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Uhuru turns to vernacular to stamp authority in Mt Kenya

By Ndungu Gachane | Nov 6th 2021 | 4 min read

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru are shown an artistic impression of Thiba dam on October 18, 2021. [Muriuki Mugo, Standard]

As President Uhuru Kenyatta seeks to consolidate an already divided Mt Kenya region ahead of next year’s polls, he has increasingly switched to using vernacular to communicate to the people and stamp his authority as the region’s political kingpin.

In a region where people are divided over him and his deputy William Ruto, Uhuru has avoided using Kiswahili or English whenever he is addressing ‘his people.’ He has resorted to Kikuyu to emphasise his points.

Uhuru has also been carefully avoiding the mainstream media houses in favour of vernacular radio stations whenever he wants to deliver targeted messages to the region.

On August 23, he went on air to accuse the DP of focusing on his presidential ambitions, stating that though it was his (Ruto’s) constitutional right, he took a wrong approach that ended up sabotaging his (Uhuru’s) agenda to the people of Kenya.

“He is trying to create a base for his political future which is his constitutional right and I have never denied him that. But I think it is unfortunate that the manner in which he is doing it, I mean by going against the same government he is serving, I think it is wrong,” he said.

On January 31, while addressing representatives of the Gema community, which comprises Gikuyu, Embu, Meru and Aembu, at Sagana State Lodge, Uhuru spoke in vernacular to explain why he had a "Handshake" with opposition chief Raila Odinga and vowed to fully participate in succession politics.

On October 10, after presiding over the passing-out parade of Prisons Cadet Officers at Ruiru, he made an impromptu visit to Ruiru town where he urged locals not to elect a ‘thief’ in next year’s polls.

He further told the voters to be cautious while electing his successor so that his 10 years and those of former President Mwai Kibaki do not go to waste.

While promising to visit again to discuss politics, the president said when the right time comes, he shall unleash his political might and will crisscross the region to consult them on the political way forward for the region.

“Let me not continue at this point but I will be coming back soon and we shall engage on that and many other political issues,” he said.

“I will come back to this village after the expiry of my term, I would want a country where there is peace. But what you people want to talk about, I will but at the right time.”

On October 18 in Kirinyaga, while speaking in Kikuyu language, he told the people to wake up and know what is good for the region and which presidential aspirant means well.

Although he has not publicly announced, President Kenyatta seems to have a soft spot for Raila and seems to be planning to crisscross the region explaining to people why Ruto is not good for them.

Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi said the president’s remarks and the planned merger between Jubilee and ODM are signs that Uhuru will fully participate in succession politics.

“He will be keen to have a prosperous nation even after he goes to retire, this country needs a president who will ensure continuity of his legacy and that person is not Ruto and your guess is as good as mine,” Ngugi said.

On use of vernacular language, former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru said the president is a Kikuyu and needs to talk to his parents from the region in a language they understand.

He also said unlike Kibaki who was much older, Uhuru would still be active in politics after he leaves State House.

“Uhuru is younger compared to his predecessors and that is why he is keen on who succeeds him given the major development projects he has initiated," Waweru said.

"To hammer his point home in his region, he must resonate with his people through local dialect.” 

He said Ruto too in his tours of his backyard, speaks in Kalenjin while addressing local affairs, and added that despite Uhuru being the president, he is a major stakeholder in Mt Kenya as a son of the region.

Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi said the president and leaders who support him are ready to face the region and "deconstruct Ruto."

He castigated Ruto for disregarding regional political parties, describing him as a leader who believes that political parties are vehicles of convenience.

“Political parties are building blocks of a functioning democracy and if you don’t support them, then you don’t support democracy,” he said.

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said Uhuru is gradually preparing to transition himself into a retired president, and get back to his home community that has elevated him, hence his moves. 

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