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Mount Kenya parties, groupings fight to find their footing a year to elections

By Ndungu Gachane and Chris Thairu | August 15th 2021
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua and Service Party Of Kenya leader Mwangi Kiujuri at a press briefing the three are forging a unity of Mount Kenya ahead of the 2022 General Elections [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

A year to the General Election, Mt Kenya was rumbling this week, groping in the dark in an attempt to find a formula that presents a formidable bargaining bloc in succession politics.

The latest, a bid by Narc Kenya party leader Martha Karua, his The Service Party (TSP) counterpart Mwangi Kiunjuri and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria to dangle an inter-parties forum for the mountain, confirmed the confusion afflicting the region.

Add that to the multiple presidential candidates who have emerged, the many political parties competing in the area, the spirited interest of outsiders on the regional politics, President Uhuru Kenyatta's exit and Deputy President William Ruto factor, and you have a strong potent for confusion.

Political analyst James Mithika says the region is headed to political abyss even with 23 per cent of the country's total gross domestic product (GDP).

"Fortunately there are those in the region who know that it does not take magic to sit in one table and discuss the political trajectory of Mt Kenya," says Dr Mithika.

Before the events of this week, the region had about five political groups. One group comprises ardent Ruto supporters drumming for the DP's United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and another group supporting Ruto but insisting on a united alliance to bargain with him.

Negotiating from outside

The faction that believes in negotiating with Ruto from outside is being led by Kuria and Kiunjuri. They roped in Karua yesterday. Previously, Kiunjuri and Kuria have declared that they will be forming an alliance that will consolidate the region’s votes and negotiate with Ruto on the region’s stakes should he form the next government.

MPs Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Alice Wahome (Kandara), Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira), Kimani Ichung'wah (Kikuyu) and Meru Senator Mithika Linturi are touted as members of Ruto’s kitchen Cabinet from Mt Kenya region and have predictably been rubbishing Kuria and Kiunjuri’s efforts to negotiate from outside UDA.

Other than the two groups, there exists another group that has stuck with the Jubilee mainstream. This group is keen on reading from the same script with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

That may now be about rebranding the ruling party to form an alliance with ODM leader Raila Odinga’s ODM and has the blessings of, among others, former presidential candidate Peter Kenneth and Jubilee Vice Chairman David Murathe.

Another emergent group from Mt Kenya East is pushing to rebrand a regional party to field National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi as their presidential candidate while political strategist and kingmaker Jimi Wanjigi has launched a push to win the ODM presidential ticket.

The Jubilee remnant group is led by Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu and whose membership comprises Murang'a Woman Rep Sabina Chege, MPs Kanini Kega (Kieni), Maoka Maore (Igembe North) and Jeremiah Kioni (Ndaragwa) as well as Kiambu Governor James Nyoro.

Those pushing for the Mt Kenya East unity pact include governors Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi) and Martin Wambora (Embu) and former Embu Senator Lenny Kivuti. They have fronted the takeover of the Restore and Rebuild Party (RRK) as the sub-regional vehicle for Mt Kenya East.

However, a bevy of other minor parties from Mt Kenya East are pulling in different directions, creating a confusing state of affairs on the political direction of the region.

Although the group has managed to send a proposal to change the party officials to the Registrar of Political Parties, indications on the ground show they have already lost the support of Maore and his allies who have since elected to stay with the Jubilee mainstream and push a Raila presidency.

In Mt Kenya East, UDA mainstream still retains the direct support of Linturi, nominated MP Cecily Mbarire and several first-term MPs.

No one knows what will happen in the next one year, with the many forces pulling in different directions and with players such as Peter Munya’s Party of National Unity (PNU) and Eala MP Mpuru Aburi’s No Peu party still trying to hit their blow.

Smaller parties have been formed while others in existence have revived efforts to claim their position in the region. Democratic Party (DP) has started rebranding while the newly registered Usawa Kwa Wote allied to Murang'a Governor Mwangi wa Iria has started presidential campaigns.

One thing that all the leaders from different factions agree on is that there is turbulence but the manner in which there will be one accord depends on which faction the leaders are in. Wambugu believes the ruling party will revive its lost glory by next year. He says the party has established measures to conduct an overhaul of leadership structures, which will be through by December 20.

“We have started listening forums from all the counties and thereafter shall start Wanjiku republic town halls for the new leadership. We are rolling on the ground to explain our score card and by this we shall move our 50 per cent stake to 70 per cent and restore our dominance,” Wambugu says.

According to Maore, the region will stabilise by next year when President Kenyatta will personally lead the succession campaigns.

Mt Kenya Youth Caucus Chairperson Linford Mutembei says when the president roars, the region will support Raila and all those supporting Ruto will "go back home".

“The ruling party will remain dominant and we shall definitely support Odinga’s bid and the president will lead the region in campaigns,” Mutembei says.

However, according to Nyoro, a Ruto lieutenant, Mt Kenya region is in Hustler Nation.

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