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Uhuru allies plot to keep BBI on track in Mt Kenya

By Wainaina Ndung’u and Roselyne Obala | January 7th 2021 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang'ata (left), flanked by some MPs, speaks after receiving copies of BBI report on October 22, 2020. [File, Standard]

Jubilee Party members in Mt Kenya have been discussing possible changes to its parliamentary leadership after the explosive letter by Senate Chief Whip Irungu Kang’ata advising a rethink of Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

On Tuesday, what was said to be a high-level think tank of the mainstream JP in Mt Kenya region held a four-hour meeting at a hotel in Nairobi to brainstorm on the bleeding triggered by “Kang’ata’s letter.”

The meeting, attended by about 15 people, was chaired by National Assembly deputy Chief Whip Maoka Maore (Igembe North) and saw intense discussions centred around salvaging the BBI in the region.

In the meeting were Jubilee vice chair David Murathe and Kirinyaga Senator Charles Kibiru, who is mentioned as among those likely to replace Kang’ata if push came to shove in the control of the party brigade in Parliament.

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Court challenge

Although elected on an independent ticket, Kibiru has always associated himself with Jubilee Parliamentary Group and is facing a court case that seeks to declare his seat vacant because he reportedly dabbled in affairs of a political party.

Ironically, the court case stems from Kibiru’s participation in an early May, 2020, State House meeting that approved the removal of Elgeyo Marakwet’s Kipchumba Murkomen and Nakuru’s Susan Kihika from their Senate leadership roles.

The Tuesday meeting is also said to have touched on the unpopularity of National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya (Kipipiri) who replaced Aden Duale (Garrisa Township) in June 2020, during the purge of Deputy President William Ruto’s allies in parliamentary leadership.

“The consensus at this meeting was that criticism and threats may be issued but it was the wrong timing for a purge,” said one loyalist who attended the consultation.

On Kang’ata’s letter, the meeting is said to have disagreed with all the contents but one. They felt that the National Government Administration Office or the former provincial administration needed to be disengaged from the BBI process.

But Murathe, the former Gatanga MP who is close to the president, is said to have exuded confidence that the BBI is popular in Mt Kenya and would sail through easily, and that the so-called Ruto wave would die out in the region by the 2022 elections.

Jubilee Vice Chairman David Murathe at Jubilee Headquarters. [File, Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The think-tank is said to have argued that Ruto has failed in timing a political wave that sweeps people into national leadership saying that sustaining it for two years would be a tall order.

The group claimed that Ruto was likely to suffer the same fate as the aborted 1992 multiparty wave that failed to push any of the Forum for Restoration of Democracy (Ford) front runners into State House as the long period to the elections left room for sowing seeds of discord. It also agreed that in 1997, the Inter-Party Parliamentary Group reforms backfired because of early timing as did Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s campaigns of 2011 to 2013.

They also looked at the well-timed waves of just under five months that swept Mwai Kibaki to victory under the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) in 2002 and the UhuRuto wave that happened within a few months in 2012 to March 2013 elections.

The group felt that the president should save his energy for the wrapping up phase of the BBI for maximum effect.

It also recommended that he stays out of the Nairobi governorship race to cool down a simmering Murang’a-Kiambu feud.

One of the issues that came up at the meeting was Kang’ata’s loyalty to Jubilee’s mainstream leadership.

Some of the speakers at the meeting claimed they found it awkwardly coincidental that Kang’ata is an associate of nominated MP Isaac Mwaura who decamped to the Ruto camp, as well as Kiharu’s Ndindi Nyoro, also an ally of the DP.

Kang’ata also was under fire for the JP loss in Gaturi ward by-election in his Murang’a backyard to People’s Empowerment Party candidate Esther Mwihaki who worked in Nyoro’s Constituency Development Fund office.

In the December 15 by-election, she beat JP’s Rosemary Wakuthie despite “substantial” support from the ruling party.

In an earlier interview, Murathe had claimed the party probably deliberately fielded a weaker candidate.

Nominated MP Maina Kamanda did not attend the Tuesday meeting as he was indisposed and Kieni MP Kanini Kega called in as the meeting was coming to a close.

The development comes at a time when about 50 Jubilee MPs and a few governors are planning a Saturday meeting in what is being described as an attempt to reconcile “deep State” actors and the political class.

“A lot of elected leaders have had a feeling that the deep State had stolen the show especially on BBI and this needed to be made right,” said a senator who has been invited.

Kang’ata could not respond to the think tank’s take on House leadership purge but confirmed he has not been invited to the Saturday meeting.

North Imenti MP Rahim Dawood confirmed such a meeting is planned.

“It is to map out strategies to counter the lies and propaganda being spread and once we are done, I believe everyone will understand where we are coming from. BBI will definitely pass this year,” added Dawood.

Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi has also spoken on the grumbling about BBI saying most of the sentiments are based on a misguided understanding of the reform initiative.

BBI Jubilee Party Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang'ata Jubilee Vice Chairman David Murathe
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