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Rush to join Mt Kenya billionaires’ caucus slows down progress

By Wainaina Ndung'u | March 27th 2016
Lawi Imathiu

The agenda of a Mt Kenya grouping spearheaded by wealthy businessmen has been slowed down by demands from other regional groups seeking to be enjoined in the umbrella.

Various groups from the 11 counties in the region say they were being kept out of the foundation that claims to be keen on setting the socio-political agenda for the region.

Some of the groups demanding incorporation into the foundation are councils of elders from the three communities (Kikuyu, Embu and Meru) that inhabit the region, religious leaders and business groupings such as matatu owners.

A group of MPs from Meru County have dismissed the foundation as a cartel of business brokers out to “retain their links and patronage networks”.

Mithika Linturi (Igembe South), Mpuru Aburi (Tigania East) and Gideon Mwiti Irea (Central Imenti) are questioning the agenda of the foundation. Mr Linturi called the group a cartel of business brokers intent on using the elections period to retain their influence on the political class.

Foundation spokesman and retired Methodist Presiding Bishop Lawi Imathiu declined to comment on allegations that it has been rocked by infighting, only saying its agenda is on course.

“I am an old hand and unlikely to commit to make a statement that would antogonise others,” said Rev Imathiu.At the forum’s first meeting in Nyeri mid last month, it was agreed that another conference be held in a fortnight. The meeting, dubbed Limuru III, was to be a continuation of meetings held before the 2013 elections that helped unite the region behind Uhuru Kenyatta.

Imathiu attributed the failure to convene the Limuru III conference to “demand for adequate preparations.”

But as infighting rocks the foundation, Wachira Kiago, the chairman of the Kikuyu Council of Elders, said his team supports the initiative. “We fully support their effort especially to rid the region off alcoholism. We recognise that they are a key pillar of our society,” he said.

The Kikuyu community, Kiago said, had three strong pillars – itonga (the rich), athamaki (leaders) and njamba (warriors).

“Every one must appreciate the sterling effort of our rich to help rescue the battered warrior class. They fit well in our traditional setting where the endowed always came to the aid of the unfortunate. We would be proud to join the initiative,” said Kiago.

The Nyeri meeting — attended by senators, governors, MPs and MCAs from the region — was funded by a group of wealthy businessmen who raised Sh51 million for the event in one hour.

The fundraiser was led by Equity Bank Chairman Peter Munga, who is also the foundation’s chair and former Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Commissioner General Michael Waweru. The others were former Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) Managing Director George Muhoho and Mastermind Kenya entrepreneur Wilfred Murungi.

Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru, who also chairs the Central and Nairobi parliamentary caucus was mandated to execute the group’s agenda, including mobilising voters and leading the fight against illicit brews in the region. “We must confront the challenges facing our region with courage and commitment,” Mr Waweru told The Standard on Sunday.

Meru County MP Florence Kajuju, who was actively involved in the Nyeri meeting, said the Limuru III conference had been delayed by the demand for more inclusion.

“The grouping remains largely at planning stage and we acknowledge the need for wider consultations,” said the MP.

Ms Kajuju admitted that the Nyeri meeting did not have an adequate notice because the initial planning did not involve as many members.

But Linturi, who said he did not attend the Nyeri meeting, claimed the group’s main sponsors had suspect intentions and wondered why they always try to gain prominence during the electioneering period.

“Their commercial interests demand that they do everything to retain their links and patronage networks between elected leaders and the national leadership,” said the MP. “It is not surprising that they only get concerned of social issues around election time.”

He described the group as an elite private members club that lacks the mandate of the people and clear terms of reference.

“The Meru people, who are key stakeholders, were not fully incorporated as we had only one or two representatives. I am not even sure the Njuri Ncheke was aware of it,” he said.

But Ms Kajuju said the business community had every right to be engaged in the grouping as stakeholders as they were also influential members of the larger community.

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