Hot governor contest beckons in Embu county

Monday, September 6th, 2021 00:00 |
Nominated Senator Cecily Mbarire.

A fierce contest is expected in Embu ahead of Governor Martin Wambora’s exit after serving his second and final term.

Hopefuls lined up for the seat include former senator Lenny Kivuti, Manyatta MP John Muchiri, Nominated MP Cecily Mbarire and Dr Njagi Kumantha, a psychiatrist.

 The choice of party, individual development records and the rivalry between the Mbeere and Embu communities will be key determinants in the war to inherit the seat occupied by the chairman of the Council of Governors.

Embu is a cosmopolitan county but it dominated by Embus followed by Mbeere community and then the Akamba. A considerable number of Kikuyus also do business in the county.

Governor Wambura comes from the Embu community while Kivuti hails from the Mbeere group which argues it is their turn to occupy the seat.

Kivuti enjoys the support of both Mbeere North and Mbeere South constituencies because he is the only candidate from the sub-group.

But he faces an uphill task of attracting support from the upper Embu region.

In 2017 he run for the seat and emerged second to Wambora who won with less than 1,000 votes between them.

Wambora garnered 97,760 votes against Kivuti’s  96,775.  The Embu side of the county has Manyatta and Runyenjes constituencies. 

Running mate

To seduce upper Embu, Kivuti had picked former Manyatta MP Emilio Kathuri as his running mate. Kivuti says Kathuri will still be his running mate in 2022. 

Kivuti is known for his deep pockets, making it easy for him to bankroll a well-oiled campaign in the four-constituency county. 

 Mbarire, Muchiri and Kumantha come from the upper part of Embu and pundits say they are likely to share the Runyenjes and Manyatta votes thus advantaging Kivuti who is expected to benefit from Mbeere.

“The continuing challenges facing our people on water, infrastructure, healthcare, ICT connectivity, Youth unemployment, dwindling returns in agricultural economy and cohesion of our diverse communities needs someone with professional management skills, political lobbying expertise, global exposure as the next governor of Embu.

We need to invest in the future of the county and devolution gives us a unique opportunity to do it together,’’ said Kivuti 

  ‘’I think I would want to be of service to my county. I have been a member of parliament now for 20 years.

I am looking to serving them at another level and of course one of the biggest things  I would want to look at is economic empowerment of the people by ensuring they benefit from resources God has blessed us with mainly tea, coffee, mangoes and sand in Mbeere,”  he told People Daily.

Mbeere residents accuse Wambora of marginalising them.

 “We have never had any flagship project in Mbeere region since Wambora took the mantle as Embu governor.

It is now time for the county boss to come from Mbeere so that we can enjoy development,” said Kariuki Nyaga from Kiambere.

Members of the Kamba community living in  Embu are expected to vote in solidarity with residents of Mbeere South and North who face similar challenges of poor roads and water shortage due to the arid environment which they occupy.

After the 2017 epic election clash, Kivuti challenged Wambora’s win in court over rigging claims. The court battle ended at the Supreme Court where Kivuti lost.

Party politics might also favour Kivuti. He has never vied on a dominant party in the county or in the Mt Kenya region.

He was elected in 2007 as MP for Siakago Constituency on Safina party  thrashing current National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi who vied on a PNU ticket which was largely popular in Mt Kenya.

Dominant party

In 2013 he would vie for Embu Senate seat on the Alliance Party of Kenya (APK) ticket against (TNA) which was dominant in Mt Kenya counties.

Similarly, in 2017, he almost trounced Wambora who rode on the euphoria of the Jubilee wave.

He had contested the seat on a Maendeleo Chap Chap party headed by Machakos governor Alfred Mutua.

Kivuti was recently crowned as chairman of Restore and Build Kenya party with every likelihood that he will seek the county seat on the party’s ticket.

The former Senator is a close confidant of Speaker Muturi who has since declared his presidential bid. Mbarire and Muchiri are close allies of Deputy President William Ruto and have indicated that they will fight for the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party ticket for the election.

 Senator Kivuti has had a long running friendship with DP Ruto until recently when he seemed to switch sides. 

At a meeting at the DP Ruto’s residence on August 19, which brought together clergy and several MPs from Embu, Manyatta MP Muchiri declared that they had agreed with Mbarire to support whoever will win the party ticket at nomination.

“I would like to affirm before these men and women of faith that there will be no war in Embu as far as I’m concerned involving Muchiri and Mbarire.

I want to assure the Embu community that if Cess defeats me in the primaries, I will back her for the election,” said Muchiri.

In a reply Mbarire said: “I also assure that we will do peaceful elections and if Muchiri will defeat me I will also support him.”

Mbarire said she was ready to fight with mean candidates for the seat.

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with a woman competing with men. They will also find it rough competing with me.

It will not be easy for them to win against me. I have always faced men in my political life,’’ said Mbarire. 

Muchiri was described by many as a “hard sell” when he announced his gubernatorial candidature.

Largely unknown in Runyenjes, Mbeere North and South constituencies, the boisterous former police officer relies on his vote-rich Manyatta backyard for support.

Kumantha who unsuccessfully contested in 2017 will also be trying his luck again in 2022. He said he will vie on Amani National Congress Party ticket.

 “I will focus on improving the economy of Embu County through proper utilisation of resources available to improve the lives of Embians,”  he said.

“I believe we have enough resources in Embu and if they are harnessed well we can revive economy of Embu which is very low because all our cash crops are going at a throw away price,”said Dr Kumantha.

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