Inside Politics

Ruto took us for ride, Mt Kenya residents say

Friday, February 16th, 2024 06:30 | By
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua addresses residents of Lari, Kiambu County on Wednesday. P D / CLEMENT KAMAU

Residents of the populous Mt Kenya are angry and hungry.

Having turned up in their thousands to vote for President William Ruto and the Kenya Kwanza administration, they have lately been expressing frustration over over-taxation, increasing poverty, poor returns for their coffee and tea, high cost of living and unfulfilled promises by leaders they elected.

From death through consumption of contaminated meat, illicit alcohol and menacing hyenas and wrangling politicians, Mt Kenya voters have resorted to heckling their leaders in rallies attended by President Ruto and his deputy, Rigathi Gachagua, the highest ranking politician from the region.

Because of the anger, Gachagua has been on a fire-fighting mission with calls for patience amidst a campaign by a section of local leaders that he be replaced by Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro on the ticket in the next election.

In December last year, a survey by TIFA revealed that 85 per cent of residents from Mt Kenya said their economic condition was far much worse than in 2022.

This is despite President Ruto numerous visits to the region, the latest being his tour of Kiambu and Muranga counties.

“Our people are not happy at all with this government. It is just a matter of time and you will even have leaders you never thought of coming out publicly to tell the President off,” Jubilee Party secretary general Jeremiah Kioni told People Daily.

Insults

He added: “Our people have been turned into beggars that nowadays sell macadamia nuts at funerals. Ruto has literally handicapped us to a point where the once vibrant community is now begging at the trenches.”

“He planted a seed of hatred. He has found it fashionable to insult retired President Uhuru Kenyatta. He has a party for his community while he doesn’t want others to have their own,” he said.

Political analyst Albert Kasembeli said the main reason that is making the region uncomfortable with the government is failure to honour campaign promises.

“The region massively supported the administration with over 80 percent and they were promised heaven which unfortunately is not the case today.They are feeling betrayed,” said Kasembeli.

Leaders and residents whom we spoke to expressed their dissatisfaction with how the current administration has been dealing with their concerns.

We caught up with Harun Kariuki, a resident of Kikuyu constituency, Kiambu county. Kariuki has a 7-acre farm where he cultivates coffee, macadamia and rears livestock.

Kariuki says he has been forced to look money from other ventures because farming is not paying off.

“How do you explain that a kilo of macadamia nuts sells at Sh10. How is that even workable? I cannot sell my milk for more that Sh50 a kilogram yet I use a lot of money to maintain my cows.”

Illicit brews

“These government promised us heaven. Gachagua has even been telling us that he will never allow our issues to go wrong. Where is he now while we are just counting losses? Our people miss President Uhuru Kenyatta. He held our concerns at heart. Some of us just regret,” a visibly angry Kariuki told People Daily.

Phillip Mwaniki, a boda boda rider based in Wangige, said life had drastically turned increasingly difficult for most young people and warned that the war on illicit brews may not succeed because most youths have no jobs.

“The reality is that almost 70 per cent of them consume illicit brews. They are doing so because they can’t afford quality alcohol,” he says.

Last week about 17 people lost their lives in Kirinyaga after consuming illicit alcohol.

Mwaniki said most people in the region have been waiting for the government to fulfil its promises but it was taking too long.

Most residents in Muranga County also shared similar views complaining of what they described as betrayal.

“Mt Kenya region is not happy at all. Anything President Ruto promised is not working at all. Our businesses are going down. That’s the same case with our farm produce,” said former Education and Sports CAS Zack Kinuthia.

Kinuthia said that by 2025, Mt Kenya will have a political home outside of Kenya Kwanza.

“Mt Kenya is heading for political disillusionment due to power plays that have emerged among its point men and will end up segmenting the electorate,” he said.

He added: “Our leaders have also failed us terribly. They have been intimidated to a point they can’t speak out. They have even been silenced towards raising any debate around the one man, one shilling, one vote.”

“As it is now the mountain mantle has never left the hands of President Kenyatta. Gachagua may be the senior most political leader but he is not our leader as a community,” he said.

In Murang’a, the current administration will also be seeking to answer concerns regarding the Delmonte land.

Both Kiambu and Muranga County have been fighting over the ownership of the land leading to numerous legal disputes.

“We want to know the exact area to be ceded and when it will be handed over to residents,’ said chairman Kandara Residents Association Kibiru Kamau.

Mungiki crackdown

The House committee of land has since endorsed the recommendations of the association which submitted 1,930 names of proposed beneficiaries from Gatanga, Kandara and Maragua.

While Kang’ata has stated that his county only received 1,400 acres which he intends to build a hospital, a parliamentary report states that it received 4,843 acres.

His Kiambu counterpart Kimani Wamatangi says he has only received 600 acres but the October 5, 2023 report says he was allocated 2,696 acres.

The region is also complaining of what  it terms as crackdown on the perceived regrouping of Mungiki sect.

“We want the senseless community profiling of our youth stopped. We are a community which has traditions and we must observe them,” said Chair Kikuyu Council of Elders Wachira Kiago.

In Nyeri,  farmers have been complaining over the Sh6 billion coffee debt.

Moving across the shopping centres most debate is why the President has been waiving debt of farmers in the sugar growing areas “but has forgotten them”.

“The Deputy President promised us that we will get good returns which we have never seen. He only complains of cartels,” complains Phyllis Muthoni, a coffee farmer in Mukurwe-ini, Nyeri County.

Similar complaints have been made by rice farmers in Kirinyaga and Miraa farmers in Meru.

“We were promised markets for our produce but no one seems to bother what is happening,” James Marete, a farmer in Meru complained.

But in defense of the government, Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro said the region was fully behind Ruto, dismissing those saying that it has been neglected.

“We are fully behind this government. It has done a lot for us. More fruits are on the way and those saying we are complaining will see the light at the end,” he said.

 Gachagua said those saying the region was not happy want to divide it for their own selfish gains.

“This government really cares for our people. The last regime didn’t bother at all. Ruto and I mean well for us,” he says.

Former Kiambu William Kabogo has also been vocal saying the region’s interests are being ignored.

“If you walk across the CBD, our people are closing down their shops as other communities take over. We are on our own as a community,” he says.

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