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Big test for Ruto as cracks emerge in Mt Kenya after Limuru III meet

Politics
 President William Ruto. [Samson Wire, Stand

The long-held ambitious effort by President William Ruto to pacify Mount Kenya region and ring-fence his support in the region is facing an ultimate test as the Limuru III conference concluded, deepening cracks among allies and foes.

While some observers believe the meeting will not have any effect on Kenya Kwanza’s support in the region, others believe it will have repercussions on Ruto’s right-hand man and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua.

It was a meeting aimed to act as a launching pad for the push for unity among Gema leaders. But reading from statements of leaders from the region, observations from Ruto and Rigathi’s allies as well as reactions from pundits, the divisions in the mountain have only deepened.

On Saturday, a section of observers claimed that the president, who fought hard to entrench his support in the region, appears less concerned with the current rumbles taking place. Political analyst Javas Bigambo believes Ruto’s camp is certain the cracks are sibling rivalries that may fizzle out in the future and will not impact his support.

“The current fights are mere sibling rivalry, and I think the president is keenly observing what is happening. He can either choose to come in later and unite the warring teams or he can let it stay until the run-up to the 2027 elections. He is playing smart,” he said.

According to the analyst, the rumbles are also part of a wider strategy to ensure that the region benefits more than other communities from Ruto’s government.

“I call it that because, if you look at what the DP is pushing for, it’s only benefiting his community, the same as what the other leaders are pushing for. Take a look at DP’s fight against alcohol and drugs, he has centralized it to Mt Kenya region, which is wrong,” he said.

Some pundits argue that the meeting, which was organised by Narc-Kenya party leader Martha Karua and Jubilee Party Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni, did not spark a wedge among the Gema community.

Others are in full support of the conference, saying that it produced a new crop of leaders that are pushing for the interests of the region as well as pointing out the misses in the Kenya Kwanza administration.

Speaking to The Sunday Standard, former Kiambu County Council chairman  Ngarama Karanu said the recent remarks by Gachagua over the one-man-one vote, one shilling revenue sharing formula depicted that he was uncomfortable with the top leadership.

Karanu said UDA, which got many leadership slots in the region during the 2022 General Election, had failed to safeguard the interests of the people from the vote-rich region.

“UDA leadership has failed the community and since there is no leadership vacuum, some leaders converged through Limuru III to lobby for Wanjiku’s interests. We invested heavily in UDA but the leaders from this region have failed,” Karanu said.

He argued that President Ruto appointed many leaders from the region to key positions in his administration, but they have failed to lobby for the interests of their people.

Political analyst Mutahi Ngunyi, however, launched scathing criticism against the meeting and the push for the one-man, one-shilling, one-vote revenue-sharing formula. In a social media post, he accused the former president of pushing for the ideology to safeguard his own interests.

Uhuru is the problem

“On Limuru III, Uhuru is the problem. I respect him but he should climb down,” said Ngunyi.

Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot said Kenyans were not concerned about tribalism saying that leaders sowing seeds of hatred among citizens should not be allowed to mislead their kinsmen.

“The politics being promoted by some leaders are retrogressive, how can leaders who have served in this country convene a meeting that is aimed at setting their community against others? I believe in project Kenya where we all prosper together,” said Cheruiyot.

He said those vouching for tax exemption were about serving the interests of a few at the expense of the majority while millions of Kenyans were suffering. He asked citizens to rally around the tax proposals that were aimed at prospering the country.

National Assembly Leader of Majority Kimani Ichungwah said together with Public Service Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria, they coined the one man, one shilling, one vote mantra which the former President took over and put in BBI when it gained currency in Mount Kenya region.

“We cannot continue talking like some people own this country more than others, all Kenyans pay taxes, I am among those leaders who together with Moses Kuria when we were in Tanga Tanga who coined the one man, one shilling, one vote mantra before former President Uhuru included it in BBI,” said Ichungwah.

Kisii Senator Richard Onyonka said that the Limuru 3 meeting symbolizes Kenya Kwanza Alliance's collapse after Mount Kenya residents discovered they are suffering just like other Kenyans who did not support the current administration which has come up with draconian tax measures.

He said Uhuru is very influential in the Mount Kenya region and residents might have discovered that they made a mistake by not listening to him.

“The latest happenings indicate that Kenya Kwanza Alliance is on the verge of collapsing with political coalition created basically for political expediency with those getting into power not having any intention of implementing the manifesto that they sold to Kenyans,” said Onyonka.

Political analyst Dr Philip Chebunet told The Sunday Standard that the conference did not affect President Ruto's influence in the region because he was overwhelmingly voted in by residents from the region. According to him, the Limuru III meeting did not split the people of Mt Kenya region.

“There is no split at all. People loved President Ruto because of ‘The Plan’ and a solid agenda. Until those aspirations diminish, it could be hard to have them change their mind. Without a credible challenger for President Ruto from that region and not aligning to DP Gachagua, Ndindi Nyoro and Ichung’wa, what Karua and Kioni are doing is hot air,” Dr Chebunet said.

Nyeri MCA Kariithi Wambui said the attendees of the Limuru III meeting did not support President Ruto’s candidature in the last polls, adding that the meeting did not tilt the region politically.

“I don’t think there was any split because those present in that meeting never supported President Ruto in 2022. The only split that can affect the President is that which can happen from within Kenya Kwanza,” Kariithi said. The Service Party (TSP) leader Mwangi Kiunjuri claimed the agenda of the Limuru III was to castigate President Ruto’s administration.

“Limuru III meeting was meant to discuss how we are being oppressed as a community and how we can come up with a leader in 2027. Limuru III was a meeting simply meant to fight the government,” the Laikipia East MP claimed.

The meeting, however, casts huge doubt on the prospects of the region uniting under one strong political force as different fronts emerge. It comes at a time when there has been discomfort between Gachagua and younger politicians including Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, Ichung’wa and their allies. They are all Ruto allies.

On Saturday, some observers claimed there appears to be a sense of discomfort between the president and his deputy and believe Gachagua could be one of the biggest losers in the heightened political activities in the region. According to Bigambo, the rift between the president and his deputy is occasioned by his decision to support Raila Odinga’s bid to vie for the AUC chair’s seat.

“The DP must have felt that he was the one to push for Raila’s bid but the president settled for Musalia Mudavadi. That must also have irked him.

However, if the mountain goes to the 2027 elections divided and Ruto manages to get the support of Nyanza, Western, Coast, Northern Kenya and gets control of Nairobi, then he is likely to win with a bigger margin than he did in 2022,” he said. The Deputy President has been missing in action, with sources indicating that he retreated back to his rural home in Mathira for consultations on countering fighting forces in the region.

[Reports by James Murimi, Clement Masombo and Edwin Nyarangi]

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