Mt Kenya's political landscape to feel the heat should Raila get AU job

President William Ruto and Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga at Yoweri Museveni's farm in Kisozi, Uganda. [PCS]

Should opposition chief Raila Odinga get the African Union Commission (AUC) chairmanship, the after-effects will be experienced not only in his Nyanza turf but also in Mt Kenya, where the political landscape will feel his absence.

The magnetism of Raila's name was aptly captured by the late Vice President Wamalwa Kijana who observed that Kenya's politics has in the last three decades been driven by Raila mania for his adoring fans and Raila phobia for his critics.

Twenty years after Wamalwa's diagnosis, Raila's name has continued to create political careers in Mt Kenya since one only needed to be vocal against Raila to gain a political base. Until 2022, any association with Raila by a politician was enough to cosign political dreams to the dustbin.

Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, who vied for president in 2013 faced it rough in Murang'a and Mt Kenya region when he sought to succeed the third President the late Mwai Kibaki against Uhuru.

The latter’s political machinery coined a narrative that Kenneth was working with Raila to spoil votes for Uhuru fondly referred to as Kamwana.

Despite Kenneth’s impressive performance in his constituency through the CDF, he was branded a traitor who was working with the region’s rival to frustrate ‘muthamaki’ the kingpin. Kenneth has never recovered.

His motorcade, just like Raila's was pelted with stones whenever they set foot in the mountain. In the run-up to the 2022 elections, Uhuru sacrificed his dalliance and warm ties with his support base, when he fronted Raila as his favourite candidate.

Uhuru could not convince his people how Raila was all of a sudden the best presidential candidate. His hopes to bank on the legacy projects in the region were dashed with 'hatukuli barabara' and 'maliza uende' rhetoric.

And for the first time, Raila garnered 800,000 votes in the region and had uninterrupted political rallies but it came with a price, nearly everybody who vied on Azimio allied party went home as the electorate were determined to send ‘Raila to Bondo on a wheelbarrow’.

Political leaders and analysts believe the narrative in Mt Kenya region without Raila will never be the same again since prospective leaders will have a hard time shaping their political agenda.

East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) MP Kanini Kega said he sees danger ahead of Mt Kenya political future saying the region has taken Raila as its existential threat as opposed to the real issues.

"I foresee a repeat of 2007 when Raila and Ruto were together when all other communities will unite while we will be isolated. We have always come together when there is a threat and that threat is on the verge of working with the establishment. Without Raila nothing may bring us together and that is how we are doomed," Kega noted.

Uhuru’s cousin, Kungu Muigai, chairperson of the Kenya Cultural Centre Council board and a harsh critic of Raila, now says things will be difficult for politicians in Mt Kenya. “Raila has been the symbol of aggression and the rallying call for the electorate to wake up and vote. The region has been voting against Raila and should he exit politics, political players will have to go back to the drawing board to look for another phobia,” Muigai told The Standard.

Former Mukurwe-ini MP Kabando Wa Kabando admitted to having been part of the wider scheme of the political class that poisoned the electorate to gain favour.

“In 2007, nobody wanted to associate with Raila because of his opposition to the 2005 constitution and the narrative of 41 against one political rhetoric. In 2013, Uhuru used the ICC case against Raila claiming it was Raila who wanted to jail him in the ICC," said Kabando.

He added: “In 2017, Raila was depicted as ‘railway destroyer’ and a man who did not give Uhuru time to actualise his Big Four agenda due to his protests. Then he was accused of using charms to deny Uhuru’s reasoning and the main benefactors were politicians seeking elective seats on the UDA party.”

He opined that Ruto and other leaders elected on a platform of maligning Raila will be on the receiving end as the justification on why they have not delivered (Raila) will not be there if he succeeds to chair the AUC.

“It is the end of an era and at the same time the birth of a new era. There will be re-organisation and a charge for a new resurgent political engine to parachute a new order which is good for Kenya's democracy. It will be a vanity of personality cult in Kenya’s nascent democracy,” he noted.

Prof Gitile Naituli observed that without Raila to dump on his political failures to Mt Kenya people, President Ruto will be on the receiving end.

“The anti-Raila campaign in Mt Kenya extended to hate politics and amounted to indoctrination and that has been unfair, because politics ought to be issue-based. Without anyone to blame, Ruto and his allies will have a rough time in the region and this may amount to voter apathy in future,” he noted.