For two days, about 70 legislators with roots in the Mount Kenya region met in Naivasha for closed-doors talks where President Uhuru Kenyatta's succession, the upcoming boundaries review, and impeding national census took centre stage.
The leaders' debate on who the region would back post-Uhuru's presidency in 2022 was said to have been thwarted amid claims that the topic had been vetoed from high offices.
Sources privy to the goings-on at the meeting said politicians were keen to establish how the region could capitalise on the remaining years of the Uhuru administration to remain economically grounded even after 2022, irrespective of who would win the presidency.
The meeting comes against the backdrop of numerous visits by DP William Ruto to the region as he seeks to consolidate support for his 2022 presidential bid. Some leaders from the region have argued that the DP is not the automatic Uhuru successor while others have maintained that they will back him.
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Although the divisive issue of the 2022 politics was in the minds of the legislators as they arrived for the retreat on Sunday, sources told The Standard the subject was dropped because of fears it could divide the caucus and frustrate debate on the region’s development, which was the priority of the meeting.
Sources say a group around Senate Deputy Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata appeared keen to have the succession issue and the proposed constitutional review discussed.
However, strong opposition from some of the legislators made it difficult for them to push through their agenda.
A group led by nominated MP Maina Kamanda was said to have been uncomfortable discussing the issue, saying the meeting was not the right forum for the debate.
Mr Kanga’ata had prepared a document dubbed "Mt Kenya: Which Way to go on the Constitutional Review Debate?" The document was never discussed after a number of his colleagues rejected the topic.
In the document, Kang’ata pointed wanted two issues debated: “First, compare presidential and parliamentary systems of democratic governments. Second, comment on the agitation for reduction of counties ostensibly to save costs.”
Kang’ata left the hall when his proposal was shot down. He spent most of the morning session in a cyber cafe and only joined his colleagues after Starehe MP Charles Njagua aka Jaguar came for him.
According to a number of confidential sources, the meeting was called to address discontentment among the MPs, most of whom felt the region had been left out despite overwhelmingly voting for the re-election of President Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto.
The source said the legislators felt alienated by State House.
"The President has a lot on his plate. He is a very busy man, so getting to him is very difficult. We need someone who has his ear and who can put in a word for us when we need him," the source said.
Sources intimated the President dispatched ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru and Cabinet administrative secretaries Rachel Shebesh (Devolution), his Treasury colleague, Nelson Gaichuhie, and Winnie Guchu (Water) to “hold brief” for the Executive.
With resource distribution from the national government now largely channelled through annual allocation to counties and the national government – Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF) – the leaders were looking for ways in which the region could reap maximum benefits before Uhuru's exit.
It was with this in mind that the legislators vowed to push for a change in the formula for revenue allocation, which they argued was skewed to their counties' disadvantage.
The MPs also promised to keep a close watch on the border review by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which will determine the delimitation of constituencies, where again the leaders felt they were short-changed in the last review that created the 290 constituencies.
“The feeling is that we have been short-changed both in allocations to counties, where population is not the key parameter in revenue allocation, so our counties, despite their huge numbers (of people), end up getting very little under the formula. This must change,” said a source.
He added: “We also must change the law on distribution of the CDF. This has since been changed to ensure that all constituencies, irrespective of their population, get a flat rate allocation. We must change this as well."
The caucus chairperson, nominated MP Cecily Mbarire, dismissed claims that President Uhuru’s succession was on the agenda, accusing the media of misinformation.
“The issues on the table were the high expectations of the six million voters from our region. Our desire is for the Jubilee leadership to fulfil the promises it made to our supporters.”
Ms Mbarire said the meeting had identified development priorities for the region and in particular with regard to water, roads, electricity and agriculture.
“We have therefore developed a detailed development matrix that we shall forward to his Excellency the President for implementation,” she said.
The meeting further resolved that the Mt Kenya region must claim its rightful share of development in the country within the remaining four years of the current administration.
They said the region contributed 60 per cent of country’s GDP, yet only 20 per cent is ploughed back to its people.