Party popularity, tribe dynamics dominate Embu governor battle

A section of Embu town. [File, Standard]

The race to succeed Embu Governor Martin Wambora who has served his two terms has taken shape. Aspirants are naming their deputies in the hope of swinging votes in their favour.

Embu is made up of four constituencies, namely Manyatta, Runyenjes, Mbeere South and Mbeere North.

Except for Mbeere South, the other three constituencies have produced a candidate for the 2022 Embu governor race.

Former Embu Senator, Lenny Kivuti, is flying the Devolution Empowerment Party (DEP) flag. He hails from Mbeere North which has more than 50,000 votes but also enjoys support from Mbeere South which has more than 70,000 votes.

Former MP Emilio Kathuri is vying on a Jubilee Party ticket. He comes from the Manyatta constituency which has about 100,000 votes.

Nominated MP Cecily Mbarire who is running on the UDA ticket comes from Runyenjes which has more than 85,000 registered voters.

The number of registered voters is as per the IEBC 2017 register and could have increased since the last general election. Some of the dynamics expected in the election include the Embu and Mbeere communities’ voting patterns.

The Embu subtribe constitutes the majority mainly in Manyatta and Runyenjes constituencies and dominates Embu county. The Mbeere who are the minority are located in Mbeere South and North constituencies which are semi-arid.

There are other communities that inhabit Embu county such as the Kamba which is the third largest subtribe and Kikuyus, among others.

The other factor is which constituency produces the next governor, with some arguing that the four constituencies must be allowed to produce a governor in turns. Mr Wambora, who is exiting after 10 years, comes from Runyenjes constituency.

Mr Kivuti and Ms Mbarire who seem to be the front runners picked their deputies from the populous Manyatta constituency before Mr Kathuri from the populous Manyatta declared to vie for the seat.

Former Embu Senator Lenny Kivuti. [Muriithi Mugo, Standard] 


Mr Kivuti is believed to have the financial capacity to bankroll campaigns while Ms Mbarire is keen on winning through the support the UDA party enjoys in Embu.

The former senator is known for going against the tide in Mt Kenya. In 2017 he was elected MP for Siakago constituency on Safina party, defeating National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi who vied on a PNU ticket which was largely popular in Mt Kenya.

In 2013 he captured the Embu senator seat on the Alliance Party of Kenya (APK) ticket against TNA which was popular in Mt Kenya. Mr Kivuti, on a Maendeleo Chap Chap party, lost narrowly to Mr Wambora in 2017 who rode on the Jubilee wave.

Mr Kivuti said the county requires a tried and tested manager to consolidate resources.

“I have demonstrated an unmatched track record in both private and public management,” he said, adding that he will focus on water challenges and build on the current government’s efforts to tarmac a road in every ward.

Only woman in race

Ms Mbarire, the only woman in the race, was first nominated as an MP for Runyenjes in 2003 on a Narc ticket and was elected on a PNU ticket in 2007. In 2013 she retained the Runyenjes Parliamentary seat on a TNA ticket.

She also served as an assistant minister between 2005 and 2007. In 2017 she was nominated by the Jubilee administration as an MP to represent special interests and as Majority Whip.

In the 2017 Jubilee nominations, Ms Mbarire lost to Mr Wambora who was defending his Embu governor position for the second term. He won by garnering 97,544 votes against Mr Kivuti’s 96,597 while PNU’s Kithinji Kiragu emerged third with 50,590.

Mr Kivuti challenged Mr Wambora’s win, but lost. Mr Kathuri, who was Mr Kivuti’s running mate in 2017, hopes to convince his populous Manyatta to vote for him.

Mr Kathuri served one term as MP for Manyatta from 2007 on a Democratic Party ticket but lost to Mr John Muchiri in 2013. Mr Kivuti has named Joseph Ireri aka Mungwana as his running mate from Manyatta at a ceremony where he was also coronated as an Embu leader.

“I want to make Embu county a development model.” 

Ms Mbarire named Kinyua Mugo from Manyatta as her running mate while promising to work on the health sector. “Being a largely agricultural county I hope to establish a policy that will ensure a vibrant agricultural sector to provide direct and indirect employment,” she said. 

Ms Mbarire said she has been at the forefront in championing reforms, especially in the tea and coffee sectors. 

Nominated MP Cecily Mbarire. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Mr Kathuri promised to fight corruption and protect county resources. David Mucangi who comes from Manyatta constituency and is an agronomist has nominated Timothy Njoroge from Mbeere North.

Mr Mucangi, vying on an ANC ticket, said: “My agenda is to work on the agricultural sector and ensure we grow healthy crops.”

He added he will exploit his agricultural knowledge to boost the sector which he said was the backbone of any economy.

Mr Mucangi who vied in 2013 for the Manyatta parliamentary seat said he was not worried about his competitors, asking them to show what they had done for the people of Embu.

“They may have big names but a section of Embu people are still languishing in poverty despite having an opportunity to serve them.”

Dr Njagi Kumantha (Democratic Party) hails from Runyenjes. He is running for the seat for the third time after losing in 2013 and 2017.

He has picked Prof Enos Nthia from Mbeere South as his running mate, a move he said was meant to bring the Embu and Mbeere people together.

Dr Kumantha said Embu is among the rich areas that have been mismanaged. “In the first 100 days in office, I will revive the health sector,” he said.

He said corruption has hurt Embu’s development and his priority will be to cut off middle-men who encourage it. “I will not condone corruption.”