By Mwaninki Munuhe
NAIROBI, KENYA: President Uhuru Kenyatta’s first bid for political office as MP for Gatundu South constituency was perhaps the most dramatic as far as the history of Gatundu politics is concerned.
Following a successful mass recruitment of people to join the ruling party Kanu, and having resolved the controversies surrounding coffee farming in the larger Thika District, Uhuru Kenyatta was confident his bid for the Gatundu South parliamentary seat had a reasonable chance of success.
Little did he know a plot would be hatched on the voting day, which would effectively disadvantage his bid.
The competition for the Gatundu South parliamentary seat in the 1997 elections pitted him against former MP Moses Muihia, who was also being supported by Uhuru’s cousin and former MP Ngengi Muigai.
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The campaign for the seat had attracted national attention because although former President Moi had put his weight behind Uhuru by this time, powerful forces within Kanu who felt Uhuru was a threat to the succession politics were vehemently opposed to his candidature and did everything possible to sabotage his campaign.
“Many powerful people within Kanu believed Uhuru was going to be a threat in the succession politics if he were to win the seat. Basically, they believed such a victory would give him even more political clout and could easily diminish their chances of succeeding Moi given that the President was already warming up to him,” said a source.
But it was a plot during the voting day that completely demolished all the gains President Uhuru could have made in his efforts to win the seat.
Forces working against Uhuru’s candidature within Kanu who also included two former student leaders from the University of Nairobi hatched a plot a day before the elections that would see Uhuru’s competitor Moses Muihia kidnapped in a stage-managed plan on the election day. They would then leak the information to the media for quick circulation.
The plot was executed early that morning and information that Uhuru’s competitor had been kidnapped was quickly circulated across the constituency, effectively eliciting protests among voters who insisted they would vote for the kidnapped candidate regardless of his condition.
Even worse, some people had reportedly scooped some blood from a nearby slaughter house, poured it on the river banks of River Thiririka, a few metres from Gatundu town and a car plunged into the river.
The plot effectively gave an indication the competitor could have been attacked around that area.
The protests progressed across the constituency until about 2pm, when Muihia emerged safe and well.
Unfortunately, when Muihia emerged and informed the public he was well, majority of voters had already cast their ‘protest’ vote, a fact that effectively disadvantaged Uhuru because the alleged kidnapping was widely seen as a political move aimed at giving Uhuru an advantage in the polls.
When The Standard on Sunday spoke to Muihia on this matter a while ago, he admitted that there was indeed no kidnapping.
“There was no actual kidnapping, but as I have told you there was too much pressure. Kidnapping did not happen,” he said.
A leading media house carried a prominent report that Muihia had indeed been kidnapped. Muihia told The Standard on Sunday that he believed that Uhuru Kenyatta was not ready for political involvement when the two battled it out for the Gatundu South seat.
“I had a strong feeling he was not ready. You see everything was being arranged, there was too much pressure and I had to agree to doing certain things,” he told The Standard on Sunday in a telephone interview without elaborating what exactly he meant by ‘certain things’.
Ultimately, Muihia defeated Uhuru when the results were announced, although the latter was later picked by Moi as his preferred successor.
Moi’s move saw several politicians led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, former VP Kalonzo Musyoka and former ministers George Saitoti among others defect from Kanu to join the National Rainbow Coalition, which took over the government in 2002 elections with Mwai Kibaki as Presi