Uhuru Ukambani tour back, restricted to a day

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses Lower Eastern region leaders at State House in Nairobi, yesterday. Photo/PSCU

Supremacy wars among Ukambani political leaders have forced President Uhuru Kenyatta to confine his visit to the region to inspection of only national projects on Friday.

State House yesterday sent a press statement to the media saying the President’s tour had been “cancelled indefinitely” but it was quickly withdrawn and replaced with a revised version indicating the tour was “scaled down” to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

There was a standoff among politicians from Ukambani led by Wiper Party chief Kalonzo Musyoka and governors Charity Ngilu (Kitui),  Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) and Alfred Mutua (Machakos) over the President’s itinerary.

County projects

While the governors had stood their ground that Uhuru, who was expected to tour the region yesterday and today, also inspects county government projects, a faction led by Kalonzo envisaged a largely political itinerary that will have culminated in an endorsement of his 2022 presidential bid.

By resolving to stick to national government projects, the President may have been keen to prevent being dragged into internal Ukambani political fights even as he sent a signal for the leaders to put their house in order.

Uhuru yesterday held a crisis meeting at State House that featured  Kalonzo, Mutua, Ngilu, deputy Governors Francis Maliti (Machakos), Adelina Mwau (Makueni) and senators Mutula Kilonzo Jnr, (Makueni), Agnes  Kavindu (Machakos) and Kitui’s Enoch Wambua.

It is after the meeting that State House released the two statements in quick succession announcing the suspension.

“Due to Covid-19 pandemic, the President was keen on making a scaled down inspection of identified projects in Lower Eastern in the company of all local leaders in full fidelity of Ministry of health guidelines,” said the revised statement.

Leaders at the meeting revealed that Uhuru would on Friday inspect the Konza Technopolis in Machakos and the Thwake Dam project in Makueni. 

Downplayed claims

Initially, Uhuru was to visit Machakos, Makueni and Kitui Counties on separate days but the tour is said to have been terminated at the 11th hour due to unending divisions and supremacy battles between the Ukambani leaders. 

 Mutula told People Daily that the leaders agreed that the Head of State will visit other areas on random days weekly.

 “The first visit will be in Makueni this week and assess the rest of the visit depending on the advice on Covid-19 infection rates” said Mutula Jnr.

 In the new arrangement, the president will inspect the specific projects without any public meeting.

Speaking to People Daily Kitui senator Enoch Wambua, a staunch ally, downplayed claims that the President’s tour was scaled down due to the political supremacy wars between his party boss and the governors.

 “There is no such problem. The last time there was a public engagement in Kisumu the effects were seen by the upsurge of Covid-19 cases.

As responsible leaders, we don’t want to try something that will lead to a similar situation,” he said.

“The talk of supremacy wars is fertile imagination by people who want to create a conflict where there is none.  

“There is no dispute on who is the leader of Lower Eastern. Whenever there such visits differences of opinion are expected on preferred destinations,” senator Wambua said.

Prior to dramatic cancellation of the visit on Monday, People Daily had established that a group led by Kalonzo and another by the three Ukambani governors failed to agree on how to go about the tour. 

 While Kalonzo’s group, which comprises mainly Wiper senators and MPs, was keen to “own” the visit, Mutua, Ngilu Kibwana were calculating to showcase their development records.

 The three governors do not see eye-to-eye with Kalonzo, triggering concerns that they could use the trip to embarrass him in his backyard.

 It is understood that at the center of the conflict are projects the President was meant to inspect or inaugurate with the county chiefs said to have insisted Uhuru sticks to their list.

 Yesterday, Makueni MP Daniel Maanzo, another key Kalonzo ally, dismissed the governors’ stance saying they have nothing to do with national government projects such as Konza and Thwake Dam that the president is slated to inspect on Friday.

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