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Uhuru shifts Central talks to barazas

By Mt Kenya Star | Jul 29th 2019 | 5 min read

Trade Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi and his deputy Titus Ntunchiu at Kangeta in Igembe Central. The region is now meeting in Barazas to discuss future of Central voting bloc. [File, Mt Kenya Star]

Central Kenya talks have branched from the boardrooms into the barazas, as leaders seek to undertake a major public participation exercise to understand development interventions that President Uhuru Kenyatta needs to make in the region.

The meetings, according to the Trade and Cooperatives CS Peter Munya, stared on behalf of Uhuru to understand the core needs of the region following complaints that he had abandoned the people who gave him overwhelming support since 2013 including the opportunity of being their ethnic leader.

The first set of baraza meetings stared on Saturday in Meru County, led by Munya, who has also been the head of the boardroom meetings.

 “(The) Meru meetings (are) to discuss biashara, cooperatives and the Big Four Agenda,” said Munya, who was the first governor of Meru County.

On Saturday, the barazas were held in Kianjai and Mikinduri markets. On Sunday, the barazas moved to Laare and Mailitatu markets and on Monday 29th July, the baraza was held in Mutuati market.

These markets are located in in the Igembe and Tigana regions of Meru, meaning more such barazas will be held to accommodate the views of the Imenti region. It was not clear if Munya will lead the barazas in all the counties or whether leaders will be allocated clustered areas, most likely in their home areas, to lead the public participation meetings. The core of the public publication meetings, a senior official involved said, is to get an opportunity to compare what the boardroom meetings have identified as priority areas of focus with what the people want at the grassroots. Munya’s list of issues, however, gives a glimpse of key areas of focus.

The first, as he said is biashara meaning support of entrepreneurship, start-ups and existing ones, through financing and creating a business environment that will make such enterprises thrive. Opportunities to this end include sensitisation to participate in initiatives like the MbeleNaBiz Business Plan competition that was launched last week by the Government and the World Bank, under Munya’s Ministry, to award 750 successful applications with grants of either Sh900,000 or Sh3,600,000 as part of creating new employment opportunities.

 The second core area is on cooperatives, which have been the engines of growth in Mt. Kenya region, enabling farmers and entrepreneurs as well as formal workers to pool resources that are then loaned for development to the members. Although there is a thriving Sacco sector in Mt. Kenya, mismanagement had hit a good number of farmers’ cooperative societies, an issue that residents want rectifying through proper regulations.

 Cooperative societies are also emerging as core players in the commercialisation of small scale farming enabling pooling of agriculture produce to have enough for processing and export. Munya’s ministry has also gone on the overdrive to come up with regulations and new laws meant to regulate cooperative societies including non-deposit taking Saccos where loopholes in the law have seen Kenyans lose billions of shillings to criminals with briefcase ‘Saccos’.

 The third issue is as identified by Munya is the Big Four Agenda. The idea first to create awareness of the agenda within the region and then help the residents identify how they can benefit from it through its core pillars of affordable housing, expansion of manufacturing, food security and affordable healthcare. Key drivers Apart from the meetings that CS Munya has been sharing, there is also a series of others convened by Prof.

Peter Kagwanja, the Convenor of the Uongozi Forum, which is positioning itself as the Think-Tank for the region, and the other is by the governors under the Central Kenya Regional Economic Bloc (CEREB).

According to Prof. Kagwanja, the core agenda of all the meetings is to use development as a tool to destroy the negative politics that have now become prominent in the region, pitting Tanga Tanga and Kieleweke groups, in the wider battle of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession and confusion over the promise by the region to support his deputy for presidency in 2022, which has been complicated by the handshake with ODM leader Raila Odinga.

“The promise we give to the Mt. Kenya people and the Diaspora is that the region will remain united despite the current scramble for its support,” said Prof. Peter Kagwanja, the Convenor of the Uongozi Forum, the Think-Tank that is behind the current series of meetings by leaders drawn from various sectors.

The meetings are modelled like the World Economic Forum, a non-profit global body based in Geneva, Switzerland that every year, engages the foremost political, business and other leaders to shape global, regional and industry agendas, in preparation for the 4th Industrial Revolution. The idea, Prof. Kagwanja said, is to use the economy as an entry point to influence development in Mt. Kenya through governance, politics, security and other facets of it. “As a convenor, I bring other co-conveners depending on what we want to discuss.” These co-conveners are experts and have immense experience in their areas of the profession. “This is why we have a structured framework to create diversified forms of leadership to guide the region and not just political. We do not want people to say we are doing this just because this or that political leader said so,” said Kagwanja. We want to recognise and entrench the concept of multipolarity of power in Mt. Kenya where power is not only political.”

 Under the CEREB, governors from the region’s 10 counties plan to monetise non-mainstream and neglected economic sectors as a diversification strategy outside agriculture and intensify industrialisation. The plan involves setting up different industries in different counties, processing different commodities in a move aimed at avoiding duplication and ensure maximum use of resources.

“We have come up with major projects that are specific to counties, and which shall be shared within the blocs,” said Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia, the current chairman of CEREB in an interview with Mt. Kenya Star. “We have cross-cutting programmes like fertilizer blending, an agricultural bank, animal feeds factory, solar power farms and lime production. We have planned to have a common tariff within the bloc so that if one is transporting goods from Nakuru to Meru, the levy they pay in Nakuru is enough and do not have to pay the same in Nyandarua and Laikipia,” said the governor. The next stage, Kimemia said, it to share the blueprint with the private sector which is expected to come in with the money and assist in prioritization. “We want the private sector to lead this, not the county governments.”

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