Battle ground: Kigumo MP Ruth Wangari faces six in bid to retain seat

Current Kigumo MP Ruth Wangari Mwaniki. [File, Standard]

Kigumo constituency in Muranga County holds a special place in Kenya's political leadership having been represented in the Legislative Council of Kenya (LegCo) at one point by none other than the founding president Jomo Kenyatta.

The LegCo, which championed Kenya's independence, was the country's legislature between 1907 and 1963.

LegCo, modelled on the Westminster system, started as a nominated, exclusively European institution before it evolved into an electable legislature with universal suffrage. It was succeeded by the National Assembly in 1963 when the country gained independence from its British colonial masters.

Kenyatta's entry into the Kigumo political mix was not exactly expected as Kenya's first president was born in Kiambu County. 

However, it was reported that Kenyatta moved to Murang'a after he was reportedly denounced in his native county. 

He became Kigumo's representative in the LegCo after the incumbent, the late Kariuki wa Njiiri, agreed to step down in his favour.

The late Kenyatta was a close friend to the family of the late paramount chief Karanja wa Njiiri that lived in Kinyona village on the slopes of Nyandarua hills.

Chief Karanja was Kariuki's father. The powerful former colonial administrator is said to have convinced his son, who was a first-time MP for Kigumo constituency, to relinquish his seat for Kenyatta to allow him to join the Legco in 1961.

Karanja, the richest man in Central Kenya in his time, and Kenyatta were longtime friends and had a very strong bond which some traced to their fathers. Karanja's father and Kenyatta's father Ngengi wa Mungai hailed from Ngenda village in Murang’a before settling in Gatundu South in Kiambu, and Kigumo in Murang’a respectively.

It was Kariuki's act, to vacate his parliamentary seat, that saw Kenyatta ascend to power. Until 2010 when the new Constitution came into force, a presidential candidate also needed to contest the parliamentary seat in their home constituencies.

And over the years, Kigumo has had many people representing it in Parliament with the battle for the seat expected to go a notch higher in this year's General Election as the incumbent Ruth Wangari Mwaniki, who was elected on Jubilee Party ticket in 2017, seeks to ward off six opponents.

Those seeking to wrest the seat from Ms Mwaniki, a former managing director at the defunct Kenya Planters Cooperative Union, include Joseph Munyoro who she beat in the last elections by 41,041 votes against 24,208. Munyoro is eyeing the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket.

Others who have shown interest in the seat are former Sports Chief Administrative Secretary Zack Kinuthia of the Party of National (PNU), Murang’a County Assembly Majority leader Eric Kamande, who is also hoping to clinch the UDA ticket, Joseph Kibugi wa Ihii (Independent), Ms Faith Njoya Nguoe and businessman Martin Mburu Mungai.

Mr Muturi Karanja, governor Mwangi wa Iria's Chief of Staff and Personal Assistant, had been rumoured to be eyeing the seat but failed to leave the public service by February 9, the date the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission had set for public servants with political ambitions to quit.

Karanja who hails from Kinyona ward has had numerous engagements with residents over the past nine years and many had believed he was laying the ground for his political career.  

If he wins, Munyoro said, local youth will be funded by the National Government Constituency Development Fund to attend courses in tertiary colleges to save their poor parents from further struggle.

"I will also reintroduce the Kigumo Endowment Fund to ensure all needy students have a chance to attain secondary and university education,” said Munyoro.

Mungai said his focus will be enhancing access to clean drinking water and having more homes and business premises connected to electricity, especially in the lower parts of Kahumbu and Muthithi.

"I also want to improve roads, ensure sustainable agribusiness and enhance the provision of better health care to our people," he said, adding: "We also need to embrace tree planting as a way of combating climate change to ensure we have enough water in future as well as a safe environment."

He added: "I am also perturbed that education standards have fallen so much over the past few years. This constituency needs a leader who will put aside their interests and work for the people."

Kibugi, a graduate of Kisii University, said he will focus on the empowerment of the youth. "All our children need support and if I win this seat, my biggest agenda will be to mobilise resources to support them so they can achieve their goals and lead decent lives,” said Kibugi.

But Ms Mwaniki has exuded confidence she will be reflected on August 9 saying: "I would wish to complete the projects I started."

"It is worth noting that it is during my tenure that Kigumo has benefitted massively from the national government thanks to my lobbying."

Among those who have represented Kigumo are John B. Kirore Mwaura who was elected on Ford Asili ticket in 1992
Ford-Asili, Onesmus Kihara Mwangi was won the seat in  1997 on the Democratic Party ticket and Onesmus Kihara Mwangi of Narc who won in in 2002. Jamleck Irungu Kamau, who is now angling for the governorship of Murang'a was elected area MP on PNU ticket in 2007.

Kamau tried to contest the governorship but lost in Jubilee nominations to Mr Wa Iria.