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What's cooking in Mt Kenya? Party leaders step up strategy meetings

By Boniface Gikandi | August 21st 2021
Usawa kwa Wote Party Leader and Murang'a Governor Mwangi wa Iria when he launched a massive voters registration campaign in Mt Kenya region as he castigated a section of leaders who are entering into joint coalition on August 18, 2021. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

Political temperatures are rising in Mt Kenya, with parties caucusing for mergers in anticipation of next year's General Election.

With the near-unanimous realisation that the region is out of the contention for the presidency, political camps are still largely divided between support for Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

A look at the backyard shows several strategic political meetings have been taking place but little or no effort is being made to urge the masses towards a particular direction.

Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi has said the political direction of the region is critical with its eight million votes and a huge stake in the country's economy.

Muriithi was on Tuesday alongside Kirinyaga's Anne Waiguru and Nakuru's Lee Kinyanjui among Central Kenya leaders who joined Raila at a public visit in Nakuru town.

On the same day, former Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua were caucusing with leaders of smaller parties in Mt Kenya at Thika where they insisted on structured regional negotiations with the leading presidential candidates.

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]

On Wednesday, another meeting of small parties including Safina, Party of National Unity (PNU) and Democratic Party (DP) happened at one end of Nairobi while a caucusing of the remaining President Uhuru Kenyatta supporting Jubilee Party MPs from the region including Nyeri town's Ngunjiri Wambugu, Murang'a woman MP Sabina Chege and Kigumo's Wangari Mwaniki was in its own meeting, where they called for changes in the party top guard.

But Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria scoffed at the political groupings describing them as none entities as they fail to represent the interest of the eight million voters around the mountain.

Iria hit at some of the political parties as briefcase outfits, with no ground support. “I understand the needs of the community having served as governor for two terms. My approach will be unique as I will be visiting the people in their villages and donating heifers as an empowerment vehicle,” he said.

Iria who has declared his intention to run for presidency through Usawa Kwa Wote Party accused some leaders of entering into early negotiations before urging the population in their backyard to register as voters.

“I am encouraging people in the mountain to be registered as voters and belong to a political party. The notion created by a section of leaders that a Kikuyu should not assume the country’s leadership after President Uhuru Kenyatta, was conceived to blackmail the community,” said Iria.

Mt Kenya Youth Caucus chairman Linford Mutembei said there was the need for Mt Kenya leaders to hold a session and get a candidate, who will then negotiate with Raila or Ruto.

He said the leaders should embark on a common strategy through identifying their issues and ensuring the incoming president will complete the development projects started by President Kenyatta.

“All leaders are equal thus they need to shelve personal ambitions and focus their energies on rallying our people behind the ODM leader,” said Mr Mutembei.

But Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata, who is allied to DP Ruto said he was not against local leaders coming together for a worthy purpose.

Branded vehicle with Usawa kwa wote Patry colours at General Ihura grounds in Murang'a. Murang'a Governor Mwangi wa Iria said they will be involved in voters registration campaigns and recruitment of party members on August 18, 2021. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

These "many" plans in the region, added Kang'ata, would not change fundamental principles.

Ruto's camp is however said to have panicked over the open rebellion by Kiunjuri and Kuria especially the latter who is seen as a strong campaigner and directly responsible for the several by-elections wins in the Central region by Hustler Nation in Gaturi, Rurii and London wards as well as Juja and Kiambaa constituencies.

“At the Thika meeting, we established a framework to ensure issues in the region are captured correctly to ensure anybody coming for our partnership (coalition) knows our true position,” said Kuria.

“Should they hold more than 100 meetings, the narrative on the deputy president will not change. Hustler’s Nation support will not decline but get strong by the day,” said Kang'ata.

Charles Njoroge, a political commentator said anybody will ignore Iria's Usawa Kwa Wote party at their own peril. "The governor takes himself to places without being pushed by brokers. He will surprise many towards the end of this election campaign with the backing he will get from Mt Kenya residents," he added. 

Democratic Party chairman Esau Kioni said they had established a technical working group with Safina and PNU that would set out the rules of engagement.

“For now we are far from discussing the likely lineups but in the long run we are going to pursue consolidation of our support in one basket,” said Kioni after the Thika meeting. 

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