October 3, 2023

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Mt Kenya is more fragmented than ever, Will Gachagua-Uhuru unite it or is Maina Njenga the Saviour?

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The vote-rich Mount Kenya region is on the brink of an unprecedented rupture that threatens to shatter its long-standing dominance in the political arena and significantly enfeeble its influence on the national stage.

Since the last elections, the region has remained restive as camps engage in unending catfights over the political control of the region in the wake of former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s exit.

On one side is Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and then there are William Ruto’s toadies—Ndindi Nyoro, Moses Kuria, and Kimani Ichung’wah – who seem to go against the DP.

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The Gachagua axis has perfected their antics couched to paint Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga as the bogeyman and perpetuation of the Uhuru political bailiwick.

This has seen the rise of a conclave associated with former President Kenyatta, its notable members being Martha Karua, Jeremiah Kioni, and now Mwangi wa Iria.

Whereas Uhuru has remained tight-lipped on the ongoing political tomfoolery the now heavily publicized activities by his mother Mama Ngina Kenyatta betray assertions that he is no longer in the game.

Raila, Uhuru’s 2018 handshake coadjutor was de-feathered by Ruto when IEBC declared the latter the winner of the August 2022 poll.

In his recent political rallies, Raila has religiously conveyed greetings and apologies from Uhuru to Azimio adherents and assorted minions.

Those aware of the ensuing polity intimated to the Star that the vigorous mobilization by Maina Njenga – now Amani Sasa Foundation chairman, has a Uhuru hand in it.

Close to Njenga’s upcoming political whirlwind is a group that is not happy with DP Rigathi Gachagua, holding that his politics is divisive and needlessly too noisy.

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The Njenga lot is thus positioning itself as the alternative voice for a disaffected populace amid assertions Kenya Kwanza has not honoured its immediate pre-election pledges.

There is also a fragment that feels the DP’s brand of coarse politicking is not inspiring confidence in a society championing unity to “confront the interest of our region.”

This team is championing the return of the ‘one man one vote one shilling’, a mantra that is gaining momentum. They have been persuaded to allow Kenya Kwanza “deal with Raila first.”

Mt Kenya has thus been sucked in a continued divisive politics propagated by the government and the opposition led by Raila.

The enmity, political confrontation between Gachagua and the Kenyatta family has left the community more confused and stranded.

The two have been fighting on who should rule the community as the kingpin with some of the opinion it should be Gachagua and the rest Uhuru Kenyatta.

There are also schools of thought that Mt Kenya has never had a kingpin but follows the highest-ranking government member – in this case Gachagua.

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The supremacy battle has also invoked the emotive Mau Mau politics as UDA and Azimio seek to sway support in the region.

But the Kikuyu Council of Elders give a different twist saying that since Uhuru hasn’t returned the power stick (Muthigi) that was handed to him in 2013, power is yet to shift.

The symbolism, they say, is that he still commands the region.

Those supporting Gachagua want to hear none of that, keeping that he’s the senior leader in the region.

Recently, Njenga declared himself as the spokesperson of the Mount Kenya region, saying his relative, the late minister and Gema supremo, Njenga Karume, gave him this mandate.

The former Mungiki leader argues the late former Cabinet Minister entrusted him with the responsibility of looking after the community.

“This discussion about who holds the region’s kingpin position should end. I visited Njenga Karume on his deathbed, and he gave me the responsibility to advocate for and protect our people. To avoid his curse, I will do everything in my power to fulfil that mandate,” Njenga said.

As to whether there is a split, he says the Central region’s backyard is on the verge of pulling apart, saying the biggest threat is that Mt Kenya East would pull away if something is not done.

Njenga has thus launched a peace and unity movement to traverse 10 counties of the Mount Kenya region, reaching out to leaders.

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For him, the unity of the Mt Kenya people, including the Kikuyu, Meru, and Embu, is of utmost importance.

The New Democrats (TND) party leader Thuo Mathenge also said that the divisive politics is creating a wedge within the region.

His take was that all leaders should come together irrespective of political party affiliation and work together.

Mathenge emphasized that the region will likely lose a lot compared to the previous regime if the leaders continue attacking each other.

“Mount Kenya is more fragmented than before and it’s high time we should shun party politics and work as a unit,” Mathenge said.

The division around who is the real leader of the mountain since Uhuru’s exit is further complicated by the fragmentation between the East and West of the mountain.

Mt Kenya East, despite being a minority, is believed to be an emerging force to reckon with and is further argued to have bargained a better pie of the Ruto administration.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki, Attorney General Justin Muturi, Senate Deputy Speaker Kathuri Murungi, and Inspector General of Police Japheth Koome hail from the East, a region which already had the post of Chief Justice held by Martha Koome.

JB Muturi, as he is popularly known, was crowned in 2021 as the Mt Kenya Spokesperson during the succession politics.

He comes from Embu County and was National Assembly Speaker for 10 years.

However, it is the Interior boss who seems to cut a national outlook, edging out even more experienced politicians.

Recent pollsters in Kenya have rated him as the best-performing Cabinet Secretary, with some level of consensus across the board about his sobriety.

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Kindiki was a frontrunner for the Deputy President’s position in UDA, until then DP William Ruto chose the one-time Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua.

A Jubilee MP who refused to be named told The Star that Uhuru was the past, and the region could not rely on him to offer leadership moving forward.

She said, “Uhuru was our President, we all agree but now we have to move on…he’s in the past.”

Another UDA MP from the former Central Province seemed to agree, saying moving forward, Gachagua or Kindiki will lead the Mt Kenya region into the future.

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He posed: “How can we look back as a society, running our politics through the rear-view mirror?”

He told The Star that Gachagua is not favored by age, and will exit together with William Ruto, while Kindiki may actually be the real man to take over.

Whatever happens, all agree there’d be an election in 2027 to navigate and a myriad of economic issues the Ruto administration should sort out.

In 2022, the region voted President Ruto to a man and he may remain as the candidate for the next elections, but the real succession politics are ongoing.

Party of Democratic Unity (PDU) leader Isaiah Gichu noted that in disregarding its poll promises, others are now rushing to fill the void.

Gichu warned that with no signs the cost of basic commodities would go down anytime soon, the politics stand to get more heated.

Fuelling his zeal is the belief that the people of the Mount Kenya region have been short-changed in government appointments.

“If elections are held today, I think the turnout from Mount Kenya would be different. They are getting a raw deal compared to their expectations,” Gichu said.

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Gatanga MP Edward Muriu for his part refuted claims that the government isn’t fulfilling campaign promises to the people from Mount Kenya.

The UDA lawmaker said that the government is doing everything possible to rescue the cost of living.

“The Kenya Kwanza government is fulfilling the promises and Kenyans should give Ruto and Gachagua time to deliver,” he said.

He further refuted claims of infighting within the Kenya Kwanza administration, saying they were a creation of social media and opposition.

Nakuru Senator Tabitha Karanja recently on TV said that the opposition led by Raila is to blame for the derailing fulfilment of campaign promises.

She urged Azimio to allow President Ruto time to deliver.

“Why don’t you give him time, so that after five years, you will ask him? But now, he (Ruto) will have excuses to give us,” she said.

Wa Iria said, “The region is more divided and it’s high time the leaders come together and liberate their people,”

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