Mt Kenya leaders must not underestimate Kiunjuri
A story is told of a youthful matatu tout who threw his hat in the Laikipia East Constituency Democratic Party’s primaries of 1997. He won the race overcoming insurmountable odds.
However, a few entitled senior party officials robbed him of the ticket. They felt that a tout was underserving of the honour of the constituency’s party flagbearer.
Unrelenting, the young politician successfully reached out to former President Mwai Kibaki, then leader of Democratic Party, for intervention.
That was Mwangi Kiunjuri’s rude welcome to the murky jungle that is Kenya’s politics!
To prove to his naysayers that he was a cut above the rest, Kiunjuri went on to win the Laikipia West parliamentary seat in 1997, 2002 and 2007.
In a further show of political clout, he also served as an assistant minister for five years—between 2008 and 2013—in the Kibaki regime and as Cabinet Secretary for four years, November 2015 to January 2020.
While Kiunjuri wears a misleadingly cheerful and soft-spoken mien, he is a bold political heavyweight, who does not waver from his political stance, a trait that though source of his strength, has proven to be his political Achilles heel as it set him on a collision path with President Uhuru Kenyatta twice -albeit with heavy political consequences!
In 2013, he refused to dissolve his political party, the Grand National Union (GNU), to join Uhuru’s TNA juggernaut that reigned in Mt Kenya region. He stood against the UhuRuto bandwagon and lost the Laikipia gubernatorial race.
After the 2017 elections, Uhuru clearly pronounced himself on his need to leave a lasting legacy and warned members of his Cabinet and party against politicking. Kiunjuri; his new Minister for Agriculture, defied his boss almost immediately.
He went around Mt Kenya region boldly expressing his reservations against the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and led MPs from the region in demanding that the BBI report must cater for the region’s needs.
This, apparently, led to his sacking from Uhuru’s Cabinet in January this year.
After five months in political cold, Uhuru’s friend-turned-political foe is back! Once again with another political party - The Service Party (TSP) - through which he promises to continue with his unwavering push for the interests of the ordinary Kenyans.
While it is safe to wonder why Kiunjuri would still insist on challenging Uhuru even after suffering defeat twice under the latter’s political dominance, I cast my lot with the seemingly underdog ‘Tout-turned-Minister’!
Here is why.
Firstly, Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu advises that a good General lays his plans well ahead and moves only when he perceives an opportunity.
While Kiunjuri has been a fearless General, time has turned him into a good General too! His launch of TSP at a time when the harmonised BBI report was about to be unveiled was not coincidental, it was tactical!
The BBI is largely unpopular in Mt Kenya region as majority perceive it as a ploy by a few political elites to strengthen their grip on power through creation of more seats. It is also apparent that Uhuru’s popularity in the mountain region is low!
I could be wrong, but BBI avails to Kiunjuri the same opportunity the 2005 referendum presented to Deputy President William Ruto.
By 2005, retired President Moi had lost touch with the Kalenjin community and was campaigning for a constitutional draft that was unpopular in the region. — [email protected]