A meeting of Mt Kenya region politicians held on Friday night has raised eyebrows at a time President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession is entering a crucial stage.
Despite most of the attendees of the Thika meeting insisting that no politics was discussed, their coming together has opened debate on what the region is planning in the post-Uhuru era. Uhuru, regarded as the Mt Kenya political kingpin, is expected to hand over power in under two years. Observers have interpreted the gathering as a precursor to a major political development that will shape the succession agenda.
Uhuru has ignored calls by some politicians to remain in power. Earlier this month, the president confirmed that he would leave office once his term expires in 2022.
Although a few of the attendees were willing to discuss in detail what happened during the six-hour session, it was clear that the leaders were still reading from different scripts. The forum held at the residence of Kirinyaga Senator Charles Kibiru was also attended by Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho and other senior State officers from the region.
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Also in attendance was Majority Leader in the National Assembly Amos Kimunya accompanied by a number of MPs former Central Province. Only a few leaders from Embu, Meru and Tharaka Nithi attended the meeting.
Sources told The Sunday Standard that conveners of the meeting were afraid that leaders allied to Deputy President William Ruto, and those in the non-aligned camp, would walk out, so they stuck to the development debate and shunned politics.
“There were signs that the meeting could end up on a sour note if partisan politics was introduced and that is why the agenda was about how development projects would be steered,” said an MP who sat through the meeting. Key Ruto allies from the region like MPs Rigathi Gachagua, Alice Wahome, Kimani Ichung’wa and Ndindi Nyoro were, however, not invited.
On Friday evening Mr Gachagua questioned the sincerity of the meeting, reading a sinister motive in sidelining some leaders. “I’m not aware of such a meeting and if they were talking about development of the region, why should I be excluded? This puts the agenda of the meeting into question since if it is about development it behooves the conveners to involve every leader,” he said.
After the discussion, the source revealed, a few leaders were tasked with making a follow-up on issues raised by the leaders.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Presidential Delivery Unit Andrew Wakahiu was tasked with following up on the region’s stalled projects and how they can be revived. Former Nairobi Regional Commissioner Wilson Njega was given the mandate to liaise with the leaders on security matters, an attendee said.
Dr Kibicho and Mr Kimunya are said to have emphasised the need for the region to remain united. Kimunya pleaded with the MPs to support government Motions on the floor of the House.
He revealed that a crucial legislative agenda was on the cards this week in the National Assembly. Yesterday Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, who attended the forum, dismissed claims that politics was discussed. “There was no politics, absolutely none, let alone succession politics. That is a false narrative,” said Kuria, an ally of Ruto.
He said the region met to discuss the way forward after the passage of the controversial Third Generation revenue sharing formula.
Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege said the meeting was purely for the interests of Mt Kenya region. “There was no politics discussed at the forum,” she said.
Maragua MP Mary Wamaua said it was a bonding session for leaders who had been pulling in different directions. “Leaders come together so we can lobby for regional development. Kibicho took a lot of time educating leaders over the need for unity,” she said.
Mathioya MP Peter Kimari and Gatanga’s Joseph Ngugi said no politics was discussed. Mr Kimari acknowledged that tension among leaders had led to mistrust. “Another meeting is slated for next week to accommodate MPs with diverse views. After this there will be a meeting for all MPs geared towards fostering unity,” said Mr Kimari.
Ngugi said the forum was long overdue and that such initiatives would enable “the mountain to speak in one voice”. The leaders’ forums, he added, will help push the government to implement development programmes that will uplift the living standards of local small-scale farmers.
“It was not a political meeting but a forum for leaders to develop a common front for the interest of our people,” said Kimari.