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High stakes as Raila and Ruto entice Mount Kenya leaders

By Jacob Ng'etich | May 1st 2021

Raila Odinga at his Karen home where he hosted the Kikuyu Council of Elders led by their leader Wachira Kiago. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

The scramble for vote-rich Mount Kenya bloc is gaining momentum as Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga host leaders from the region to rally support for the 2022 General Elections.

While Ruto retreats to Masai Mara game reserve in Narok County today, where he is expected to meet with over 40 MPs for a three-day retreat to discuss economic matters, Raila yesterday hosted Kikuyu Council of Elders led by their chair Wachira Kiago.

For Ruto, it will be a busy weekend as MPs, a group of economic partners and businessmen from 11 counties in Central work on a roadmap to sustainable economic recovery and prosperity.

And at his Karen residence in Nairobi, Raila said he met the Kikuyu Council of Elders alongside his brother Oburu Odinga and his nephew Elijah, and several MPs from Luo Nyanza where succession politics was the topic.

"I enjoyed a thoughtful discussion at my home over a meal with members of the Kikuyu Council of Elders led by their chairman Mr Kiago. A conversation about moving our country forward not on the patchy path of tribal lines that have and continue to occasion annihilation," tweeted Raila.

Insiders aware of the meeting told the Saturday Standard that the meeting sought to cement the relationship between the two communities, who have over the years been at loggerheads in search of the 'Presidency".

Ndaragua MP Jeremiah Kioni, a permanent figure in engagements between Raila and the Kikuyu elders after the famous Handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta, said they had gone to check on the ODM leader.

"In Kikuyu culture, once you are unwell, we slaughter a goat for you to drink the soup. This helps in recovery. We want Raila to recover fully and get back to his vibrant nature. The country is better with him," said Kioni.

However, about 2022 politics, he remained evasive, saying they are focused on Kenya's unity, as championed by Uhuru and Raila. "However, politics cannot escape the 'menu' and we will make it public at the right time."

The meeting was also attended by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang, Dr James Nyikal (MP, Seme) and Migori Woman Rep Pamela Odhiambo, while Kioni was accompanied by former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth.

Economic recovery

In Narok, Ruto allies from Nyeri, Kiambu, Murang'a, Kirinyaga, Meru, Embu, Tharaka/Nithi, Nyandarua, Laikipia, Nairobi and Nakuru had sessions with leading economic experts led by Prof David Ndii to review and enrich the Mt Kenya document that will offer a new and sustainable path to economic recovery.

Apart from leaders from the region, the retreat brought together representatives from diverse sectors of the economy, ranging from small informal enterprises to multi-nationals. The retreat follows Ruto's day-long consultation with his economic strategy think-tank in Karen led by former Central Bank of Kenya Governor Prof Njuguna Ndung’u.

The majority of the experts are drawn from former President Mwai Kibaki's dream team. The three-day retreat will result in a final list of demands to the DP if he succeeds President Kenyatta in 2022.

The leaders who formed two committees to further their agenda insist economic recovery in the region and politics ahead of next year’s general election top the list of their demands. The DP is expected to join the sessions with a report on the deliberations drafted later in the day.

The Mt Kenya team is the first to attend a series of planned regional meetings with Ruto. Sources say Western, Coast, North Eastern, Rift Valley and Nyanza economic teams will be next. These regional economic blocs will later form a formidable unit that will solidify the bottom-up, middle-out economic model and anchor Ruto’s 2022 manifesto.

The DP has also lined up strategic engagements with various interest groups, leaders and business people who will play a key role in actualising his presidential aspirations. Some of the Mt Kenya leaders in Masai Mara include Alice Wahome, Rigathi Gachagua, Faith Gitau, Kimani Ngunjiri, Isaac Mwaura and James Gakuya.

Senator Irungu Kang'ata said there was a stalemate in Kirinyaga as they could not agree to either select Women Representative Wangui Ngirichi or Ndia MP George Macharia to attend the retreat. “We had a meeting and we elected one person per county to handle the negotiations. We are too many to be involved given that we are 142 leaders. I proposed Wahome for gender purposes and she will be representing Murang'a."

Clear picture

The team is tasked with, among other things, negotiating with the Deputy President on what stake he is likely to offer Mt Kenya for backing his presidential bid.

After the retreat, there will be a clearer picture on the engagements with the DP and the way forward as 2022 elections beckon.

Last week, several MPs from Central said they will benefit more if Ruto is elected president. After the Limuru meeting, Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung'wa said the team had to take the initiative of economic recovery and settle on a leader they would read from the same script with.

“We want a candid engagement with the candidate on matters of economic recovery and measures we will take to restore our people’s economic power and create jobs for our young people,” he said.

Meru Senator Mithika Linturi said they resolved to have an open formal meeting with the DP. “We discussed to have the negotiations with Ruto, whom a majority of our constituents identify with as their candidate and one whom they trust to carry their aspirations of economic recovery and growth of a free enterprise," Linturi said.

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