Ukambani tycoons lighten wallets for Uhuru and Ruto

Peter Muthoka (left) and former Machakos senator Johnstone Muthama. [File]

Away from their busy business schedules, two Ukambani sons are caught up in a fight over the control region’s politics.

Peter Muthoka, who runs a global business logistics firm, and former Machakos senator Johnstone Muthama are spoiling for a fight to sway the three-million-voter-rich Ukambani region to the side of either President Uhuru Kenyatta or his deputy William Ruto.

It is not the first time the two engaging in political shadow boxing. In the 2017 General Election, whereas Muthama played a pivotal role in the National Super Alliance (Nasa) politics, Muthoka went against the grain of what was seen as the community’s position and helped Jubilee bag several seats.

Muthama is a gemstone dealer and a real estate mogul who has invested in office buildings and residences mostly leased to members of the diplomatic corps. He also has interests in agriculture.

At the moment, despite both not holding elective posts, their homes have become meeting grounds for the political elite in Ukambani.

Major political decisions are already being made in these homes. Both homes have hosted Kenya’s top politicians including Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and the region’s kingpin and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

In the face of 2022 politics, the two have reversed roles. 

Muthoka, who in the 2017 election campaigns was bankrolling Jubilee parliamentary and civic candidates in Ukambani to defeat Wiper MPs, has metamorphosed into the main voice in Kalonzo’s political courtyard.

Muthama, on the other hand, is sell the Ruto presidential bid and has vowed to ensure the DP gets substantial votes in the region.

Muthama has been Kalonzo’s confidant and is said to have been bankrolling his campaigns, a claim the Wiper leader recently dismissed. Before their fallout after the Nasa defeat in 2017, Muthama was seen as Kalonzo’s right hand man and his word were taken to be that of the Wiper leader.

During a funeral of the son of the late politician, Mulu Mutisya, at Ngamba village in Wamunyu, Machakos County, two weeks ago, Kalonzo accused Muthama of misleading him twice to support Raila, signalling the strong influence the former senator had on him.

“I will not allow you to mislead me a third time because you have failed me twice. I will be my own negotiator in national politics,” Kalonzo told Muthama.

Muthama, perhaps knowing how to deal with Kalonzo, has declared that the Wiper leader will follow him and not the other way round.

“It is Kalonzo who will follow me to the government that will be formed by Ruto,” he said in an interview.

Decision informed by research

He said together with the deputy president they were working on a party that will dominate the region and Kalonzo will be forced to make a deal with them.

But within Wiper circles, Muthoka’s entry is being seen as an answer to Muthama’s abrasive and confrontational style of politics.

Muthoka is now said to be scheming to help the Wiper leader ascend to the top office, with perhaps the help of President Kenyatta. 

According to Muthoka, Kenya’s elective politics is about statistics, finance and the right alliances, not how sweet you talk to voters, and that for Kambas to get one of their own to power, they must first build an alliance with their cousins and neighbours – the Kikuyu.

“In politics, negotiation is a continuous process.

“We are still in talks with political and business leaders from various regions but we have made good progress with the Mount Kenya region, which is the single biggest voting bloc,” he said.

Muthoka said he agreed to support Kalonzo in the presidential succession race because he believed he was better placed to make it if he continues working with President Kenyatta.

He said his decision was informed by solid research, wide consultations and expert advice.

The tycoon said he was aware that some people were already envious of his new role in Ukambani politics but added that he could not remain in his comfort zone when the community needs strategy and direction.

“Some people are wondering why I’m spending my time, energy and resources on politics yet I am a businessman.

“I’m doing this to help my Kamba community to reclaim its rightful position in the affairs of the country,” he said.

“Just as I helped President Kenyatta get substantial votes in Ukambani in last elections, time has come for me to serve my community, not as a politician because I have absolutely no political ambitions but by playing a role in shaping the destiny of my people.”

In the cooperation deal between Jubilee and Wiper, Muthoka was not only the main political architect but he also hosted and chaired meetings between the two parties.

In May, his home in Machakos hosted a meeting of Jubilee and Wiper party leaders where a cooperation deal was hammered out.

According to Muthoka, the meeting was the last in a series of others held elsewhere, which he all chaired, and had the blessings of both Uhuru and Kalonzo.

Among the notable attendees were National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, Jubilee vice chair David Murathe and former Solicitor General Njee Muturi, who represented the president in the negotiations.

On the other hand, Kalonzo had picked senators Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni), Enoch Wambua (Kitui) and Boniface Kabaka (Machakos).

The cooperation deal between Wiper and the ruling Jubilee Party was eventually signed on June 17 at Jubilee headquarters in a ceremony attended by Kalonzo.

Muthoka has become a power broker and when the president visited Ukambani to launch the Sh18 billion Kitui-Kibwezi road project in 2017, he was the only person allowed to speak for the region, signaling the high regard Jubilee has for him.