launch was secretly and hurriedly fixed when I am out of the country,” said the MP. “The presence of Kiraitu is deliberate mischief. Absolutely unwelcome.”

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He went ahead to claim that the project had been his initiative since 2004 when he launched a borehole with then Minister for State Chris Murungaru.

The MP also accused the governor of seeking to use the forum to delay the current allocation of Sh50 million for feasibility studies for Igembe North water project and thus torpedo President Kenyatta’s commitment of Sh5 billion in next two fiscal years to pump water out of Mt Kenya forest to Igembe North.

Then, the MP launched perhaps one of the most stinging criticism of the Kiraitu government by a senior Meru elected leader, saying the tendering for Sh600 million boreholes was unclear.

“The county government is being run like a headless chicken on autopilot mode,” was one of the outstanding jabs that a furious Maore aimed at the Kiraitu government.

Asked whether the long running beef with his former Democratic Party (DP) colleague was as bad as his statement implied, Maore bluntly said it was worse.

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The Jubilee Party MP had previously complained that he was kept out of the sharing for the nominated MCAs slots in Meru after the 2017 elections.

After edging out two rivals -- who he accused his rivals of sponsoring -- for the JP ticket in 2017, the MP has had to live with the reality that one of them, Julius Taitumu is Kiraitu’s minister for Roads and Public Works. His other rival and immediate past MP Joseph M’Eruaki’s wife was also appointed a chief officer in the county government.

According to James Mithika, a politician from the neighbouring Igembe Central and a political analyst, Maore’s saving grace in the JP primaries against the well-greased rivals was mainly because of a crowded field and regional arithmetic in Igembe North.

But the beef between the two veteran politicians whose debut in Parliament was in 1992 multiparty elections runs deeper than recent local events.

As Kanu MP, it was Maore who is remembered for tabling the expose on the Anglo Leasing scandal that would at some point force Kiraitu to step aside from his powerful cabinet position in the Kibaki government.

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Hostile youths

Kiraitu was later cleared and reinstated but the scandal whose ramifications are still unfolding in the courts, would be an eyesore of the Kibaki government.

In neighbouring Igembe South, 24-year-old first term MP John Paul Mwirigi is also in a vicious turf war with his predecessor and Meru Senator Mithika Linturi. At a county government function at the Maua Polytechnic on Friday, a hostile group of youth heckled the MP throughout a 20-minute speech.

Mwirigi defeated Linturi’s ally Rufus Miriti in the 2017 elections, but his beef with the senator is believed to be currently centered on the MP’s criticism of the pace of construction of the Sh1.2 billion Maua-Athiru Gaiti-National Park Road being undertaken by Atticon Construction associated with Linturi.

The legislator has been lobbying the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure to blacklist the contractor and re-tender the works.

“Every time I take the podium, a small group of hired hecklers always accuse me of being on a mission to seduce a wife,” a resilient Mwirigi wrapped up his speech. “I want to assure you that a wife is soon coming. But she will not be a road contractor.”

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Governor Kiraitu Murungiwater projectSenator Mithika Linturi