A showdown is looming in Meru tomorrow, as the Mt Kenya region holds its first Building Bridges Initiatives (BBI) rally amid major divisions.
Unlike other regions where leaders have come up with a common document to be presented to the BBI team on what they want the possible changes to the constitution to address, competing political interests have seen different sets of demands coming from political and social groupings.
It has been abundantly clear that the region is not reading from the same script, with Mt Kenya politicians allied to Deputy President William Ruto holding a separate meeting that excluded those regarded as supporters of the famous handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
On Monday, a group of influential business people from the region, under the Mt Kenya Kenya Foundation (MKF), met with some current leaders and former legislators while Ruto’s allies held a separate forum to draw their wish list for the BBI process.
The divisions have been evident, with a forum convened by Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru yesterday in Sagana being boycotted by some of the leaders from the county.
Ms Waiguru was however quick to dismiss the notion that the leaders had boycotted the meeting, saying the event had been organised for residents to give their views ahead of the rally in Meru.
“This forum was to get views from Kirinyaga people, it was not for leaders. We have received a memorandum from different groups and that is what we will present during the Meru meeting,” said Waiguru.
The same scenario played out in Nyeri, with the town hall BBI validation meeting only attracting governor Mutahi Kahiga, his deputy Caroline Karugu, Kieni MP Kanini Kega and his Nyeri Town counterpart Ngunjiri Wambugu.
During the Nyeri meeting, residents demanded copies of the BBI report as a condition for them to participate in the deliberations. To them, it was foolhardy to give proposals to something they had not seen.
But a similar BBI validation meeting for Mt Kenya East went on smoothly with three governors leading the deliberations.
However, during the meeting held at Kirubia Stadium in Tharaka Nithi, leaders said they expected the meeting in Meru to be steered by Mt Kenya leaders and that ‘outsiders’ should play a minimum role.
Speakers during the convention attended by governors Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi), and Embu’s Martin Wambora added that they expected all leaders, regardless of their political affiliations, to be respected.
They said they did not want a repeat of what happened in rallies in some parts of the country, where some leaders were disparaged.
The governors said tomorrow’s event must be conducted with “decorum and order, unlike the commotion witnessed at previous BBI rallies”.
Also in attendance were Tharaka Nithi Woman Representative Beatrice Nkatha and MPs Gitonga Murugara, John Mutunga, Karaoke Mbiuki, John Paul Mwirigi and Patrick Munene, and representatives of interest groups.
Kiraitu said they expected the meeting to be conducted in a peaceful manner so leaders could use the opportunity to articulate issues affecting the region and its people. He said no one would be allowed to use the meeting to play divisive politics.
“The forum is for us to articulate our issues. We do not want outsiders to say their things at Kinoru. We welcome our brothers and sisters from other regions to come and listen as we articulate our issues,” Kiraitu said, adding that ‘party-spoilers’ would not be tolerated.
Kiraitu was reacting to sentiments by Mr Njuki that there was a plan by some leaders to storm the Meru meeting.
“Foolish politics must stop. Let us not mix BBI and 2022 elections,” Kiraitu said.
On Uhuru succession, Kiraitu said the interest of Mt Kenya was to secure its future ‘seeing the region is unlikely to produce another president for the next 20 years”.
“I don’t see a president (from) here for another 20 years. It (presidency) is not for us alone. We have even told the Kikuyu to let it go. But we have asked ourselves questions regarding where Uhuru’s successor will take us,” he said.
Kiraitu said the region would only support someone who would support the region’s economy and other aspirations.
Meru deputy governor Titus Ntuchiu and Tigania West MP John Mutunga said the BBI should be de-linked from the 2022 elections. Mr Murugara said BBI should also serve to unite Uhuru, Raila and Ruto. “Let us not leave anyone out or else we will be dividing the country,” he said.
Ms Nkatha set the political tone for the meeting when she claimed BBI was not serving its purpose of uniting the country. Instead, she said the initiative was destroying the bridges already built.
She said the deputy president, who has expressed reservations on the manner in which the BBI rallies are being conducted, must be respected by all leaders pushing the BBI agenda.
“We elected the president and deputy president together. He (DP) is a leader we respect and we want him to be accorded respect. BBI is about building bridges, not destroying those we have already built,” she said.
Mr Munene regretted that there were politicians who, after getting an opportunity to speak at BBI functions, had only been keen to create a rift between Jubilee leaders.
In resolutions read by Embu Deputy Governor David Kariuki, the leaders called for the health and agriculture functions to be allocated 15 per cent and 10 per cent of counties’ and national government budgets, respectively.
They proposed lower interest rates of the women and youth enterprise funds, to encourage uptake.
To promote inclusivity, they said no county should have both Cabinet secretary and a PS, to ensure all counties get either of the positions.
They called for electronic voting so that Kenyans can vote from anywhere in the world. All graft cases must be concluded in 12 months and action taken to recover lost assets, the leaders added.
All cereals should also be included in the Strategic Grain Reserve. Power producers KenGen and Kenya Power should channel part of their funds to communities around them. They called for abolition of Chief Administrative Secretary positions.