Candidate who is planning to climb Mt Kenya–literally

Thursday, October 21st, 2021 00:00 |
Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria’s presidential campaign billboard. Photo/File

Whether he will make it to the ballot or not, Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria will go down in history as the first of the 2022 presidential hopefuls to mount campaign billboards. 

So far, the Usawa Kwa Wote party leader, who is regarded by many as an underdog in his quest for the country’s top job, has erected billboards, announcing his presidential candidature, on major roads and towns.

His billboards are in Nairobi estates and streets, Mombasa, Nakuru, Naivasha and Nanyuki among other areas.

None of the other presidential aspirants, including Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga, Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi and Wiper Party’s Kalonzo Musyoka, has mounted billboards.

Wa Iria, who is serving his second term as governor, has also unveiled a fleet of branded campaign vehicles.

The vehicles have become a common feature in parts of Central Kenya including Kiambu, Murang’a, Embu, Nyeri, Laikipia, parts of the Rift Valley and Nairobi.

Although the governor has not ventured out of Central Kenya counties, he says his mission is to first to marshal support at home before reaching out to other regions.

He has also planned a symbolic mountain climbing expedition to Mt Kenya with a team of aspirants and his supporters in December.

“I intend to prove my interest to lead the country by hoisting the Usawa Kwa Wote flag at the spot where freedom veteran Kisoi Munyao planted the Kenyan flag on Independence Day in 1963,” Wa Iria said during a meeting with supporters recently.

In his mountain climbing venture, he says he will be accompanied by 5,000 supporters and aspirants who are expected to vie for seats in next year’s election using his party’s ticket.

“I will be the first leader from the Gema community to climb the sacred Kirinyaga before starting my campaigns,” he said.

The Governor said that during the December expedition, he will also seek to unite Mt Kenya leaders and residents ahead of the election.

At 5,199 feet above sea level, Mt Kenya is the tallest mountain in Kenya. The Agikuyu believe it is the abode of their God, Mwene Nyaga. 

Elders say no politician, except second liberation hero, the late Kenneth Matiba, who also hailed from Murang’a, has climbed it.

“I am determined to follow the footsteps of the nationalists who trekked up the mountain that has a lot of significance for the Gema community who settled in between Ngong Hills, Garba Tulla, Kilimambogo and Nyandarua mountains,” the Governor said.

Dairy cows

Mburu wa Gachui, a Gikuyu elder, said climbing the mountain has a lot of significance as one will go through wilderness before reaching the top.

“The gesture by the Governor is proof he is working hard to take over the regional leadership,” said Gachui, a resident of Narumoru in Nyeri County.

Wa Iria said he is mobilising residents of the ten counties in Mt Kenya to register as voters in order to back his presidential candidature.

The leader of Usawa Kwa Wote party – whose symbol is a dairy cow – has been gifting heifers to Kenyans.

Murang’a Kiama Kima Elders chairman Kiarie Rugami said Wa Iria has emerged as a serious presidential hopeful who cannot be ignored.

Wa Iria is not, however, the only presidential aspirant from the Mt Kenya region. National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has also declared interest in the seat.

Muturi, who launched his bid with a controversial coronation as the Mt Kenya spokesperson at the Mukurwe Wa Nyagathanga shrine in Murang’a early this year, has been campaigning in the region.

DP Ruto, Raila and Mudavadi have also been appealing to the people of the Mt Kenya region to support them in next year’s election. 

While Ruto has emerged as the man to beat in the region, thanks to a sustained three-year campaign characterised by harambees for various groups, Raila is also emerging as a formidable contender thanks to the backing he appears to enjoy from President Uhuru Kenyatta and his allies.

Muturi is banking on the support of the Mt Kenya East which covers Embu, Tharaka Nithi and Meru counties.  

Other key players in the region include former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, whose name has been floated as a possible running mate for Raila.

Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua is another prominent politician from the area who is also seen as a running mate candidate for either Raila or Ruto.

But Karua insists she intends to capture the Kirinyaga governor seat from Anne Waiguru who defeated her in 2027.

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