Uhuru, Ruto to lock horns in key by-elections

Kiamba Jubilee party aspirant Kariri Njama [Courtesy]

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto are set to lock horns in the Kiambaa constituency and Muguga ward by-elections slated for Thursday.

The mini-polls have been billed as a battle for supremacy between the political allies-turned-foes, and will have a bearing on 2022 succession politics in the Mt Kenya region.

The ruling Jubilee Party has fielded Kariri Njama for the Kiambaa race while Githinji Mung'ara is vying to represent Muguga.

For President Kenyatta, a loss coming in the mini-polls after his party was vanquished in Juja constituency and Rurii ward in May will paint a picture of a leader losing his political backyard one year to his retirement.

Ruto, on the other hand, will build a case for his political ascendancy in Mt Kenya should United Democratic Party (UDA) candidates John Njuguna (Kiambaa) and Kamau Thumbi (Muguga) emerge victorious.

United Democratic Alliance (UDA candidate for Kiambaa parliamentary By-John Njunguna Wa Wanjiku (second left) making his way to IEBC office in Kiamba on 24th May 2021, accompanied by supporters and Kikuyu member of parliament Kimani Ichung'wah(C) and Member of Parliament for Kiharu Constituency Ndindi Nyoro (second right) [Courtesy]

Aware of the political implications, insiders in Jubilee said the president had asked MPs allied to him to pitch tent in Kiambaa and Muguga to drum up support for Njama and Mung’ara.

In the week, National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya, Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny, Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu and his Limuru counterpart Peter Mwathi have been leading campaigns in the hopes of warding off Ruto allies. 

Also actively involved in the campaigns are Kiambu Governor James Nyoro, MPs Jude Njomo (Kiambu Town) and Gichuki Mugambi (Othaya) and Ndenderu MCA Solomon Kinuthia.

Nyoro told residents of Gachie and Karura that a victory for Njama will show President Kenyatta still commands respect and political influence in the region and beyond.

"Voting for the Jubilee candidate will mean acknowledging the good work President Uhuru Kenyatta has done for Kiambu and the country at large. We need to support the choice of our president. His win will be a win for our president, who is also our political kingpin in central Kenya," the governor said.

But MPs allied to Ruto are bullish and insist that the by-elections will determine which party is stronger and more popular in Mt Kenya. They have vowed to spare no effort to make sure UDA carries the day.

Among leaders who have camped in the region to campaign for Njuguna and Thumbi were Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, Kimani Ichung'wah (Kikuyu), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Alice Wahome (Kandara), Murang'a Senator Irungu Kangata, Nominated Senator Millicent Omanga and former Starehe MP Margaret Wanjiru.

Ichung'wah said UDA is in the race to win. “These by-elections come at a time when the supremacy battle between us in UDA and Jubilee is simmering. Whoever wins these by-elections is the lion of the mountain."

Ndindi said there were staunch Jubilee followers who had left on sensing defeat. “These by-elections will be the ultimate test between us in UDA and our competitors in Jubilee. The battle of supremacy has kicked off. It will be do or die for us."

He added: “We have camped here for one reason only - to win. And when we win, UDA will no longer be the underdog but the main dog and a force to reckon with."

On Monday, the UDA team organised a meeting of more than 2,000 women at a hotel in Ruaka and urged them to vote for Njuguna and Thumbi.

Gachagua said they quit Jubilee after being mistreated. ”We were given such bad treatment; we were chased away and called names for no good reason. Nobody has ever come to tell us what happened. This propelled us to a new party (UDA) and we are sure to bag these two seats."

Members of the rival political parties have pitched camp in Kihara, Karuri and Ndenderu wards. Jubilee candidate Njama comes from Kihara ward, which carries the bulk of the constituency's votes.