Uhuru to face critics in Mt Kenya region leadership meeting
By Eric Wainaina, Antony Mwangi and Mercy Mwai
President Uhuru Kenyatta is today expected to meet with warring factions in his Jubilee Party from Central Kenya, which have been fighting over their loyalty to him and his deputy William Ruto.
It would be the first time the President would be sharing a forum with some of his harshest critics, particularly some Members of Parliament, who have been gravitating towards Ruto under the amorphous Tanga Tanga group.
The Head of State has convened a meeting at Sagana State Lodge in Nyeri County for all MPs and senators from his backyard where various issues including politics about Mt Kenya region are likely to feature.
Sources familiar with the meeting intimated that the President is likely to use the forum to address resentment from a section of MPs, senators, MCAs, governors and other opinion leaders from the region, ahead of the expected release of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report.
The BBI, which aims to address divisions among Kenyans and outline ways to avoid political violence during elections, among other issues, was launched after the March 9, 2018 Handshake between the President and opposition leader Raila Odinga.
“This meeting will be very helpful because the President needs to reassure the community of the measures taken by his government to redress social and economic problems in the region,” said Irungu Kang’ata, the Murang’a Senator.
Yesterday, several leaders confirmed they will attend the Sagana meeting, which, according to sources, is being organised through Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho.
Interestingly, Kibicho is one of the State officials Tanga Tanga leaders have been uncomfortable with.
MPs who spoke to People Daily in confidence said issues touching on Uhuru’s relationship with Raila under the BBI, development, the recently released population census results and delimitation of boundaries, are likely to feature.
“The President had postponed his earlier planned tour of Central region in the company of Raila until he seeks consensus from local elected leaders. And this is the meeting that is going to decide whether he will proceed with the tour,” one MP said.
Going by past grievances by local leaders, issues of unfulfilled election promises on infrastructure and challenges facing tea, coffee and dairy farming sectors could also feature.
Central Kenya leaders have also been asking the President to give the region a clear political direction as he prepares to exit State House in 2022 as well as clarity on his relationship with former Prime Minister Raila under the Handshake.
The meeting comes at a time when Mt Kenya leaders are engaged in wrangles which have split them between those backing the Handshake under the Kieleweke and Embrace groups on one side, and Tanga Tanga and Inua Mama, on the other. The latter groups are allied to Ruto.
Today’s meeting coincided with a planned tour of Nyeri County by Ruto, where he was to be hosted by Woman Rep Rahab Mukami. The DP tour has since been cancelled.
Senator Kang’ata, MPs Maina Kamanda (Nominated), Kimani Ichung’wa (Kikuyu), Sabina Chege (Murang’a), Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati), Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira), Thuku Kwenya (Kinangop), Faith Gitau (Nyandarua), and Rahab Mukami (Nyeri County), all said they had been invited to today’s meeting.
Murang’a Woman Rep Chege expressed hope that the meeting would address the widening division in the President’s Jubilee Party.
“I am wondering what the competition in Jubilee is for. We have had opposition in Jubilee and I don’t know what we have been opposing. My hope is that tomorrow (today) people will talk frankly, forgive each other and move on and people will also respect each other,” she said.
Bahati MP Ngunjiri said the President could use the occasion to show his followers the political direction amid a fierce rivalry between Ruto and Raila over the 2022 succession politics.
“We are waiting for him, and when he says why we should not support him (Ruto) we will listen to him and tell him to table facts. My focus and priority is peace in the Rift Valley region,” said the MP who is a fierce critic of the Handshake.
Mukami and Gitau said that apart from politics, they hope that issues affecting tea, coffee and potato farmers will also be addressed.
But Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, a close ally of Ruto, said he was not aware of the meeting.
Mathira MP Gachagua said given a chance, he would raise issues affecting coffee and tea farming, as well as problems facing the dairy sector.
His main interest, he said would be the poor produce prices, which have subjected farmers to difficult economic times.
Further, the MP, who has been accusing some State officers in the region of targeting the Tanga Tanga team, said he would be pushing for the actualisation of the Sh3 billion Coffee Fund to boost farmers’ fortunes.
“We are yet to be told what the agenda of the meeting is, but if we will be accorded a chance, we will raise issued concerning tea, coffee and milk farming because these are the region’s economic activities but they do not give good returns to our people,” Gachagua said, but declined to discuss issues of division among Central Kenya leaders.
Ichung’wa, who said he was invited to the meeting by Kiambu County Commissioner Wilson Wanyanga and allowed to tag along 20 delegates, said he will seek to raise issues of infrastructure development in the region.