Peter Kenneth ‘angles’ for Central leadership
Eric Wainaina @EWainaina
The appearance of the 2013 unsuccessful presidential candidate Peter Kenneth at the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) rally in Meru on Saturday has sparked speculations that he is being groomed for a national political role.
His treatment by the protocols also pointed to some behind-the-scenes efforts to re-introduce the former MP into the political scene.
Kenneth, who arrived at the Kinoru Stadium after most dignitaries had already taken their seats, was given a seat behind former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who was the chief guest at the event.
In the speeches, while all former elected leaders were represented by former Embu Senator Lenny Kivuti, Kenneth who has been touted as a possible President Uhuru Kenyatta successor in central politics, was given a chance to speak at the climax of the programme with other party leaders.
He was introduced to the gathering by Raila alongside Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi (ANC) and senators Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya) and Gideon Moi (Kanu).
Former Vice Presidents Kalonzo and Mudavadi, Wetang’ula and Gideon play a key role in national politics, with the former three having teamed up with Raila under the National Super Alliance (Nasa) ahead of 2017 General Election. Gideon has declared interest to vie to the presidency in 2022 polls.
Observes say the move to give Kenneth—who also unsuccessfully vied for the Nairobi governorship in 2017—a chance to address the gathering alongside active national political players by Raila was an indication that he was being prepared for a national political role.
Other leaders perceived as angling for the Mt Kenya kingpin post include former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, who was sacked late last year, Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria and former Kiambu governor William Kabogo.
Lawyer and political analyst Ndegwa Njiru said Kenneth’s treatment at the Meru rally was deliberately meant to give his political career a lifeline.
“In politics, things don’t just happen, they are made to happen and what happened in Meru is to boost Kenneth politically.
You cannot prepare someone for a national political role when they are in the periphery,” he said, adding that Kenneth “has paid the political premium to warrant that.
The lawyer cited newly-appointed Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, who despite having not lost in 2017 elections, was given a chance to act as the master of ceremony during Uhuru’s meeting with Mount Kenya leaders in Sagana last year.
That gesture, Ndegwa argues, was meant to give Kagwe regional acceptance before being appointed a minister soon after.
The lawyer said this is the reason other former elected leaders from the Mt kenya region were not recognised as well as Kenneth, who he said can be easily accepted nationally since he has carved for himself a national outlook.
On Friday, Kenneth accompanied Interior CS Fred Matiang’i and his Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho on a tour of development projects in Murang’a, where he castigated politicians for only debating about the elective posts in the BBI instead of tackling the real issues highlighted in the document.
The former legislator wondered why despite BBI having nine agenda, only one—creation of extra posts—is being discussed.
“The politicians are only concerned about the expansion of the Executive because they know they can benefit from the positions,” he said.
He said the document was complied from the views that people gave to the committee and thus it would only be fair if their interests are considered.
Kenneth said critical issues such as the fight against graft are being overlooked yet the vice has nearly brought the country to its knees.
“Nobody is talking about how we are going to fight corruption yet it has been highlighted in the document and unless we deal with this issue, we may never realise any growth in the country,” he noted.
The former Gatanga MP said the push and pull among leaders is distracting Kenyans from making their decision on BBI.
Tellingly, there were other leaders in the Meru meeting who lost in the last election — notably Kabogo, a man who has been jostling to create a face in the Mt Kenya politics — but were never given a chance to speak.
Kabogo made a flamboyant entry into Kinoru Stadium in a fleet of state-of-the-art vehicles. Despite his efforts to get recognition, Kabogo who sat in the second row before securing a seat in the front row was not given a chance to speak . Indeed, Raila only recognised his presence after some members of public near the dais kept shouting his name.
And when Kenneth rose to speak, he in a thin-veiled attack to the Deputy President William Ruto and his supporters, demanded that leaders must respect President Kenyatta and Raila.
“The presidential seat is no joke. I have vied for it and it’s a seat of honour. Those who do not want to respect the President are not being forced, but they should respect the office,” he said.
Kenneth is considered a sober mind and mature leader, whose impeccable track record as Gatanga MP speaks for itself.
For some, having run a presidential campaign in 2013, Kenneth has already packaged himself as a national leader unlike others who have caged themselves in local politics.
Muran’ga Senator Irungu Kang’ata, with a disclaimer that he was not endorsing anyone, said in a recent interview that Kenneth has better chances than the rest to take over Mt Kenya mantle from Uhuru, saying “he is a good and a potential leader” but requires grooming.