Wrangling leaders derail Uhuru visit to Ukambani, again

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta when he met Ukambani leaders at State House Nairobi last month. Photo/PSCU

Divisions and a supremacy battle between Ukambani leaders have overshadowed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s planned tour of the region that has been postponed for the second time.

People Daily has established a group led by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and another by three Ukambani governors failed to agree on how to go about the tour. 

While Kalonzo’s group, which comprises mainly of Wiper senators and MPs, was keen to “own” the visit, Governors Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Makueni’s Kivutha Kibwana were calculating to showcase their development records.

The President was scheduled to tour Machakos and Makueni counties today before moving to Kitui tomorrow, but his would-be hosts yesterday indicated the trip had been put on hold.

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

Inaugurate projects

It is understood that at the centre 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.

“We have been notified about the postponement of the visit. The local leadership and OP have been tasked to thrash out a few issues, one of them being the length of the tour,” Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua said yesterday.

He added: “The initial programme was that the tour takes two days but there are those who feel it should take three days.

Then there is the issue of which projects the President will launch. Those are basically the issues to be looked at.”

The three governors have consistently driven the narrative that Kalonzo was anti-development and that he had nothing to show in Ukambani with his many years in politics.

Besides the projects, local succession politics has also featured prominently with politicians seeking to be governors resisting what might turn out to be an endorsement of their opponents, especially Ngilu. 

Senator Wambua, a strong Kalonzo ally, has been fighting to unseat the first-term governor.

Government officials 

The two groups differed over the President’s itinerary during a meeting of their representatives with government officials at Harambee House in Nairobi, last week.

The governors were said to be advocating “a pure development visit” while Kalonzo’s handlers are keen to push for his endorsement for the 2022 presidential election.

Kibwana yesterday welcomed the State House decision to suspend Uhuru’s visit, saying it will give leaders in the region an opportunity to “align development expectations to the national budget”.

Kibwana took a swipe at Kalonzo, accusing him of attempting to take charge of the presidential tour.

“More stakeholders such as the clergy and the region’s business community should be involved in future,” said Kibwana.

On Sunday, Mutua warned what he described as “idle politicians” seeking to use the opportunity to be seen walking with the President for their political gain at the expense of development. 

But Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr downplayed the fallout over the Uhuru visit.

“The President’s tour was rescheduled. We are still organising ourselves and sorting out what we need to do,” he told People Daily.

The Wiper team was pushing to have the Kalonzo host Uhuru for lunch at his Tseikuru rural home in Kitui.

During the Thursday’s meeting at Harambee House, Wambua opposed a decision that Uhuru visits the county-owned Kitui County Textiles Centre (Kicotec), which is one of Governor Ngilu’s success projects.

Others attributed the latest postponement of an anticipated backlash over delayed compensation of land owners who paved way for construction of the Kibwezi-Kitui-Migwani road, which Uhuru was to launch tomorrow.

On Sunday, Kalonzo, while rallying Ukambani residents to turn up in large numbers to welcome the Head of State, reaffirmed the tour would glue Akamba-Agikuyu political relationship, saying immediately after the visit, he would dispatch his foot soldiers to the vote rich Mt Kenya region on a charm offensive.

According to Chama Cha Uzalendo (CCU) Secretary General Phillippe Sadja, the power games between Kalonzo and the three governors had placed the President between a rock and hard place even as he seeks to consolidate his legacy and seduce Ukambani support for his 2022 succession matrix.

Sadja said Uhuru can’t ignore Governors Mutua, Ngilu and Kibwana because they are elected leaders at the grassroots as well as Kalonzo, who is considered the Ukambani kingpin. None of the Ukambani governors was elected on Kalonzo’s party ticket.

“Kalonzo and the governors must go back to the drawing board and forge unity otherwise the repositioning for 2022 has began,” observed Sadja.

Former Yatta MP Francis Mwangangi, a key Kalonzo ally, expressed anger over the wrangles that led to indefinite suspension of the presidential tour, saying time had come for Ukambani leaders to swallow their pride.

“Championing development in the region can only happen if our political leaders are united or have a common purpose.

Engaging the government directly in a united way by our political leaders is the way to go instead of fighting among themselves,” said Mwangangi.

Inspect progress

Uhuru was to begin his tour at the Konza Technopolis in Machakos before proceeding to inspect progress of the Thwake dam project in Makueni County and later launch the Kibwezi – Kitui road.

On the second leg of his tour, the President was expected to open Kicotec and later tour a county owned stone crusher in Kitui Rural which produces 1200 tonnes of ballast a day, before proceeding to inspect the collapsed Wikithuki irrigation project in Mwingi north.

The Ukambani leaders were also pushing for the dualling of Mombasa-Nairobi highway from Kyumbi as well as establishment of a public university in Makueni.

They are pushing for the acceleration of construction of Emali-Ukia-Wote road and Yatta and Miwongoni dams in Machakos.

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