Raila to discuss Mount Kenya’s economy with business forum

ODM leader Raila Odinga with Mt. Kenya Governors, from left, James Nyoro (Kiambu), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia), and Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua). [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

ODM leader Raila Odinga will today meet influential figures under Mount Kenya Foundation (MKF) to discuss the region’s economic empowerment. 

The foundation brings together a group of wealthy Central Kenya businessmen, who have in the past influenced elections in successive regimes. According to the meeting follows a decision by the populous region to back the former premier.

Economic empowerment of Mt Kenya has been at the heart of the region’s disaffection with the Jubilee government. Leaders from the region have over time have come out to claim President Uhuru Kenyatta has abandoned their region and focused on developing Opposition areas.

In addition to the region’s economy, today’s meeting at Safari Park Hotel will be centered on the region’s position on President Kenyatta’s succession according to the invite sent out by MKF Vice-chairperson Titus Ibui. 

“We cordially invite you to a luncheon hosted by Mount Kenya Foundation at the Safari Park Hotel on Tuesday 28, …your input in the consultations towards Mount Kenya region’s position and stake in the next government will be greatly appreciated,” states the invite.

Raila’s plans

Equity Bank's former Chairman Peter Munga, former Kenya Revenue Authority Commissioner General Michael Waweru and former Kenya Airports Authority Chairman George Muhoho are the leading lights of the MKF group.

Former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru is also a member of the MKF board and acts as the link between elected leaders and the group. In an interview with The Standard yesterday, Waweru described the meeting as a session for the region to listen to what the ODM leader has for the region.

He said the engagement would inform the political direction that the region will take in the next presidential contest.

“We want to hear what plans Raila has for Mt Kenya. You know we were very instrumental in Kibaki and Uhuru’s presidency and we are taking keen interest on individuals seeking to succeed Uhuru,” said Waweru.

He added: “We want him to tell us his agenda for our coffee, tea and milk. It is more of an interactive session for the region to engage the former premier. We also want to ask him some question before we can make certain decisions.”

Former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

The meeting was initially planned for last week, but was postponed by a week. Waweru explained that some of the group’s members felt it was rushed and had asked for more time.

Raila attends the meeting after a triumphant visit to the Mt Kenya region where he appeared to have gotten a big boost after being offered the tactical backing by four Mt Kenya governors - host Ndiritu Muriithi, Nakuru’s Lee Kinyanjui, James Nyoro (Kiambu) and Central Kenya Economic Bloc chairman Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua).

Warm reception

After a meeting with the four governors at a Nanyuki hotel, Raila left for Nairobi where he made stopovers at Narumoro, Chaka, Karatina, Sagana, Kenol and several others on Thika superhighway terminating at Githurai on the border of Kiambu and Nairobi.

The common denominator was Muriithi who was with the ODM leader throughout his Nanyuki sojourn while the three others made strategic appearances including at the roadshow yesterday.

It is understood that Raila met a section of university student leaders and had a meeting with leading business magnates from the region including architect Lee Karuri, James Mworia and Eng David Kamau who chairs the Party of National Unity (PNU) that in a separate meeting struck a pre-coaliation agreement with the ODM.

The ODM leader was flanked by a retinue of regional pointmen including the Royal Media Services chairman SK Macharia, former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga and Kamau Mweha.

“I was very warmly received during my visit. We have had a great time here. This is part of our meetings countrywide to understand the needs of the specific regions,” Raila said at a press conference at the end of his visit.

But it was the statement by the four governor that was telling.

“In particular we discussed at length the issue of expanding local economic opportunities through the creation of sustainable institutional approach. The growth of the economy must be supported by sound institutional support and not tokenism,” said the governors in their statement read by Kimemia.

The Mt Kenya governors also pushed for inclusion of a stimulus package to cushion medium and small enterprises from global economic shocks such as Covid-19 noting that this was one of the largest employers in the region catering for three million jobs same as those in the agricultural sector according to Muriithi.

“We shall lobby and champion  the enactment of friendly government policies for the MSMEs,” they added.

They spoke as it emerged that Raila was deeply impressed by the Laikipia Innovation and Enterprise Development Programme (LIDP) that is supporting 1,504 enterprises and has created 18,000 jobs so far according to Muriithi. The ODM leader attended a luncheon on Sunday and exhibition by the LIDP and purchased a Sh450,000 unit of the tuk tuks assembled by Sagak Tech Enterprises Limited owned by Samuel Njogu one of the programme’s beneficiaries.

Economic opportunities

They also undertook to spearhead a structured engagement with the region focusing on elected leaders, community leaders, business leaders, farmers organisations and key opinion shapers in the region.

“A serious suitor does not negotiate by the roadside,” they declared adding that this was the first of consultative meetings they planned across the region to culminate in a declaration.

Governor Ndiritu Muriithi. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Muriithi yesterday told The Standard that the region has since resolved to back Raila. He termed the meeting in Nairobi as a culmination of the decision by the region to support Raila’s presidency.

The governor said the region was not ready to gamble by supporting divisive individuals who do not have any agenda for Mt Kenya.

“The meeting is organised by Mt Kenya Foundation because as a region we have made up our mind. We need a serious candidate,” said the governor. “The idea that Mt Kenya cannot accept Raila is a figment of imagination of some individuals.” 

ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna said the campaign team will be a mixture from the President’s side and Raila’s team.

“If you have a joint presidential candidate how do you not have a joint presidential campaign team,” he said.

The scheme also seeks to rid a cabal of individuals around Raila – who have always turned used his candidacy for personal benefit.

The ODM leader’s engagement today with MKF comes after he wound up a three-day campaign tour of the region that has become a battleground for presidential front runners.

Governors Muriithi, Kimemia, Kinyanjui and Nyoro yesterday described the tour as fruitful.

“In particular, we discussed at length the issue of expanding local economic opportunities through the creation of sustainable institutional approach. The growth of the economy must be supported by sound institutional support and not tokenism,” said the governors in a joint statement.

They highlighted inclusion of stimulus package to cushion the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) sector that has been devastated by the global economic factors as well as unfavorable local policies as some of the issues to be addressed. “Noting that the MSME is the largest employer in the Region, we shall lobby and champion the enactment of friendly Government policies for the MSMEs,” it added.