Central Kenya leaders arrive in Nyeri for crucial meeting

Nyeri was a beehive of activity Wednesday as 700 Central Kenya leaders arrived for a two-day retreat.

To underscore the importance of the meeting at Outspan Hotel, a group of professionals and prominent businessmen from the region held an impromptu fundraiser on Tuesday night where Sh51 million was raised.

The money, sources disclosed, is to support elected leaders in the populous area to participate in the convention to chart the region's economic and political destiny.

The short notice fundraiser at Windsor Golf and Country Club was led by Mt Kenya Foundation Chairman Peter Munga and former Kenya Revenue Authority Commissioner General Michael Waweru.

The main issues at the meeting, attended by governors, senators, MPs and members of the county assembly (MCAs), is to drive the voter-registration agenda as the region gears up for the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

There has been concern of apathy since the voter registration started on Monday and the leaders are keen to mobilise as many eligible residents as possible to participate in the month-long exercise.

An initial survey of a number of counties in the region indicated that only a handful of people had turned out for voter registration, which kicked off on Monday.

"In one of the sub-counties in Murang'a, for example, just six people had registered by Wednesday," said one of the forum organisers.

It is expected that the forum will also explore ways of calming nerves and anger among the locals who feel let down by the Government.

"There is fear of voter apathy among locals who feel let down by President Kenyatta. The runaway corruption in Government is another thing that has worried the residents and many might decide not to vote," an official told The Standard yesterday.

But the conveners of the meeting said it was purely to look at the challenges facing the region and to consolidate the President's support.

They said the gathering was aimed at "providing leadership towards the upcoming General Election and to more importantly consolidate the region's vision moving forward".

Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru confirmed that the issue of voter registration and issuance of identity cards was among the crucial issues that the leaders would deliberate on.

Central Kenya leaders patron Kiraitu Murungi, parliamentary group co-ordinator Kabando wa Kabando and Mr Waweru said the war on illicit brews "was entering a major phase, (that entailed) the rolling out legislative liners to ensure firm systems to rid the region of killer brews".

The first session last evening was attended by a few MPs, governors and senators with members of the county assembly expected to join this evening.

Waweru said he expected the meeting to be full house when proper consultations begin this morning.

A proposal to have a joint law to be adopted by the regional county assemblies to fight alcohol will also be discussed.

The meeting comes days after Mr Kenyatta concluded a week-long tour of Nyeri where he challenged leaders to work for the unity of the region to deal with problems facing the residents.

The President met leaders from Kirinyaga, Murang'a, Laikipia, Nyeri and Kiambu between Thursday and Sunday in closed-door meetings where problems affecting the region were discussed at length.

A source said the leaders meeting would peruse a bill pending before the Laikipia County Assembly, which contains radical proposals to deal with the alcohol menace.

"We want to see if this bill can be replicated in other regional assemblies since it has unique provisions in dealing with the illicit brew menace. Participants would be given a copy of the bill to scrutinise," said an official privy to the meeting's agenda.

The Laikipia County Alcohol Drinks Control (Amendment) Bill underwent its first reading on Tuesday.

Among others, it proposes a clear definition of 'restaurant' which means a place, premises or commercial establishment where meals are prepared, served and sold to customers.