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Kawira Mwangaza considers invite to join UDA

Politics
 President William Ruto and Meu Governor Kawira Mwangaza at Laare in Meru on September 10, 2023. [Phares Mutembei, Standard]

Meru residents are waiting to see if Governor Kawira Mwangaza will join President William Ruto's United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

The President wooed Mwangaza to the ruling party at Laare town during a stopover at the town, two weeks ago after they had attended an inter-denominational prayer at Kiani kia Baimula nearby.

Present were Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi, Meru Senator and Deputy Senate speaker Kathuri Murungi and a number of UDA MPs, MCAs and officials.

"There, we have our Governor Mwangaza. Shouldn't she also join us in UDA?" President Ruto posed with the crowd responding in the affirmative.

It was the second time Mwangaza had received such an invite to join UDA after leaders appealed to her to join the party during the president's visit to Buuri in July.

But Mwangaza has maintained a deafening silence on her next political move and whether she will accept the invitation to join UDA, a dominant party in Meru by virtue of the number of MP and MCA seats.

The governor, who was Meru woman rep before she staged one of the biggest upsets by defeating former county chief Kiraitu Murungi and former senator Mithika Linturi in the governor race last year, has never run on any political party ticket before.

She won the Woman rep position in 2017 and for governor last year as an independent candidate.

Mwangaza came close to running for woman rep on both Party of National Unity and Jubilee party tickets before opting to run as an independent candidate.

Back in 2017 in the run-up to the election, Mwangaza had been a close political ally to former Meru governor Peter Munya, the PNU party leader.

She had been primed to get PNU's ticket to run for Woman rep against incumbent Florence Kajuju of Jubilee and Elizabeth Kailemia, who is the current holder of the seat.

But the Jubilee party managed to woo Mwangaza away from PNU to the chagrin of Munya who accused the ruling party of poaching its candidates.

It was President Ruto who as Deputy President back then received Mwangaza in Jubilee at Kathurine market in North Imenti, on March 9, 2017.

He added: "I want Kawira to walk with us in Jubilee. We have others like Kajuju and Elizabeth Kailemia. Residents will decide to nominate who they want because Jubilee is a democratic party," said Ruto then accompanied by Kiraitu, Linturi and other Jubilee luminaries.

But during the Jubilee nominations, Mwangaza cried foul after Kajuju was declared winner, and bolted out to run as an independent candidate.

She won and her political star shone even brighter in the following years, culminating in her historic victory in the gubernatorial race.

Mwangaza did not bother about looking for a party when she declared her intention to run against the incumbent, Kiraitu, and Linturi.

"She had a nasty experience in the party nominations and it is going to take something special to have her join any party. It was a case of once bitten twice shy for her. While some politicians win elections owing to the popularity of a party, the lady (Mwangaza) worked herself into the ground and connected with the people at the local level," said Danson Muriungi, a political analyst.

Going into the governor's election, Mwangaza rode on her initiatives as a Woman rep and her family's 'Okolea kana ka Miriru' charity programme that aids the most vulnerable in the community.

"I ran as an independent candidate and won with a wide margin. This campaign was different because it was people-driven," Mwangaza said.

Franklin Muthomi argues that Mwangaza faces a tricky situation with UDA being the ruling party and with the most elected leaders.

"None other than the President has invited her to UDA. It is a tricky situation for her but luckily she has the time on her side. She has a lot of time to decide because it is a long time before the next election," said Muthomi, a political analyst.

Another political commentator, Oscar Mutugi opined that with Mwangaza at loggerheads with Meru Senator and Senate Deputy Speaker Kathuri Murungi, she is unlikely to join UDA.

"My view is that seeing the souring of the relationship between Mwangaza and Kathuri, and now between Mwangaza and Linturi both of whom are established in UDA and may have interest in the gubernatorial seat in 2027, the governor may be reluctant to join UDA".

Mutugi said: "She (Mwangaza) has obvious trust issues and likes an environment where she's in control, something she knows won't be a privilege in UDA."

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