Kiambaa poll new litmus test for Uhuru, Ruto ahead of 2022 polls

UDA supporters outside New Breed City Chapel, Kiambu road, where Deputy President William Ruto attended a church fundraiser and made a personal donation of Sh 1 million.[Fidelis Kabunyi,Standard]

After two decades of political camaraderie, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto now find themselves in vicious political combat following their fallout.

Ideally, the Kiambaa Constituency and Muguga Ward by-elections would pass as mini polls that would not stir eyebrows in the national spectrum, until the bigger political contest emerges.

A year to the General Election, the two polls mean everything to President Kenyatta and his deputy, once political bosom brothers now turned adversaries. 

President Kenyatta plans to retire at the end of his final term in August 2022 while Ruto, against the wishes of the head of State, wants to succeed him, but that single statement does not make the by-election a premium.

Uhuru is keen to control his succession and does not wish to hand over to Ruto, and that is where the contest starts: the battle for the control of the four million Mount Kenya votes where the electorate majorly voted homogeneously.

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.

Wounded politically from the loss in Juja Constituency and Rurii Ward in his Mount Kenya backyard back in May, Uhuru needs a victory as a political statement that he still has some clout in his home turf.

A loss in the mini-polls in his home county of Kiambu will be a devastating blow that will leave him badly gutted politically.

Last week, Uhuru -- according to an insider -- is said to have told Jubilee Party Members of Parliament allied to him to roll up their sleeves in Kiambaa and bring to him victory, and on Thursday, he hosted the ruling party’s candidate, Kariri Njama, at the Nairobi State House.

Njama is facing Ruto-backed United Democratic Alliance (UDA) candidate John Njuguna Wanjiku for the Kiambaa race while Jubilee’s Githinji Mung’ara is battling it out with UDA’s Kamau Thumbi at the Muguga Ward by-election.

A victory for the Ruto-backed candidates -- Wanjiku (Kiambaa) and Thumbi (Muguga) -- will build a case for Uhuru’s dwindling fortunes in his backyard and his deputy’s political ascendancy. 

Clearly aware of the political statement that Kiambaa polls carry, Uhuru-allied MPs led by National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya, Cherang’any MP Joshua Kutuny, Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu and his Limuru counterpart Peter Mwathi have been leading campaigns in a bid to ward off Ruto allies.

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

Nyoro told residents of Gachie and Karura that a victory for Njama will signify that 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 Kenyatta has done for Kiambu and the country at large. We need to support the choice of our president. Njama’s win will be a win for our president, who is also our political kingpin in Central Kenya,” said the governor.

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 are Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, Kimani Ichung’wah (Kikuyu), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Alice Wahome (Kandara), Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata, 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 for supremacy has kicked off. It will be a do-or-die for us,” he said.

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