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Titanic battle for county top seats in President Uhuru’s backyard

By Francis Ngige | March 13th 2017
Nyeri Senator Mutahi Kagwe joins women in a dance at Muringato Estate in Nyeri during the launch of his manifesto after declaring his intention to vie for gubernatorial seat at the weekend. [PHOTO:KIBATA KIHU/STANDARD]

Eight governors in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s backyard are bracing for the battle of their political lives as former allies line up to unseat them.

The battle, which is causing rumbles in Mt Kenya region, has put the Head of State in an awkward position as some of his close allies are under siege.

Consequently, the governors from Nyeri, Murang’a, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Embu, Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Isiolo have been forced to devise new tricks to fight off rivals plotting to unseat them, creating a political wave in the region.

This has created political re-alignments which have turned erstwhile allies into foes and transformed former rivals into strange bedfellows.

Yesterday’s announcement by Nyeri Senator Mutahi Kagwe that he would be going for the gubernatorial seat days after the burial of Governor Nderitu Gachagua shows the political intrigues being witnessed in the counties.

By throwing his hat in the ring, Kagwe who is known for his close ties with the late Gachagua’s family will be facing the incumbent Samuel  Wamathai, also a friend of the former governor.

It appears there is no love lost between Kagwe and the Gachaguas as it is reported that the late governor’s younger brother, Rigathi, is also interested in the seat.

Rigathi said: “I’m still mourning the death of my brother and I have taken a political break. I will talk about politics after I finish mourning.”

Unlike in 2013, when the governorship did not attract too much attention, this year’s contest appears to be one seat that every influential and wealthy politicians is salivating for.

The scenario in Nyeri is replicated in all the neighbouring counties where governors are facing herculean tasks to retain their seats.

In Murang’a County, Governor Mwangi wa Iria is facing stiff competition from Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau who has lured Deputy Governor Gakure Monyo to his side.

Iria was overwhelmingly elected in the 2013 where he faced little opposition but this year’s polls presents him with a formidable challenge.

The two rivals have lately defined the Murang’a politics by engaging in bare-knuckle battles never witnessed before.

Kamau has managed to take advantage of the fallout between Iria and Monyo to persuade the deputy governor to join his camp.

Apart from Monyo, Kamau has the backing of six out of the eight MPs in the county who have expressed dissatisfaction in Iria’s leadership.

But Iria boasts of the support of a majority of Members of County Assembly (MCAs) and having carried out development projects, including improving the dairy sector.

The incumbent sees the dairy front as his flagship project and harps on the fact that milk production in the area has increased since inception of devolution.

But it is the Meru scenario that clearly illustrates how politics can be a conniving game with no permanent friends or enemies.

Governor Peter Munya is up against his former ally Senator Kiraitu Murungi, who was instrumental in the latter’s 2013 victory.

The former friends have turned against each other after falling out over the folding of the Alliance Party of Kenya (APK) and the running of the county government.

Since parting ways, Munya and Kiraitu have been reading from different scripts, with each drawing support from different political groupings that have emerged in the county.

While Munya enjoys the support of a majority of MCAs, Kiraitu has had a cosy relationship with MPs.

Yesterday, Kiraitu claimed that Munya had failed in delivering what they (APK) had promised the electorate.

In Kirinyaga, Governor Joseph Ndathi is fighting the battle of his life with two powerful women presenting a formidable challenge in his bid to retain the seat.

Ndathi is up against Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua and former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru. Interestingly, all the three hail from Gichugu constituency.

Ndathi and Waiguru will be squaring it out in the Jubilee Party (JP) nominations and the will face off with Karua who is using her party’s Narc Kenya ticket for the coveted county chief position.

In Embu, former friends have become enemies as the battle for the governorship takes shape.

Governor Martin Wambora has fallen out with Runyenjes MP Cecily Mbarire who is after his seat.

Mbarire on the other hand had hobnobbed with Senator Lenny Kivuti before the two bitterly disagreed to a point of Kivuti moving out of JP to Maendeleo Chap Chap.

It is the same in Tharaka Nithi where Governor Samuel Ragwa, who is facing stiff opposition from Chuka Igambang’ombe MP Muthomi Njuki, has ditched JP for Karua’s Narc Kenya.

In Kiambu, incumbent William Kabogo is bracing himself for a vicious battle after his opponents indicated yesterday that they were planning to field one of them to face him.

Speaking at a rally in Kiambu, the aspirants led by Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu agreed that the only way to oust Kabogo was to forge a united front.

Waititu, James Nyoro, Bishop David Kariuki Ngari commonly known as Gakuyo, John Mugwe and Aquiline Njoki called on residents to be patient saying their quest for unity was unstoppable.

The race for Isiolo has seen Governor Godana Doyo pitted against Senator Mohammed Kuti who supported his bid in 2013 and Abdul Bahari who lost narrowly in the last elections.

All the three are seeking JP ticket while Doyo’s deputy Mohammed Guleid has moved to Chama Cha Mashinani party after falling out with his boss.

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