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When Jomo Kenyatta faced rebellion over land redistribution

President Jomo Kenyatta addresses a large rally at Tamayota settlement scheme in Molo area of Nakuru [File, Standard]

With the end of his tenure fast approaching, President Uhuru Kenyatta must be wondering why central Kenya is grumbling about his performance.

MPs led by Rigathi Gachagua and Kimani Ichug’wah feel Uhuru has not done much. Yet when he swept to power in 2013 with his political base solidly behind him, the expectations of Mt Kenya were weighty.

With a strong economic foundation left by his predecessor, Mwai Kibaki, residents of the Mountain felt the younger and more energetic Uhuru would more easily create jobs and business opportunities. The President’s critics say this dream has not been realised. Uhuru, however, maintains he has done more for the region than his predecessors.

Nearly 57 years ago, the President’s father, Jomo Kenyatta, faced a similar situation. The difference, however, is that while Jomo was confronted with petulance at the beginning of his young administration, his son is staring at rebellion at the end of his tenure.

In 1965, a group of backbenchers led by GG Kariuki and Kimamo Gichayo criticised Jomo’s government for abandoning peasants from central Kenya. In Parliament, the backbenchers condemned the government’s sympathetic attitude towards foreigners, accusing it of betraying the people’s aspirations.

The MPs were not happy with the mass land redistribution programme carried out under the Settlement Fund Trustees, which they insisted was skewed in favour of a few influential individuals as thousands of squatters evicted from their homes in central Kenya and Rift Valley by colonists remained landless.

As a result, disenchantment with Jomo’s administration spread and calls for change grew louder.  Kanu MPs formed a group under the chairmanship of Henry Wareithi to question the government from within.

“We felt frustrated by the government’s total disregard for the original Kanu manifesto and its heavy reliance on ex-colonial civil service.  In parliamentary group meetings, which Kenyatta always chaired, we complained bitterly that we were not being informed about the day-to-day running of government or the party, but instead had to rely on newspaper and radio reports,” wrote GG Kariuki in his book Illusion of Power.

When the backbenchers realised that the leaders in high places were not willing to listen to their grievances, Mr Kariuki, Mr Gichayo and Mr Wareithi decided to hold anti-establishment public meetings with the first being held at Kutus in Kirinyaga District.