Mt Kenya restive as Rigathi Gachagua and Martha Karua trigger kingpin politics

Martha Karua and Rigathi Gachagua. [Standard]

Less than two weeks to the August 9 General Election that will see President Uhuru Kenyatta leave office, the restive Mount Kenya region is on the verge of getting a new political supremo.

President Kenyatta will also end his 12-year reign as Mt Kenya political figurehead, a position he has held following endorsement by former Environment Minister the late John Michuki when he (Uhuru) was Deputy Prime Minister.

Michuki's endorsement came two years before the end of the late President Mwai Kibaki's tenure, a move seen as a political strategy to prepare the son of the Founding Father Jomo Kenyatta to succeed Kibaki.

As he exits, Uhuru leaves a vacuum that will need to be filled, given that the region does not have a strong presidential candidate apart from David Wahiga who has been trailing with less than one per cent rating in opinion polls, the running mates of the two leading presidential candidates have positioned themselves to take the coveted position.

Deputy President William Ruto enjoys huge support from the region and his running mate Rigathi Gachagua is eyeing the position.

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya presidential candidate Raila Odinga's running mate Martha Karua has also positioned herself to take over from President Kenyatta as Mt Kenya kingpin.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi who was anointed as Gema spokesman, last week endorsed Mathira MP Gachagua as the Mt Kenya kingpin.

"Mt Kenya region is fully behind Gachagua, he is our leader in Gema and he has our blessings as they move to form a government together with Ruto," said Mr Muturi during a meeting of Kenya Kwanza Alliance leaders from Mt Kenya in Nyeri last Friday.

Speaking at the meeting, Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga said Gachagua was Mt Kenya leaders' bridge to Ruto and the popularity of UDA candidates in the region was sending a message that he had local political support.

"He is our son and our connection to the next government that will be formed by Ruto," said Mr Kahiga.

Gachagua, during the running mates debate, said he had 35 years of experience including 15 in the civil service, 15 in the private sector and five years in legislation and that had prepared him for the top seat.

Karua has had an illustrious career in politics as Gichugu MP and served as Cabinet minister.

In 2013, she ran against President Kenyatta and Raila in her first presidential bid before she set eyes on the Kirinyaga governor's seat in 2017. She was unsuccessful in both attempts.

The former Justice minister beat seven contestants including Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka to be picked as Azimio presidential running mate.

Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth believes Karua will be the next Mt Kenya kingpin. "Madam Karua will be our leader once she becomes our Deputy President because we know Raila will win," said Kenneth.

Igembe North MP Maoka Maore agrees with Kenneth that the Azimio presidential running mate has an advantage position once Raila wins, to be the region's supremo. "Once she becomes the DP she will be the top person from Mt Kenya in power. I also believe Uhuru as the Azimio chair will call shots in coming days in government," said Maore during a recent political rally.

During the Kenya Kwanza meeting, Gachagua said he was best placed to be Mt Kenya's political supremo owing to his grassroots connections compared to Karua who believes in her reforms credentials.

"Karua believes her reform credentials alone should elevate her and Raila to the top seat, she does not know the price of fertiliser and neither does she care to know," he said.

"She has been working as a civil society leader in Nairobi and has no touch with what the ordinary Kenyans need. She can't understand about the fertiliser prices or issues affecting agriculture," he added.

Kimani Gachuhi, a political analyst and lawyer, said UDA presidential running mate Gachagua has been speaking the language of the people burdened by the high cost of living and many believe their interests will be catered for by him.

Gachuhi said if anyone was in doubt that Gachagua is the new Mt Kenya kingpin, the running mate debate was there for all to see.

"He proved that the region can count on him to defend their interest without fear or compromise. He deflated Martha and convinced many that he can fight for them. Due to his courage and eloquence, Gachagua stood a shoulder higher than other leaders from the region and is filling the Mt Kenya leadership vacuum," he said.

Whoever takes Uhuru's mantle will have the task of uniting the community that has been politically homogeneous since the days of their former kingpins, Mzee Kenyatta, Mwai Kibaki and Kenneth Matiba.

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