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So close yet so far: Murang'a hope for presidency dimmed

 

Murang'a Woman Rep Sabina Chege chats with Azimio la Umoja presidential flag bearer Raila Odinga and former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth during town hall meetings with aspirants in Kiambu, on May 3, 2022. [David Njaaga,Standard]

 

Two daughters and two sons of Murang’a in the race for Deputy President to break a historical jinx have failed yet again.

Of the three main counties of Nyeri, Kiambu and Murang’a, only the latter is yet to produce a President or a Deputy President since independence.

Kiambu has produced two presidents: Jomo Kenyatta (1963-1978) and Uhuru Kenyatta (2013 to date). It has also produced Vice President Dr Josephat Karanja (1988-1989) who was the MP for Mathare in Nairobi.

He was born in Githunguri, which he would represent for a single term as Ford Asili MP between 1992 until his death on February 28, 1994.

Another Vice President was the late Prof George Saitoti (1989-2002). Although he was MP for Kajiado North, he was associated with Kiambu where his parents are believed to have originated from before being assimilated into Maasailand, a common occurrence between the two neighbouring communities.

Nyeri’s fortunes at the top are tied to one man, the late president Mwai Kibaki, who was Vice President between 1978 and 1988. He served as Kenya’s third President between 2003 and 2013.

But the case is different for Murang’a whose fortunes have always evaporated inches to the dream.

The hopes dimmed when Kenya Kwanza presidential candidate DP William Ruto rejected Kandara MP Alice Wahome and Kiharu’s Ndindi Nyoro as running mates.

Yesterday, Azimio La Umoja’s presidential candidate and ODM leader Raila Odinga bypassed former Assistant Minister Peter Kenneth and Woman Representative Sabina Chege for the running mate post.

Some of the hopefuls from the area, including presidential candidate Jimi Wanjigi, believe 2022 could be Murang’a’s turning point; Itwika.

“We, Murang’a people, are fearless. We provide leadership in critical moments. Our ingenuity, resilience and determination have made our sons and daughters the most successful business people,” Mr Wanjigi said in a series of week-long meetings held in the area.

Gallant sons and daughters

Mr Wanjigi and Governor Mwangi wa Iria of Usawa Kwa Wote party are the local sons seeking the presidency.

“We (Murang’a) stood firm against British colonialism. Our gallant sons and daughters refused to be sellouts after independence. James Beauttah, Bildad Kaggia, Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia among others rejected dictatorship,” said Mr Wanjigi, who is also the Safina Party presidential hopeful.

The businessman said the current political system is wired for continuity and some of the leaders need to be dethroned.

Murang’a’s 628,416 voters now have to choose between Gachagua of Nyeri or Kirinyaga’s Karua. Political commentator Gitile Naituli who lectures on leadership and management at Multi Media University in Nairobi says anyone who plans to take advantage of the Kikuyu voting bloc is misguided.

“Others could argue it is time for Turkana, Tana River, or Marsabit. Regions have never led this country. It is the individuals who do.

“We are looking for skills and not the regions where they come from,” Prof Naituli said.

But former Maragua MP Elias Mbau said historical sacrifices by Murang’a are too great to be wished away.

“When Jomo Kenyatta went to present the Kikuyu Central Association (KCA) memorandum to the Queen in Britain in the 1920s, he had taken the place of Murang’a’s son James Beauttah.

“Then Murang’a played a crucial role in the Mau Mau freedom struggle before another local son Kariuki Njiiri relinquished his Kigumo parliamentary seat in 1962 to create space for Jomo upon his release from detention,” Dr Mbau recalled.

He added that local sons Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia played a prominent role in the fight for the return of multiparty democracy in the early 1990s at great personal cost to their health and wealth.

“Other than the votes currently registered within the county, many other voters originally from Murang’a are in Nairobi, Nyandarua, Nakuru and Eldoret.” On January 29, when Mr Odinga met Murang’a leaders to agree on the ideals of Azimio La Umoja as it then was, a document he was presented with makes a strong case for picking a local for his running mate.

Liberation

“Murang’a people have in the past set the pace of liberation and cannot afford to be left behind at this critical juncture. It is time for a son or daughter of the area to sit at the apex of the decision-making table,” the memorandum read.

It went ahead to state that the region was looking for assurance of inclusion in government compared with the crucial role Murang’a played in Kenya’s history.

The candidature of Kenneth and Ms Chege had the crucial backing of Murang’a tycoons who dominate the Mt Kenya Foundation which is now recognised as one of the highest donors of the Azimio campaigns. An insider within DP Ruto campaigns dismissed the “time for Murang’a” argument, saying it is myopic, self-defeatist, and counterproductive.

“Why would a potential running mate wish to box themselves in their region when they will need to campaign in the rest of the country? It won’t give you a national profile,” he said.

Notably, it was UDA lawmakers from Murang’a who put up fierce opposition to the Ruto running mate position going to the eventual winner, Gachagua.