Why Mt Kenya registers high turnover of elected leaders

President Uhuru Kenyatta at State Lodge Sagana in Nyeri County during a meeting with leaders and representatives of special interest groups held to discuss the progress of Government development projects in the Central Kenya region. [The Standard]

In every election year, a new group of elected leaders are given a chance to lead in some of the counties within Mt Kenya.

It is a region that has seen those sitting in office burn the midnight oil transversing their areas as they knock on doors in a bid to convince the electorate to give them another term in office.

Indeed, Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi, President Uhuru Kenyatta and a few Mt Kenya leaders who plunged into politics in the 1990s are lucky to have gone for uninterrupted elective terms.

Kiraitu ranks far above his political peers because he has always wooed voters to elect him since the 1992 multiparty elections when he won the South Imenti parliamentary seat.

Uhuru made his debut in the 1997 election and despite being a Kenyatta pedigree, he lost badly to Moses Mwihia, a political greenhorn.

He was subsequently nominated to Parliament and appointed a minister by the late president Daniel Arap Moi.

Nominated MP Maina Kamanda blames monetisation of politics for the high turnover of elected leaders in the Mt Kenya nation.

“We got it wrong when we monetised politics as opposed to when voters were keen about leadership qualities,” Kamanda said in an interview.

Many Mt Kenya leaders agree there is a dearth of political experience in the region.

The crop of veterans currently in Parliament mostly made their debut in the 1997 and 2002 elections and literally, all of them have had their political tenures interrupted by being rejected at one or two elections.

Majority Leader Amos Kimunya, for example, was humiliated by Samuel Gichigi in the 2013 election and sweated it out for five years.

He once appeared before a parliamentary committee and told it off for wasting the time of a “private citizen.”

Embu Senator Peter Njeru Ndwiga made his debut in 1992 on a DP ticket as MP for Manyatta.

Between 1997 and 2017, he was out of Parliament and together with National Assembly Deputy Chief Whip Maoka Maore (Igembe North) made some of the surprising comebacks of 2017.

Ms Cecily Mbarire has been in Parliament since 2002 when she was nominated by Charity Ngilu under the original National Rainbow Coalition (Narc).

Elected Runyenjes MP in 2007, she is like Kamanda currently serving another term on the nomination front.

In the last election, three counties booted their entire parliamentary groups and elected newcomers. They are Embu, Kirinyaga and Laikipia.

Nyeri retained just one of its eight legislators while Kiambu retained only Moses Kuria (Gatundu South) and the late Paul Koinange (Kiambaa).

The high turnover of elected leaders is particularly vicious in the county assemblies where only one or two MCAs got re-elected in the last few elections.

Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi reasons that the regional pattern shows that residents are on the lookout for prosperous leaders.

“I sense that the citizens are keen on leaders who can spur productivity and help realise their vision of prosperity,” said Muriithi who was first elected Laikipia West MP in 2007.

Former Maragua MP Dr Elias Peter Mbau avers that high turnover is not necessarily a bad thing.

“It is reflective of the enterprising, outgoing and vibrant spirit of the population. These skills bestowed by God mean that, unlike other areas, there is no shortage of suitable candidates for leadership,” said Dr Mbau who now sits in the Nepad governing council.

Dr Mbau reckons the turnover is likely to get bigger in future elections as the availability of a diverse cadre of abled leaders widens.

Voters queue in a cold rainy morning to casts their ballots in Nyeri on 8th August, 2017. [File, Standard]

“If our democracy allowed us, Mt Kenya would be exporting leaders to other areas just like it does entrepreneurs and investors,” argues Dr Mbau.

Multi-Media University’s Leadership and Management lecturer, Prof Gitle Naituli thinks the turnover is not a good thing, saying there are MPs elected in Mt Kenya who never get to learn the ropes and start representing their constituents adequately.

“An MP spends the first two years learning the system and then in the third year, he starts worrying about re-election. There is hardly much that a first-term MP can be able to do for their people,” he said.


He reckons that leaders in the Mt Kenya region are being shown the door at an alarming frequency because of underperformance.

“Mt Kenya has one of the most educated voter blocs in Kenya and they can evaluate a leader’s performance against their pledges,” said Prof Naituli.

He added that the region is critical of its leaders and even demands to know an agenda when invited to a State House meeting.

But Prof Naituli agrees there is a marked difference between Meru and the rest of Mt Kenya.

Apart from Governor Kiraitu, Igembe North MP Maoka Maore is serving his fourth term, Senator Mithika Linturi is on the third term while Kathuri Murungi (South Imenti), Rahim Dawood (North Imenti), Kubai Kiringo (Igembe Central) are on the second term.

In Tharaka Nithi, Kareke Mbiuki is on the third term while Senator Kithure Kindiki and Woman Rep Beatrice Nkatha are on the second term. The other two MPs are in their first term.

At the Meru County Assembly, 13 of the 45 MCAs were re-elected in 2017 including four who started civic politics in the councillor’s days.

“The secret of our leaders’ longevity is they get adept at politics and then they resonate with the residents and the best example is Kiraitu,” said Meru Majority Leader Victor Kariithi.

Prof Naituli sees it differently.

“Meru is relatively easier to organise region than the rest of Mt Kenya and the council of elders (Njuri Ncheke) have a hold on the pace of deference to leadership,” argues Prof Naituli.

Rev Peter Munga, who is the Executive Director of Save Our Men Initiative (Somi) Trust and former ranking leader in the Kikuyu Council of Elders, says there is a structural weakness in the leadership elected in Mt Kenya hence the short longevity.

“We usually get it wrong at the ballot box, usually electing political entrepreneurs rather than community leaders who end up serving their financial and personal interests,” said Rev Munga.

“We have many leaders who don’t care about their people but those who do usually go back.”

Rev Munga adds it is time the region goes for character, integrity and vision in electing its leaders.