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Troublemaker or kingmaker? Moses Kuria the man to watch in 2022

POLITICS
By Eric Nyakagwa | August 2nd 2021

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria is proving to be Deputy President William Ruto’s biggest asset as he seeks to consolidate support in the Mt Kenya region ahead of next year’s General Election.

In his various forays into the region, Kuria, more than any other politician, has been the one working up the crowds with core messages, the latest being the bottom-up economic model that the DP says will ensure equity in the country by addressing the problems facing the hustlers.

But to keen watchers of Kuria’s political journey, his role in the Ruto campaign did not come as a surprise.

While he has occasionally been the subject of negative press, thanks to some of his unsavoury remarks especially on the campaign trail, friend and foe agree on one thing: the man is smart upstairs.

“He is a thinker. Give it to Moses Kuria to think on his feet. Indeed, he is a big asset in the Ruto campaign, especially in the manner he connects with the grassroots. There is nowhere in Mt Kenya that Kuria cannot be listened to. That is the advantage he has over some of his seniors such as former Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri,” political analyst Josiah Muriguh told The Nairobian.

Despite hailing from President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Gatundu backyard, Kuria has been in the lead in promoting Ruto’s presidential credentials in the region and was in fact among the first to rock the boat when he accused the Head of State of favouring regions that voted for his bitter rival-turned-bosom buddy Raila Odinga in the 2017 elections in matters development to the disadvantage of those than voted overwhelmingly for his re-election.

It is the discontent that encouraged Ruto to camp in the region, making weekly trips there mostly to preside over fundraising and eventually gave rise to the Tangatanga movement, which was coined out of Uhuru’s jibe at his DP over his frequent travels across the country.

At the same time, the criticism drew the president’s ire, making him to hit out at renegade MPs whom he accused of riding on his coat tails to get to Parliament only for them to turn against him.

“These thugs we elected are busy politicking. They should not think I am their boy, they will not stop me from constructing roads. They didn’t look for votes on my behalf. I went looking for my votes. These rubbish should stop bothering me,” he told delegates at the annual General Conference of the Akurinu Churches Assembly at the Kasarani Stadium in June 2019.

However, the Tangatanga movement remained defiant despite a crackdown launched by the Jubilee Party that saw those holding key parliamentary positions edged out.

Apart from Kuria, other outspoken pro-Ruto MPs include Senators Kindiki Kithure (Tharaka Nithi), Mithika Linturi (Meru), Irungu Kangata (Murang’a), Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, Alice Wahome (Kandara), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Kimani Ichungwah (Kikuyu), Faith Gitau (Nyandarua), Michael Mwangi (Ol Joro) and Muthoni wa Muchomba (Kiambu).

However, Kuria appears to have outsmarted them all not only because of his brilliance but also by virtue of the fact that the People’s Empowerment Party, which until recently was associated with him, sent shock waves through the mountain when it won by-elections in Gaturi ward in Murang’a and Juja parliamentary seat in Kiambu.

Despite his allegiance to Ruto, Kuria is reluctant to join the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), the party the DP might use for his presidential bid next year.

Now, the controversial MP has formed yet another party, the Chama Cha Kazi, which plans to field candidates for various seats in next year’s election.

Those familiar with Kuria’s thinking say his strategy appears to secure elective seats, especially in Parliament, to form a basis for post-election negotiations with Ruto in terms of Cabinet portfolio sharing.

According to Muriguh, despite Kuria’s importance in the Ruto campaign, the fact that he hails from Gatundu South, which has produced two presidents, locks him out as a possible running mate for the DP.

“The best chance he stands is to get a key Cabinet position unless he opts to run for Kiambu governor,” he says.

However, another source, who declined to be named, warned that Kuria may end up a big loser if he forges ahead with his plan to field candidates in the next elections, claiming the UDA wave may prove too strong for him in Mt Kenya.

“After what happened in Kiambaa, I think he had better think twice. First, he intended to field a candidate to rival UDA before the DP talked him out of the idea. And though he was instrumental in the campaigns, he never spent a penny. Even in Juja and Gitura, he did not invest in the campaigns. The way I see it, he will end up like Martha Karua who was supporting Uhuru while stuck in her Narc Kenya. See where she is today,” he said.

Kuria is among politicians seen as jostling to fill the void that will be left by President Kenyatta when he leaves office next year.

However, pundits say Kiunjuri stands a better chance of becoming the region’s next political kingpin, thanks to his seniority and the fact that Laikipia where he hails from has never produced a president or deputy president.

History professor Macharia Munene, however, says the MP does not have the credentials for the job, noting: “He gets lots of attention no more.”

But Kuria says he is not interested in becoming a running mate, adding his mission is to serve the people.

“My agenda is serving the people and I call on my counterparts to serve the people. I know several people want me to be their running mate but my priority now is serving my people,” he told a local daily.

A Bachelor of Commerce student from the University of Nairobi, Kuria, then a Kanu member, first made a name in politics when he joined President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity as director of programmes. He also doubled up as the party’s spokesman.

When President Kenyatta formed The National Alliance (TNA) ahead of the 2013 elections, Kuria became its director of strategy. Alongside political strategist Mutahi Ngunyi, they coined the tyranny of numbers concept, which saw residents of regions supporting Uhuru’s presidential bid register in huge numbers as voters as a strategy to defeat Raila.

He first became MP when he was elected unopposed in a by-election following the death of Gatundu South MP Jossy Ngugi in May 2014.

A sworn trouble maker, Kuria, who refers to himself as Njaaba ya Ruriri (Kikuyu champion), has before been cited for hate speech, especially targeted against the Luo community and Raila, who ironically financed his university studies.

 

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