Mwangi Wa Iria entry tightens Raila Odinga's grip on Mt Kenya

Azimio La Umoja one Kenya coalition Presidential candidate Raila Odinga arrive at Mumbi Ground in Murang'a accompanied by governor Mwangi Wa Iria. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

The entry of Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria into the succession politics is expected to energise the Azimio la Umoja coalition in Mt Kenya.

A week after he joined Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s campaigns, Wa Iria brought together allies to campaign for him in Murang’a county.

The governor promised to deliver a big chunk of Murang’a’s 620,000 votes, based on his performance in the past two elections where he garnered more than 80 per cent of the votes.

Last week, Raila addressed a rally at Mumbi Grounds in Murang’a where Wa Iria mobilised thousands of his supporters to welcome him. Speaking at the rally, Raila promised that Wa Iria would be in the Cabinet if he clinches the presidency on August 9.

The rally was organised three days after Wa Iria addressed a press conference in Nairobi where he castigated the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission for frustrating his presidential bid.

Wa Iria was eyeing the presidency on the Usawa Kwa Wote party ticket. He surprised many by relinquishing his bid and backing Raila. Wa Iria has been engaging the IEBC, seeking reasons why his application was thwarted.

“There is no turning back. I found that Raila is a trustworthy friend after he approached me during the challenges I encountered with the IEBC,” he said. The governor added that he would engage volunteers to help campaign for Raila.

Suna East MP Junet Mohammed said Wa Iria is a committed leader who will work with others to ensure Raila wins the presidency. “The governor is a self-made politician who is truthful and focused,” he said. 

Before the entry of Wa Iria, only Pius Kinuthia Wambui and Nahashon Njogu, eyeing Murang’a senator and Kiharu parliamentary slots respectively, had been displaying Raila’s posters.

John Kihoria, a political analyst in Gatanga, said Wa Iria’s entry into Raila’s campaign should not be underestimated. 

But Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata, who is hoping to replace Wa Iria, said the move will not make a big difference.

“Ruto will take the majority of votes in Murang’a and Mt Kenya region. Wa Iria’s move is overtaken by events,” Kang’ata said at a Kenya Kwanza ally.

Kihoria said Wa Iria relates well with the rural folk, who admire his ways of implementing development projects.

At Mumbi Grounds, he said the governor had thousands of people who attended to listen to Raila compared to the crowd that gathered at Ihura Stadium early in the year.

“Ignore Wa Iria at your own peril. He is a crowd mover,” Kihoria said, adding that the Murang’a governor’s entry into Cabinet would bring the county closer to the presidency, a position that Kiambu and Nyeri counties have enjoyed for a long time.

Lincoln Mutembei, a youth leader from Mt Kenya East, appreciated the coming of Wa Iria into Raila’s campaign team, saying he is a trusted leader.

“After Wa Iria supported Raila’s bid for the presidency, many Mt Kenya residents have renewed their confidence in Azimio,” he said. 

Kandara MP Jubilee candidate Peter Ngugi said Wa Iria backing Raila is a major boost. “I hope the teams working for Raila will be dedicated to ensuring he wins.”