Uhuru Kenyatta's silence amid onslaught keeps rivals and allies guessing

It was after the burial of former Cabinet Secretary George Magoha when the former President accompanied Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga to Kisumu where he maintained that the former premier was still his leader and that he was in Azimio to stay.

"Kustaafu sio kuchoka... ata wengine wanastaafu na nguvu zinaongozeka. Ata kama nimewacha siasa active, mimi bado ni mfuasi wa baba, akiniambia twende lazima twende (Retirement doesn't mean I'm tired. Others retire and increase their political strength. It's my democratic right to support whoever I want, I am still Baba's supporter where Raila will go, I'll go)," he said.

What followed was criticism from Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wa and some of his former lieutenants who interpreted his statements to mean he was undermining the government.

Despite claims that Uhuru's government milked the country dry in its last days, the his family has not been paying taxes and that they have monopolised the milk sub-sector, Uhuru has never responded to any these issues.

Mau Mau fighters

In the latest onslaught against the Kenyatta's, Gachagua claimed they are the reason Mau Mau freedom fighters have no land as 'they took all lands from them."

Gachagua, who has presented himself as a son of former Mau Mau freedom fighters, claimed he was ready to assist in the subdivision of the Kenyatta land if the family was willing to return some of it to the freedom fighters.

While speaking at his Mathira home a day after former Fist Lady Mama Ngina remarked that 'some people claim to be Mau Mau but were imposters,' Gachagua claimed parcels of land owned by the family remained idle.

"I was so happy yesterday when I heard someone say that they are thinking of how to help the Mau Mau. Even if they have never helped them since 1963 and have never bothered, it's not too late. The Mau Mau and their descendants are suffering," said Gachagua.

Mama Ngina, who met Field Marshal Muthoni Kirima at her home in Muthaiga-Nairobi, had said there are some imposter freedom fighters wrongly taking credit at the expense of real fighters like Muthoni.

The attack on the Kenyattas could be seen as part of a wider scheme to outshine the former president who remains unconcerned about the unfolding political heat that has left the family's matriarch to uncharacteristically speak, in what strategists believe may work for or against the Ruto government.

On February 3, Ichung'wa wrote to National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung'u demanding to be furnished with a record of tax reliefs, waivers or exemptions granted to individuals and entities by the Jubilee Jubilee administration since January 2018.

While giving the National Treasury 14 days to respond, Ichung'wa said "the request to the National Treasury will help establish whether some individuals in previous and current regimes may have abused their offices to grant themselves the incentives or collude with foreign contractors to evade paying taxes."

Ichungwa letter

To date, it is not clear whether the letter was responded to and its findings since the debate slowly died.

Two days after Ichungwa's letter, Uhuru's mother spoke on the matter at the St Teresa's Catholic Church in Mpeketoni, Lamu County, saying she was ready to have her property auctioned by the State upon proof of tax evasion.

"It is a fact that every employed Kenyan should pay income tax, irrespective of their job group. That is not up for discussion. There is no need to malign someone, so that you can appear to be doing something," the former First Lady said.

On March 6, Gachagua who attended a church service at Jesus Winner Chapel in Roysambu, vowed to end monopoly in the milk and gas sector, claiming two families were responsible for making life unbearable to Kenyans due continued monopoly in the two sectors.

"There has been a monopoly by one person in the milk sector. We are opening up that sector. We are going to open up the milk and gas industry," claimed Gachagua.

According to Gachagua, Uhuru and his Jubilee administration did not want him and President Ruto to win the 2022 polls so that they could continue to control critical sectors of the economy.

Uhuru, who is the party leader of the troubled Jubilee party, has not been seen taking a position even as the party faces leadership wrangles pitting Azimio and Kenya Kwanza allies.

Former Ndagarwa MP Jeremiah Kioni and Uhuru's confidant David Murathe are fighting to have the party remain in the Azimio coalition where Uhuru is the council chairperson but former Kieni MP Kanini Kega and Nominated MP Sabina Chege want the party to join Kenya Kwanza.

Uhuru's silence has remained loud from political criticism to invasion of the family's Northlands farm where sheep were stolen, trees cut down and land subdivided by a gang said to have been sent by his political critics.

The invasion came after threats were issued to that effect at Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua's function at Kianyagah Boys High School in March.

Mass action

Pro-Uhuru leaders have hailed him for his silence while his rivals claim he has not been silent but has been working behind the curtains strategising for Azimio. They claim he has been funding Raila to conduct the ongoing town hall meetings and mass action against the Kenya Kwanza government.

Mukurweini MP John Kaguchia claims Uhuru has been speaking through actions. "The former President is very active in politics and has been doing a lot behind the scenes. He has continued to undermine the agenda of the government through his association with the Opposition," he said.

According to Sabina Chege, Uhuru is to blame for the Jubilee party's disintegration because he failed to show leadership when he was needed most.

Chege said Uhuru's desertion of duty as the Azimio Coalition Council chair and Jubilee leader is driving her side into political irrelevance hence the resolve to work with Kenya Kwanza.

"We have been desperately urging the former president to convene a meeting to no avail. Remember it is him who took us to Raila but he left us orphans," she said. However, Mathioya MP Edwin Mugo believes the former president is in a Catch-22 situation because no matter how much he wants to involve himself in politics, he may jeopardise his retirement perks.

Retirement perks

"For him to enjoy his retirement perks, he not only needs to remain neutral but resign from being the chairperson of Azimio and failure to which someone may apply to have his perks stopped," the MP said. But former Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi, Uhuru's ally, says retirement perks are too small to silence the former president.

"He has businesses that can support him in entirety. Through his silence, Uhuru is sustaining the political conversation and gaining more supporters from Mt Kenya region. In future he may want to use his impact which he has gained out of sympathy from attacks and guide the region," he said.

As per the bPresidential Retirement Benefits. Act, 2003, a retired president should not be involved in, or actively engaged in the activities of a political party beyond six months after retirement. "Participating in party politics or being in a rally are all political activities. The former president in good faith and in respect to the law should avoid these at all cost so as to abide by the law," said lawyer Bobby Mkangi. Kioni said Uhuru's silence is not as a result of fear but as a sober leader, he understands that his remarks against the government may destabilise the country. "He has support in and outside government. His silence can be interpreted as political maturity," said Kioni.

Political analyst Peter Kagwanja says Uhuru's involvement in succession politics last year has put him in a precarious position.

"Heads of States are assets to their nations especially when political elites do not see eye to eye. They become the sober guys. But Uhuru's participation in the election destroyed his chances," said Kagwanja. He says Uhuru's only chance lies in backing the Kenya Kwanza government in a bid to carve out his political future.

"We had advised him to maintain magisterial neutrality but he did not hear most of us," Kagwanja who was once Uhuru's strategist said.

Kagwanja's wife Monica Juma served in Uhuru's government as Cabinet Secretary holding various portfolios including Defense and now serves in the Ruto government as National Security Advisor.

Kikuyu Council of Elders chairperson Wachira Kiago warned that the anti Kenyatta narrative in Mt Kenya region was a bad precedence saying that in future, Gachagua's successor may fight him .

"We are treading on dangerous grounds. The Kenyatta family has sacrificed for the region and it is unwarranted to repay them through malicious incitement campaign," Kiago said. The Mau Mau factor remains a major political tool and campaign agenda in the region.