Mt Kenya leaders jostle to succeed Uhuru post-2022

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyat. Photo/PSCU

Eric Wainaina @EWainaina

Buoyed by the expected exit of President Uhuru Kenyatta in active politics at the completion of his second term and lack of what appears as his heir apparent in Mount Kenya politics, leaders from the region have started angling themselves as his possible successors in the area.

 Former presidential candidate Peter Kenneth, former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, his successor Peter Munya, Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria, Kirinyaga’s Anne Waiguru and former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo have been mentioned as among those jostling for the position.

From their actions, they have not hidden the fact that they are seeking to play a significant role in regional politics, even as sources disclosed to People Daily that Uhuru’s men could be crafting arrangements in favour of Kenneth. 

Political analysts said that filling Uhuru’s shoes will not be an easy matter and with some politicians caution that those angling to inherit the Mt Kenya power base, would require the President’s blessings.

President’s blessings

Kenneth yesterday told People Daily that what Mt Kenya region needs is unity and one of their own on the negotiating table as they chart their future.

“Mt Kenya is a big bloc. It is very important that it remains united. One of our own should be on the negotiating table.

From the foregoing, Uhuru Kenyatta remains the region’s kingpin and its political leader. He will remain so even after 2022 to offer advice and direction on matters affecting the region,” said Kenneth

 Yesterday, Macharia Munene, a History and International Relations professor at the United States International University (USIU)-Africa told People Daily leaders will have to prove their credibility, failure to which they will flop.

This, he said, was the reason why Kenneth who has been out of the  political prism since 2013 has been making public appearances in Pro-Uhuru events such as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) rallies. 

Kiunjuri last week launched a new party The Service Party (TSP) while Munya, Waiguru, Wa Iria and Kabogo have been conducting political activities beyond their home turfs.

“Positioning in politics depends on how well you play your cards. How you create a sense of believability and how you make people believe or think you are their natural leader who they can trust. If you have not built those credentials, you will have a problem,” Munene said.

For Kenneth, his appearance and grand welcome by chief guest former Prime Minister Raila Odinga during the Meru BBI rally at Kinoru Stadium in February this year as well as the continued clamour that he should be appointed to Cabinet has triggered speculations that powerful forces were positioning him for a national political role.

National politicians

During speeches in the BBI rally, while former Embu Senator Lenny Kivuti represented all former elected leaders, Raila gave Kenneth a chance alongside other national politicians to speak while others such as   Kabogo were denied a chance.

Lawyer and political commentator Ndegwa Njiru said Kenneth’s treatment at the meeting was deliberate, to send a signal that he was being prepared for a big national political in Central Kenya and beyond.

“In politics, things don’t just happen. They are made to happen and what happened in Meru was meant to boost Kenneth politically.

You cannot prepare someone for a national political role when they are in the periphery,” Ndegwa said.

Yesterday, Kiunjuri who was sacked from Cabinet in January due to his perceived closeness to Deputy President William Ruto has been it clear that he seeks to play bigger political role outside his Laikipia county.

Last week, the former Laikipia East MP, declared that he will not be interested in the position of governorship currently held by Nderitu Muriithi.

 Kiunjuri, a seasoned politician who has been campaigning to be Ruto’s   possible running mate, said even Uhuru was fingered as the Mount Kenya de facto leader by late powerful minister John Michuki two years to elections. 

 “We are on a national agenda, but as you know, charity starts at home. We will put our best bet and if it wins, so be it but you don’t have to be a president or kingpin to help your people,” the former CS told People Daily.

“It is good to be mentioned (as possible kingpin) but let people decide. They should do so based on merit.

When that time comes, they should profile everybody and pick the best among the choices. But one cannot just wake up one day and decide to be a kingpin,” Kiunjuri said.

People’s interest

Munene thinks both Kiunjuri and Kenneth have a national clout that renders them among top candidates for the position

“The issues people will be looking at are whether the persons will be able to address the challenges facing the mountain that will face them?

Are they able and brave to take the position to their benefit and that is how Uhuru won because during 2007 he was seen to mind the interests of the region,” the professor said.

Dr Michael Mugo, the director of Foundation for Dialogue and also a political analyst said while everyone is free to seek the position, their campaign must be focused on the people’s interests.

 “There is nothing to have ambitions of being kingpin but for who? There are many categories of people, the tycoons, elite politicians, professionals and rest who are the majority. You must appease all be ahead of the perk,” Mugo said.

 Munya hopes to ride on the fact he has dwarfed veteran politician Kiraitu Murungi who ousted his in 2017 and that his Meru backyard has been agitating for the post and is the senior most politician from the larger Meru region by virtue of being a minister in a high profile docket which Uhuru is using to calm the noise in the region by boosting agriculture.

 Kabogo, who was ousted by Ferdinand Waititu in one of the biggest defeats in 2017 has been attending political functions and hopping from one media house to another for live interviews in what pundits believe are a calculated move to establish himself.

During the Meru BBI meeting, he made a flamboyant entry into the stadium in an entourage that included branded Iveco, Hammer and a land cruiser that was fitted with state of the art sound system, a move interpreted as a plot to project himself.

“It’s now a competition as to who will become the Mt Kenya leader after HE UK (President Kenyatta).

No one will force a leader on us, take that to the bank. Vitu kwa ground ni different (the reality on the ground is different),” Kabogo later reacted in reference to his treatment at the rally.

 Wa Iria, the only county chief in central Kenya a second term has not only created a party-Civic Renewal Party (CRP) through proxies but has also announced that he will be vying for presidency, a move seen as an attempt by the governor to position himself as the region’s kingpin.

Waiguru’s positioning herself as the face of BBI in the region was also seen as a plot to be ahead in the jostling of the post but Munene said “she is in problems” following her overturned by impeachment by the County Assembly.

But Murang’a Senator and Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata said the leaders will go nowhere unless they get the blessing of Uhuru saying the touted kingpins were making a  ‘a fatal political mistake’.

 “The best leader is the one who gets anointed by the departing leader, not the one who wants to grab the position.

Trying to curve clout without the blessings of Uhuru is a mistake and disrespectful. Kibaki built Uhuru when he gave him a plum position.

(Late president)  Moi built Uhuru and Kibaki. Kenyatta built Moi,” Kan’gata said.

More on National