New lobby, MPs join crusade to market Raila Odinga in Mt Kenya


L-R: Limuru MP Peter Mwathi, Jude Jomo (Kiambu), Sabina Chege (Muranga Women Rep), Kanini Kega (Kieni) and Ngunjiri Wambugu (Nyeri) during Kiambaa by-epection campaigns [George Njunge, Standard]

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s bid to win the Mt Kenya vote received a boost after a caucus of Jubilee MPs partnered with a business lobby to consolidate their activities and rally the region behind him.

Twenty-five Jubilee Party loyalists, initially under the Kieleweke wing but who have since caucused under Mt Kenya Focus Group, have drawn a plan to boost Raila’s campaigns with the backing of the business community. 

The leaders allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta meet every Thursday, and this week they met Ushindi Kenya Network, during which they agreed on political activities to kick off next week.

The group is also reaching out to another group - the Mt Kenya Foundation - to ignite a wave similar to the 2002 Narc one in Mt Kenya region, this time seeking to propel Raila to power. 

The lobby is led by Lee Karuri, an architect and a key political player in the election and re-election of President Kibaki and President Kenyatta.

Others are James Anthony Kariuki Nginyo, a son of the late prominent businessman Nginyo Kariuki, who was a close ally of Raila. Also in the camp are business people Caroline Ndung’u and Gerald Githinji.

The MPs backing Raila met him two weeks ago in what they described as being meant to help the ODM leader take tutorials on how to scale the mountain.  Yesterday, the convenor of the parliamentary caucus, Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, said Thursday meeting was meant to synchronise the campaigns and tilt the vote-rich region towards supporting Raila. 

“We have a common agenda with them (Ushindi Kenya Network) in that we are all supporting Raila’s candidature, although we are driven in this by different interests. So we agreed on consolidating our activities to boost our campaign,” said Ngunjiri.

Business communities

The groups agreed on organising town hall meetings with business communities in all Central Kenya counties. 

“We are forming a joint working team which will come up with a unified roadmap. We will then have a retreat before holding the county forums for the business communities. The forums will just be the beginning of our joint activities,” Karuri revealed yesterday. 

The MPs, who attended the meeting, however, cautioned against the target being popularised that the ODM requires only 30 per cent of the Central vote, saying it was important for those campaigning to go for the majority of the vote to avoid a situation that could see Raila winning but those supporting him in the region losing their parliamentary positions. 

Ngunjiri, Murang’a Women Rep Sabina Chege and Maragua MP Mary Wamaua said the joint campaign should ensure that while Raila secures his vote, the MPs are not sacrificed.

“While 30 per cent, as is being rooted by some quarters as what Raila needs in the region may be enough for him to clinch the presidency, it will not be enough to secure us re-election. We need a majority of the vote,” Sabina said. 

Ngunjiri added: “We must have a win-win situation for both parties. A Raila wave or a strong movement would be the best solution for all of us”.

Karuri agreed that only a Narc-like movement within the mountain would lead to the win-win situation. 

“We would not want to sacrifice you or work to your detriment. Let us focus on creating that wave,” he said. 

Another concern raised by the legislators was Raila’s ability to hold on to what was his stronghold in 2013 and 2017, warning that if he lost any of those blocs, it would be futile even if he was to claim a section of the mountain vote. They cited the Ukambani and Western Kenya bloc, delivered to Raila by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi in the past two elections.