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Sibling rivalry in Mt Kenya as leaders lobby for the region's spokesmanship

 Central Kenya leaders led by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua (second left) arrive in Nyeri for a meeting on tackling alcohol and drugs abuse. [File, Standard]

Eight months after the General Election that settled on Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua as the senior most politician in Mt Kenya, the region is groping in the dark on the 'real' kingpin.

With some elders maintaining that former President Uhuru Kenyatta is still the community leader and insisting they must crown his successor, other leaders have directly or indirectly expressed interest in the mantle, which could see them cross paths with DP Gachagua.

"Assuming the highest political position is not a direct ticket to the region's kingpin, even Uhuru was crowned the community leader when the late Mwai Kibaki was the Head of State," said Kikuyu Council of Elders Wachira Kiago.

Uhuru's commitment to 'defend the region' after post-election violence where he is said to have used his resources to ferry people from troubled areas, made him the kingpin.

Today, several leaders are eyeing the influential title.

Gachagua, Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri, Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki, his Trade counterpart Moses Kuria and former Murang'a governor Mwangi wa Iria are in the ring.

The elevation of Gachagua to the second-in-command has not automatically made him the kingpin, some say.

Gachagua has held meetings, including one on Friday, where he invited all leaders to discuss alcoholism and drugs.

Mobilisation prowess

Before he was picked DP, Gachagua got resistance from Mt Kenya while pushing for Ruto's deputy. Majority of MPs sided with Prof Kindiki.

Since formation of Ruto's administration, Gachagua and Prof Kindiki have been making forays in the region.

Wa Iria has for the first time joined the Azimio brigade after the coalition lost last year's election and has been defending Raila Odinga against anybody from the region including Gachagua.

 Trade CS Moses Kuria. [File, Standard]

Kuria's mobilisation prowess saw him bring together over 100 leaders at his Thika Greens home where five governors Ann Waiguru (Kirinyaga) Cecily Mbarire (Embu) Kiarie Badilisha (Nyandarua) Irungu Kangata (Murang'a) and Kimani Wamatangi (Kiambu) attended.

The meeting also brought together State officers who hail from the region including CSs, PSs and CASs, and was one of its kind after Kenya Kwanza won the elections.

The resolutions passed included unity of purpose in the fight against illicit brews, ceasefire on leaders sabotaging each other and joint agitation of better prices for cash crops.

On April 4, Kuria was in Embu with local leaders for a business exposition while on Saturday Kuria with MPs Betty Maina (Murang'a) Moses Kirima (Central Imenti) Simon Kingara (Ruiru) Maina Karobia (Eala) Mburu Kahangara (Lari) Mugambi Rindikiri (Buuri) and Njuguna Kawanjiku (Kiambaa) graced a thanksgiving ceremony for area Mp George Koimburi.

Other leaders at the event were Gitonga Mukunji (Manyatta) Edward Muriu (Gatanga) Onesmus Ngogoyo (Kajiado North) and Gachoki Gitari (Kirinyaga Central).

On Sunday Kuria attended two separate thanksgivings in Laikipia and Kirinyaga for women representatives Jane Kagiri and Njeri Maina respectively and was accompanied by other leaders.

Some leaders who have been accompanying Kuria said he has mentored many in politics and is accessible compared to others.

MPs Koimburi, Muriu, Mukunji and Wangari said Kuria played a huge role in shaping their political career and that is why they will support his course.

"We were with Kuria in the campaign team of late President Mwai Kibaki and when he won, we left on our own, Kuria used to assign me secretarial roles reciprocated with something small to keep me going," Gilgil MP Martha Wangari said.

Muriu said it was Kuria who advised him to go for Gatanga parliamentary seat as opposed to going for governor.

"During campaigns, he accompanied me for three days and that is how I was elected," Mukunji said.

"We worked with Kuria in the tenth parliament and he is forthright and committed to the agenda of Mt Kenya people. Leaders will support his course as he embark on policies to uplift our people," said Embu governor.

 Deputy President Rigathi. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

Although Kuria has denied any plans to try to unsettle Gachagua, a section of leaders believe he (Kuria) could be trying to fill the vacuum left by the DP, politically.

While speaking to the leaders at his home, Kuria said he and other leaders were President William Ruto and Gachagua's subordinates and that he could not allow anyone to divide the region.

However, Kuria made some interesting remarks when he disclosed that one of the reasons that settled the Ruto running mate debacle was to convince Interior CS Kindiki that he was among youthful leaders that would be left to seek the presidency after ten years as both Gachagua and Ruto would go home together.

"I offered to convince Kindiki (who had received a huge backing from MPs) that he has chances of seeking Presidency when comparing his age with that of Gachagua. I beseeched him to step down for Gachagua because he was a bit older and would go home with Ruto and leave the stage for younger leaders," said Kuria.

However Githunguri MP Gathoni wa Muchomba said Kuria was a man on a mission to unsettle Gachagua and cautioned leaders who ignorantly follow him that "he would dupe them after getting the legitimacy."

"He is packaging himself as Mt Kenya spokesperson and is using first timers to seek legitimacy and that's why he is not inviting some of us who have been in this game for a while. He is a good brain, but a poor leader," she said.

Political consequences

She was referring to Kuria's decision to use his own party (Chama Cha Kazi) which gained popularity only to dissolve it after he was appointed CS.

She envisioned supremacy wars between Kuria and the DP in future, saying the contest will have political consequences.

Kiunjuri has also come out as the region's defender where he is using local vernacular stations to solidify the region.

The Service Party (TSP) leader said a kingpin does not sprout like a mushroom or maize stalks, saying one must have sacrificed for the community.

Kiunjuri, whose name came up in the recently held Kenya Kwanza parliamentary Group where Gachagua accused him of going against the grain, said he will continue agitating for community's interests without fear.

"When we stand up to speak about issues like one man one vote one shilling, we are threatened and told not to step to certain offices. This makes this government no different in comparison to the former regime," he said.

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