Fight for Meru political soul takes ugly twist
Eric Wainaina and Dorcas Mbatia
Claims of greed for power,incompetence and arrogance by Governor Kiraitu Murungi and 2022 game plans have been cited as major causes of the increasingly nasty politics in Meru that have subjected the region to public ridicule.
From a governor keen on re-election, a Cabinet Secretary focused on getting back the gubernatorial seat he lost to Kiraitu, a rebellious senator, to an ambitious Woman Representative also eyeing the governorship and differences between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, these factors have formed a toxic combination that has left local leaders sharply divided.
The ugly political war exploded last Friday last week when county askaris raided Baite TV, a station owned by County Woman Representative Kawira Mwangaza, just days after Kiraitu wrote demand letters accusing the TV of spreading lies to taint his image.
The law enforcers were demanding to see the station’s trade licence as well as claims that it had not paid tax revenue since 2016, allegations that Mwangaza disputed.
She claimed the raid was politically orchestrated by Kiraitu, who she prediccted would be voted out in 2022 “no matter the intimidation.”
“I know this raid which left my husband Murega Biachu and I injured and some cameras destroyed is just politically ignited by Governor Kiraitu because he is looking for any means to block me from ousting him. But I am telling him I am not shaken and he should prepare to go home early in the morning come 2022,” said Kawira.
Kiraitu is also caught up in a vicious battle with Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, an ally of Uhuru and the most senior politician from the larger Meru region by the virtue of being a minister, over the control of Mt Kenya East politics as they prepare for a duel in 2022.
There are also differeences surrounding Jubilee Party factions of Kieleweke and Tanga Tanga, with politicians in the county having taken sides, either in the President’s corner or leaning towards Ruto.
While Kiraitu who initially was seen to be Ruto’s ally has gone silent on national politics, Munya, whose allies accuse the former of presiding over graft and under development, has gone full throttle against the DP in favour of the President while Kawira, an independent MP popularly known as “Okolea Mama County”, is allied to the Tanga Tanga squad alongside Senator Mithika Linturi.
“The problems in Meru today are all about differences over poor development by an incompetent county regime and Tanga Tanga and Kieweke politics where the former is being led by Kiraitu while the other team which supports the President and his agenda, has Munya as its face.
And there is no joke, the war is vicious and there is no turning back,” East African Legislative Assembly member Mpuru Aburi told the People Daily.
The region has 10 members at the National Assembly where Tigania East MP Josphat Kabeabea, Rindikiri Muruithania (Buuri), Halima Mcheke (Nominated) and Kawira as well as Linturi have been vocal in favour of the DP while the rest, save for newly-appointed Deputy Majority Whip Maoka Maore (Igembe North) who is an ardent Kieleweke member, have avoided the Uhuru-Ruto battles.
Yesterday, Kiraitu, who has consistently defended himself against claims of theft and incompetence, acknowledged that ugly divisions have taken over the county because the various camps are aggressive against each other but declined to pronounce himself over the Tanga Tanga and Kieleweke factions, only saying leaders should unite.
“The leaders of Meru should unite and stop early divisive politics because time for campaigns is not here yet. Let us focus on development and service delivery to make Meru great and stop incessant political bickering that is threatening to brew unnecessary hate, animosity and political tension in the region,” the governor told the People Daily.
But Rodgers Mwiti, the secretary general of the National Ordinary People Empowerment Union, a Meru-based party popularly known as NoPeu, said the differences are as a result of the battle for control of money, interests and political ambitions.
“Kawira, who thinks she helped Kiraitu defeat Munya, wants to be governor; Kiraitu wants to be re-elected and Munya will be making a comeback.
This plus the national politics have created camps that are now aggressive on each other,” Mwiti said yesterday.
Imenti South MP Kathuri Murungi, another independent, acknowledged the bitter rivalry between county leaders, which he said was normal in succession politics and added that the viciousness will be felt more as the 2022 elections nears.
“It is normal in succession politics to have divisions and camps as they struggle to control power and resources.
The divisions are just building and as we head to 2022, it is going to be a titanic scenario because leaders will be fighting for space in the next government.
They are looking at which camp will form the next government and so there is a lot of animosity,” said the MP.
Kiraitu was one of the organisers of the Mt Kenya Building the Bridges Initiative (BBI) rally that was graced by Opposition leader Raila Odinga at Kinoru stadium in Meru.
During the rally, Munya a critic of the DP, told off the governor who served as the region’s senator in the last term, after he signalled him to end his speech that had charged the crowd.
Some observers see the quarrels as “ego fights” with Kiraitu seeing himself as politically senior and Munya his student. Kiraitu has won all his political contests since he was first elected to Parliament in 1992.
But the elevation of Munya to the Cabinet in a docket with an expansive portfolio is seen to have overshadowed Kiraitu’s stature.
“When Kiraitu ousted Munya in 2017, the thought was that he had finished him politically and that he would go home to practice law.
But Uhuru picked him and went on to make him a pillar in his government by making him the Agriculture CS.
This definitely cannot make Kiraitu happy because it made Munya more visible not only in Meru, but the larger Mount Kenya region as well. Munya also feels Kiraitu is a failure,” Mwiti said of the ugly differences. between the two political heavyweights.