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Kiraitu Murungi factor as big names fight it out for South Imenti MP seat

Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi. [Phares Mutembei, Standard]

Since 1992, South Imenti constituency has been represented in the National Assembly by two individuals.

Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi and current MP Kathuri Murungi have held the seat for 30 years between them.

For the first time in the three decades, a new face will occupy the seat come August 9, and attention has shifted to several politicians out to take over the mantle from the two kingpins. Kiraitu held the seat from 1992 to 2013, the year he contested and won the Senate seat, paving the way for Murungi, who won the seat as an independent.

South Imenti is considered Kiraitu’s political ‘bedroom’ and though it is going to have a new occupant come August, he is distancing himself from any aspirant by telling voters he will work with whoever they elect as MP.

Kathuri successfully defended the seat in the 2017 poll, again as an independent ticket.

But with Kathuri (now in the United Democratic Alliance) seeking to emulate Kiraitu by opting to run for the Senate seat instead of gunning for re-election, all eyes are on past aspirants making a go for the seat.

South Imenti MP Kathuri Murungi. [Olivia Murithi, Standard]

On one corner is Gideon Kimathi, the immediate former Kiraitu’s Chief of Staff.

Mr Kimathi, also a former chairman of Meru County Council and County Assembly deputy speaker, is making his second attempt to win the seat. In the 2017 results, Kathuri emerged the victor with 32, 942 votes, as Jubilee’s Dr Shadrack Mwiti came home second by garnering 25,636 votes.

Mwiti Kathara (independent) had 13, 926 and Kimathi 11,370. Muthuri Mwega of the Party of National Unity had 1, 424.

Kimathi is in Kiraitu’s Devolution Empowerment Party (DEP), Kathara is now in UDA while Dr Mwiti is in Jubilee and Mwega is on an independent ticket, same as is Peter Mwarania.

All are keen to be the next South Imenti MP, an area known for its abundant production of coffee, tea, bananas and other crops.

And while aligning oneself with influential leaders from the region could have some effect on the outcome, Governor Kiraitu has been quick in announcing that he is not supporting any of the candidates.

That is even as he conceded they were all his friends, the reason he did not want to be seen as favouring any particular aspirant. But he also confessed he was not taking sides because he needs the support of all of them to successfully retain his seat.

Empowering the youth

“I know all of them and they are my friends. I have worked with them in one way or another. I am looking for my votes on a Bus (DEP) ticket, but need all your votes. I want votes from DEP, DP, UDA and from independent candidates,” Kiraitu said. Kimathi, like other aspirants, has pledged to ensure banana, tea, and coffee earn their rightful income from their sweat.

Gideon Kimathi. [Phares Mutembei, Standard]

He has also pledged to empower the youth and to have security enhanced in the areas neighbouring Tharaka.

“What is needed at the National Assembly is someone who can articulate our issues, including tarmacking of key roads. I want the road to Mbeti tarmacked. I also want a police station in the area. South Imenti is also number one in terms of banana production, yet our farmers are selling for as low as Sh30. I want an MP who will make sure I will fight hard to have a banana industry here,” said Kimathi.

Kimathi said he wants to fight for avocado, coffee, tea and other farmers. “I will fight for all people, because I want to make sure South Imenti grow economically, by empowering youth, women and all other groups,” said Kimathi who also listed electricity, water and other projects as his priority. Jasper Muthomi (MC Jessy) will be an independent candidate and said his priorities include education, after the realisation that many locals suffered for lack of opportunities to learn, “having been an orphan and someone who suffered education-wise.”

Muthomi said he will ensure deserving children get bursaries. “I want more technical training centres in South Imenti, because we have only one. I also want to empower talented youths in various sports,” he said, adding that as MP he will have an economic council right to the ward level to deliver his agenda.

Muthomi said he will have agri-business for young people as a way of economic empowerment. He said: “I want to teach them international agri-business. They will form groups and start a project and then we fund them. They will be doing farming knowing there are returns.”

Jasper Muthomi (MC Jessy). [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

“Number two is youth empowerment. I want to focus on educated youth who have no jobs. I am going to look for professionals because I am in touch with most professionals from South Imenti. We are going to be having forums with them. If they are lawyers, they come and mentor graduates, the same with doctors and so on,” he said.

He said he will empower boda boda groups to have a car wash, restaurant and other projects for them to grow their lot.

“With the networks I have at national and internationally, we are going to have a banana factory on the east side of South Imenti, because they have a lot of bananas. That factory will make fibre, banana wine and other products. The value addition will bring farmers more money. We will also have a macadamia factory,” he said.

Muthomi, from Igoji, said he will ensure the long-stalled tarmacking of the road from Igoji East to link other parts of Meru, will be done.

Mwiti said he is the right person for the seat. He says he will work on light industries, value addition and markets for produce to build the economy of South Imenti.

He said he will ensure the Mitungii TTI develops further. “I also want to have dams to enhance production. I will also have modern technology to enhance agriculture,” Mwiti added.

Peter Mwarania and Muthuri Mwega are running as independents. Mwarania from Igoji East said: “I want to foster unity in South Imenti because we are one. We want a peaceful election because we can only have one winner.” Mr Mwega, who said he supported Kiraitu for re-election as governor, said: “I am keen on delivering economic growth.”