Limuru III meeting sows confusion in Kenya Kwanza administration

Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni and Narc Kenya Martha Karua at the Party Headquarters in Nairobi on September 26, 2023. [Samson wire, Standard]

The planned Limuru III conference organised by Azimio leaders in Mt Kenya region has triggered confusion and sharp divisions in the Kenya Kwanza administration and fuelled political tension in the restive region.

Although one of the meeting’s objectives is to craft a ‘push back' strategy against the Kenya Kwanza administration over what Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua termed ‘punitive taxes against the electorate', a section of government functionaries led by Public Service, Performance and Delivery Management Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria have confirmed that they will attend the conference tomorrow.

The agenda of the meeting includes pushing for the one-man one-vote one-shilling revenue allocation formula and crafting a framework to push the President William Ruto-led administration to lower taxes, among others.

“There should be equality of the vote in the boundary review exercise. The review must focus on population, and we are saying this because our voice has been diluted in the current boundary status. We are marginalised even in the distribution of resources, and this also means access to health is being marginalised therefore causing people ill health and death. I’m also personally pushing for an equalization fund, which I borrow heavily from the Canadian constitution,” said Karua in a past interview with Spice FM.

Ironically, Kuria, who is gearing for the conference which will be conducted at the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) owned conference facility in Limuru, has come out guns blazing to oppose the one-man one-vote one-shilling revenue sharing formula that is part of the meeting.

While opposing Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua’s remarks that he is a proponent and believer of the controversial revenue-sharing formula, Kuria dismissed him saying Mt Kenya region has many leaders serving in the Kenya Kwanza administration who have ways to make the formula come true if they are serious.

“I will not lie to the people of Mt Kenya region about one-man one-vote one-shilling. Our region has produced the sitting Deputy President, nine Cabinet members (including AG, National Treasury and Secretary to the Cabinet), Majority Leader, Chair Budget and Chair Finance. In the National Assembly, Deputy Speaker and Deputy Majority Leader in the Senate. What other powers would we be looking for? We are a government, and we can implement one-man one-vote one-shilling by Friday if we are serious. Let us be honest with our people."

While the Limuru III meeting is also seeking unity of purpose, Kuria has been lamenting how he is being disrespected in the Kenya Kwanza administration, saying he is "a very calm person when it comes to peace but can be dangerous when the war come calling".

“I’m the only Cabinet secretary from Kiambu County and there are some people who feel senior than me and have resorted to disrespecting me to an extent of calling meetings for Kiambu leaders with the President and excluding me. The day I will get angry you all know me... It is our votes that sought for my position. It's not by luck. I’m so calm when it comes to peace but when it comes to war, I’m the very same person. So we must respect each other and not forget the age sets. I’m still the senior-most politician in Kiambu County,” Kuria said

Kuria made the remarks two days after posting a photo of Kiambu leaders with the President with a caption: “It is wrong to keep calling meetings of Kiambu leadership without the only CS from Kiambu County. No such meeting with EMC (Elgeyo Marakwet County) would happen without Kipchumba Murkomen."

While Kuria has supported the Limuru III meeting but rejected its main agenda, equity and fair representation, he is preparing to attend it. On the other hand, the National Assembly Majority leader and the face of the government in Parliament Kimani Ichung'wah has opposed the planned meeting warning: “Let us not allow ourselves not to be taken back to the politics of ethnic mobilisation. If we want to mobilise our people let us mobilise them behind ideas not behind ethnicity and region.”

Although Gachagua has described the planned meeting as 'zero-sum' by wondering where the planners of the meeting would take their resolutions as they are not in government, he has extended an olive branch to Karua and Kioni.

“I want to ask our leaders to be careful of isolating our community from the rest of Kenya. Those who intend to plan for meetings should come and talk to me because I’m the senior political leader in this region. Even then, where and to whom will they take their deliberations to?

"If there are things for this region that do not go well, I’m there and I mean well for this region, and everybody knows where my heart is. So, I'm the best person to talk to. Let them come anytime and any day to tell me the areas we need to improve," said Gachagua.

Pundits believe the anxiety brought about by the planned meeting may be as a result of past meetings (Limuru I in 1966 and Limuru II in 2012) that had far-reaching political consequences that killed political careers and shaped the destiny of not only Mt Kenya region but the whole country, and that the current leadership fears a repeat of the same.

“In the two crucial meetings that were held in the same venue, the community came together to chart its political direction. Everybody who was not part of the group or the meeting had their political career terminated. This this could be the reason for the jitters in the government-allied leaders,” said Mwangi Nganga of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

He noted that the effects of past meetings were so dire that it did not matter who was in government and the opposition, saying that tomorrow’s meeting coincided with the Finance Bill, 2024 that has created tension against the Kenya Kwanza administration.

“The proposed tax hikes, which includes the motor vehicle tax, and tax increment on breads that come in the wake of the punitive Finance Act, 2023 that introduced the Housing Levy may make the Limuru III very popular and become the basis of 2027 political alignments. But this depends on whether the planners have the oomph of sustaining the anti-Kenya Kwanza administration messaging,” Dr Nganga said.

The reasoning behind the naming of Limuru III was that in the past, two other meetings have been held in Limuru and major political announcements were made by Jomo Kenyatta and Uhuru Kenyatta in 1966 and March 2012.

The Limuru I conference, which was held on March 12 and 13 with the blessings of Kenyatta, was meant to neutralize Vice President Oginga Odinga, whose position in Kanu was split to create eight slots. In effect, a brand-new Kanu vice chairman, Lawrence Sagini, was minted to replaced Oginga in Nyanza Province, Daniel Moi was to represent Rift Valley, Ronald Ngala (Coast), Jeremiah Nyagah (Eastern), Mwai Kibaki (Nairobi) and James Gichuru (Central).

At the Limuru II conference held on March 23, Uhuru was handed the leadership mantle of the Mt Kenya region.

It will be interesting to see the outcome of tomorrow's meeting. Although Uhuru is unlikely to attend, he will somehow dictate proceedings for his deferred Building Bridges Initiative that tried to entrench the one-man one-vote one-shilling revenue allocation formula.