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Prezzo at a loss: Why Mt Kenya renegades are having a field day

By Eric Nyakagwa | May 23rd 2021

Uhuru Kenyatta is likely to go down in the annals of history as the first Kenyan president to face a spirited Opposition from his own political backyard without the empire hitting back as much.

What began as a loose movement (Tanga Tanga) backing his deputy William Ruto for the presidency in 2022 has assumed a life of its own, offering a strong challenge to efforts by the president and his allies to plot his succession. For instance, several MPs from the region openly opposed the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) on the floor of Parliament despite the president’s efforts to rally his troops to back the document, which proposed constitutional changes.

They included Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata, who was stripped of his role as Majority Whip, over a letter he wrote to the president, warning the BBI project was bound to fail.

The president had in late January met over 7,000 leaders from Mt Kenya at Sagana State Lodge to discuss the region’s development as well as other pertinent national agenda, including the BBI, during which he was assured of support. But this did not stop the likes of Kang’ata and other MPs allied to Ruto from the region from opposing the Bill, though it easily sailed through both the National Assembly and the Senate before the High Court halted the process on May 13.

In the Senate, Kang’ata was joined by Kindiki Kithure (Tharaka Nithi) and Susan Kihika (Nakuru) in rejecting the Bill. In the National Assembly, 17 MPs from Mt Kenya who voted against the Bill were Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira), Moses Kuria (Gatundu South), George Macharia (Ndia), John Mutunga (Manyatta), Cecily Mbarire (nominated) and Jeffrey King’ang’i (Mbeere South).

Others were Moses Kirima (Imenti Central), Faith Gitau (Nyandarua), Kimani Ichung’wah KIkuyu), Mugambi Rindikiri (Buuri), John Paul Mwirigi (Igembe South) and Patrick Munene (Chuka Igambang’ombe).

Regardless of BBI’s fate, this open opposition clearly shows that the president will not have a smooth ride as he crafts the post-2022 equation. It is a scenario that was never witnessed during the rule of his father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Mzee Daniel arap Moi and even Mwai Kibaki, who despite being a hands-off president, still managed to consolidate support behind Uhuru in the 2013 presidential contest. Kibaki’s efforts saw Uhuru come to power as the undisputed Mt Kenya kingpin.

So, why is Uhuru unable to have a firm grip on the Mt Kenya Nation?

In the aftermath of the BBI vote in Parliament, National Assembly deputy majority whip Maoka Maore asked him to crack the whip.

“It is incumbent on President Kenyatta to crack the whip on his troops who seem to be wandering, cheap and petty to ensure he brings in discipline,” said the Igembe North MP.

But can he?

According to history professor Macharia Munene, it will be naive to expect the president to govern in a similar manner to his predecessors, especially under the 2010 Constitution that enshrines wide-ranging liberties while expanding the checks and balances against the Executive.

Prof Munene, who teaches at USIU-A also said the circumstances under which previous presidents rose to power were different from what obtains in the country at present.

“Times are different with a new constitutional dispensation. Jomo appeared like a “messiah” and Moi was a transitional mobiliser. There was a lot of trust and public willingness to be guided. There was little challenge,” says Prof Munene.

It is a view shared by political analyst Wanguhu Gitonga, who notes Uhuru happens to be the first president to be elected into office under the new dispensation.

“There is nothing much he can do to counter the Opposition. Kenyans have been emboldened by the fact that one can challenge his decisions in court and win. You have seen the president’s own MP (Moses Kuria) forming a party and shaking his hold on the region like in the Juja by-election, for instance. It is the price he has to pay for democracy to thrive,” Dr Gitonga told The Nairobian.

But he warns that at the end of the day, Uhuru will determine which way the region will go, noting that most of the MPs rode on Uhuru’s coattails to get elected.

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