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ODM’s strategy to win over Central

By - | August 16th 2012

By Wainaina Ndung’u

The team mandated to deliver the Mt Kenya voting bloc to ODM presidential candidate Raila Odinga is pegging all its hopes on Mau Mau freedom icons to attract youthful voters.

The ODM Reloaded team, spearheaded by Nairobi businessman Peter Kuguru, is targeting one million votes mostly from voters who are below 40.

Mr Kuguru has unsuccessfully vied for Mathira parliamentary seat in Nyeri County thrice.

He told The County Weekly his team has been making tremendous inroads in the area through appealing to the less tribal youthful vote bloc.

But he admitted that selling ODM in the region would require exceptional skills as the local people have been socialised against voting for ‘outsiders’.

“The problem in Central Province has largely to do with the 1969 ‘Gatundu tea’ oathing which bound the population to work against the interests of other people. This is a spiritual bond that is hard to break and there is not much one can do about it,” said Mr Kuguru.

He was referring to the alleged administration of oaths to residents of Central Kenya after Kenya’s first president Kenyatta fell out with his Vice-President, Oginga Odinga, precipitating political tensions which balkanised the country along ethnic lines.

Former mungiki leader

The ODM’s strategy involves working with some descendants of the Mau Mau freedom fighters.

During his tour of the region recently when the ODM Mashinani movement was unveiled, Mr Odinga visited Mukami Kimathi, widow of Mau Mau hero Dedan Kimathi who was hanged in 1956 for fighting against the colonialists.

The Prime Minister has also been identifying and working with families of Mau Mau leaders and during the same tour he went to the Gilgil home of JM Kariuki, the freedom fighter and later Nyandarua North MP who was assassinated after he fell out with Kenyatta in 1975.

Among those working for Mr Odinga is JM’s daughter, Rosemary Machua who is married to a former Nairobi councilor, Kariuki Machua, a close ally of Nairobi ODM mayor George Aladwa.

ODM has also forged close ties with former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga and his Mkenya Solidarity Movement.

To test the strength of this unity, Mr Kuguru says ODM has decided to support a village shopkeeper who is the Mkenya Solidarity Movement candidate for the Kangema parliamentary by-elections set for next month. ODM’s man is John Gathogo, 33, a relatively unknown retail shopkeeper at Kangema town who will be unveiled as the Mkenya candidate at a rally at Ihura Stadium in Murang’a town.

The rally is expected to be graced by the movement’s leader, Njenga and former Cabinet minister GG Kariuki. The Kangema seat fell vacant after the death of former minister John Michuki in February.

According to Mr Kuguru, ODM will give logistical support to the Mkenya candidate.

The shopkeeper is expected to make an impression in an area where the Michuki name is an institution as his father, a former colonial chief, had 45 wives whose descendants are all over the constituency.

The age magic

The ODM regional campaign chief says their candidates will mostly be ordinary people rather than the elite who are seen as “having hijacked the Uhuru dream”.

It will be interesting to watch how this strategy will play out or the magic ageing politicians such as Charles Njonjo and GG Kariuki will add to Mr Odinga’s bid.

The PM is also known to have a soft spot for mavericks such as retired Anglican Archbishop David Gitari, former minister Waruru Kanja and multi-party crusade hero Kenneth Matiba.

In Meru, Mpuru Aburi, one of the PM’s chief campaigners in the Meru-Embu region who has unsuccessfully vied for the Tigania East parliamentary seat, says the Mt Kenya East region has resolved to support Mr Odinga.

Mr Aburi says the ODM team anticipates that for the first time, the Mt Kenya East vote break from the stranglehold of voting with their Kikuyu cousins in Central Province and massively support Mr Odinga’s bid.

Friends of Raila

Mr Aburi is to host Mr Odinga for the launch of his regional campaign at a public rally in Mikinduri market in Tigania East constituency on September 2.

Both Mr Aburi and Mr Kuguru expect the strategy to use descendants of Mau Mau fighters to win votes in a region where a substantial proportion of the population feels that a few elites hijacked the independence dream of a united and prosperous nation.

In the entire Mt Kenya region, the only elected MPs openly supporting Mr Odinga’s ticket are Kiambaa’s Stanley Githunguri and Imenti Central’s Gitobu Imanyara, who recently joined the Friends of Raila (Fora) lobby group.

“We are actually doing better than expected though we are not making a lot of noise about it. We don’t expect as much support here as in traditional ODM areas but we hope to bag 30 to 50 per cent of the two million votes in the region,” says Mr Kuguru.



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