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BBI roles likely to revive careers of former MPs

By Wainaina Ndung'u | Dec 7th 2020 | 4 min read
Nominated MP Maina Kamanda during a service at ACK St. Christopher's Mathare Parish in Nairobi. [David Njaaga, Standard]

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), touted as the remedy for the challenges the country is facing, is likely to revive political careers of former MPs in central Kenya.

The former legislators and aspirants in the last election have dominated regional committees overseeing collection of signatures in Nairobi and central Kenya for a referendum on the constitutional amendments proposed in the BBI report.

Central region has three secretariats coordinating BBI activities. The country has been divided into 14 regions.

Mr Dennis Waweru, who served for one term as MP for Dagoretti South, landed the role of national secretariat coordinator alongside National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed, who is the Suna East MP.

Waweru, who also served as the chairman of Central Kenya Parliamentary Group, fell by the wayside in his bid to be governor of Nairobi when he failed to bag Jubilee Party’s ticket in the 2017. The ruling party’s ticket went to ousted Governor Mike Sonko.

During presentation of the signatures to ODM leader Raila Odinga last week, Waweru seized the moment and said: “We have seen some clouds in Nairobi and now that I have proven myself, I perfectly fit the bill.”

This was in reference to the ouster of embattled Sonko last week what it would mean for the city if the Senate upholds MCAs’ decision Sonko.

Nominated MP Maina Kamanda was handed the role of coordinating secretariat’s activities in Nairobi. A strong supporter of BBI and President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose handshake with Raila gave birth to BBI, Kamanda lost his seat as Starehe MP to musician Charles Njagua Kanyi, also known as Jaguar, in 2017.

Kamanda protested his defeat leading a major standoff in the constituency. He would later be nominated to Parliament after a peace deal negotiated by Jubilee Party, to which both belong.

Finished fourth

The chairman of Central Kenya coordinating committee is Mr Peter Were, who served as Mathira MP for one term (2013-2017). Weru lost the seat to Rigathi Gachagua in a race where the former MP finished fourth. His conqueror as well the first and second-runners up, were all debutants.

Former Murang’a Senator Kembi Gitura attended the launch of the signature collection in the county. Gitura, who also served as Senate Majority Whip, lost his seat to the current Senate Majority Chief Whip Irungu Kang’ata. Gitura is currently the chairman of the board of the troubled Kenya Medical Supplies Agency.

Former Murang’a deputy governor Augustine Monyo was also at the launch but said he only turned up as any other member of the public to append his signature.

Political discourse

“We want everyone to contribute to the process. We want a non-contested political discourse where everyone can contribute to its success, including former MPs,” Kang’ata said at the weekend.

In Kiambu, those in the coordinating committee include Gladys Chania who is the overall coordinator for the county. She had her eyes on the woman representative position in 2017 but lost the race for the Jubilee Party ticket. Others in the team are Mr David Mbiyu and Energy PS Joseph Njoroge, who is the chairman.

An MP, who is a close ally of President Kenyatta, speaking on condition of anonymity, the decision to pick ex-MPs to spearhead the BBI process in Central Kenya appear to have had the blessing of senior political leaders in the region. He said the region’s top leaders were worried that some crafty Johnny-come-lately would have tried to use the drive to outshine President Kenyatta, the regional kingpin.

“We were told they would not consider any sitting legislators to avoid a case where people would try to own the process which would certainly open up unnecessary battle fronts,” said the MP.

Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi, Tharaka Nithi’s Muthomi Njuki and Martin Wambora of Embu were part of another secretariat that coordinating committee for signature collection in Mt Kenya region. Other members former MPs Mburi Muiru (Tharaka), Ntoitha M’Mithiaru (Igembe North) and city lawyer Mugambi Imanyara.

Muiru lost the Tharaka parliamentary seat to debutant George Murugara in 2017. Mr M’Mithiaru, who served as MP between 2007-2013, has not been able to recapture the Igembe North seat.

On the other hand, Imanyara has unsuccessfully tried to capture South Imenti parliamentary seat since the 1990s. He lost Meru senatorial race after hot contest against Mithika Linturi in 2017.

Political analyst James Mithika said in some areas such as Meru, it was impossible to pick elected leaders to oversee the drive because they are divided.

“The BBI principals may have settled on the officials they chose because they want the baby to be handled with care and nurtured well at this point. They would not have chosen current MPs from the region because most of them allied to the Tangatanga team,” said Dr Mithika.

Politically connected

Non-governmental Organisations Coordination Board CEO Mutuma Nkanata is coordinator for Mt Kenya East, which includes Meru County.

Nkanata was previously the CEO of Mt Kenya Foundation, a politically-connected and wealthy organisation. Sources said he was picked because he has not known to harbour any political ambitions.

Nkanata was the Master of Ceremonies during the launch of the drive in Chuka, where on two of the region’s 23 MPs were present plus one apology, and was also present to present the signature collection documents to Raila.

Those in attendance were North Imenti’s Rahim Dawood and National Assembly Deputy Chief Whip Maoka Maore (Igembe North).

Kenyans are waiting to see the roles the former legislators will play in the next stage of the BBI process and how this will affect their political careers.

Download the BBI Judgement by all seven Judges - Civil Appeal No. E291 of 2021
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