By FELIX OLICK and BENJAMIN IMENDE
The political deal between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga is causing havoc in Mt Kenya politics with some leaders now openly gravitating towards the Nasa leader.
By August last year, the vote-rich region comprising 10 counties appeared locked behind Deputy President William Ruto to succeed Uhuru in 2022. Not so, any more.
The March 9 handshake seems to have changed the political dynamics and is threatening to be the political deal-breaker for the DP.
On Tuesday, prominent leaders from Mt Kenya East, while pledging their unsolicited support for Raila should he contest in 2022, sent out a stinging rebuke of Ruto and his lieutenants in the the latest signs of discordant tunes from the region.
And in an apparent rejoinder to the changing tune, a leading musician from the region has released a protest song against the status quo that has gone viral.
The new track, Mbari ya Kimendero (A Family of Kimendero) by Muigai Wa Njoroge claims that one family and close friends have benefitted from the Mau Mau sweat to the detriment of the poor masses who have been reduced to paupers.
“The curse of Mau Mau still lives up to date, let the children of Mau Mau continue suffering,” Muigai warns in the song.
The song already has 130,000 views since it was uploaded five days ago.
“Oppressors must pay attention to what I am saying,” he says.
The song believed to be fired by support for DP Ruto comes weeks after another musician, Kimani wa Turacco, released the track, Hatuna Deni (We Owe No One Any Debt).
Njoroge’s viral hit is the first piece to openly criticise the status quo since former President Mwai Kibaki took over power in 2022. It comes against the backdrop of murmurs that the ongoing political realignments are designed to preserve or benefit the famous political families and alienate ‘The Hustler’, as Ruto is called in a reference to his humble beginnings.
The musician dismisses the handshake, warning that the country is not on the right path. “Your death awaits you in India. You shall live and come back dead,” he sings, warning beneficiaries of the status quo that they will be diminished.
As if mocking the unity deal, Njoroge sings that for the poor masses “peace will be a story to you since you’ll never experience it.”
“You will go to India and come back dead,” he says, a euphemism to mean “die of cancer”.
DP RUTO’S TANGA TANGA
On Tuesday, at least 12 former MPs from Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Embu counties paid a courtesy call on Raila. Afterward,they pledged their allegiance to Raila and support for the Building Bridges Initiative with Uhuru. They also took a dig at those opposed to the lifestyle audit and directly attacked Ruto’s allies in the region, code-named Tanga Tanga.
“Although Raila has not declared he will run in 2022, this group is telling him should he decide to run, he shall have our unqualified support,” the leaders said in a joint statement read by former Tigania West MP Kilemi Mwiria.
Mwiria was an assistant minister during the Kibaki administration and President Kenyatta’s education adviser during his first term. He ran for Meru governor last year and lost to Kiraitu Murungi.
In a telling statement, the leaders accused Ruto’s allies of frustrating Uhuru’s fight against corruption and using their weekly church fundraisers to blackmail Raila and the President.
“We all know people who are sabotaging the fight against impunity. The first team is led by URP members who want to defend one of their own. We have also seen some notorious Mt Kenya leaders fighting our President for fighting impunity,” Mwiria said.
The attack on the DP is the second by a group of influential leaders from the region.
On June 26, the Kikuyu Council of Elders asked Ruto to retire alongside Uhuru in 2022.
Yesterday, former Imenti Central MP and fellow detainee Gitobu Imanyara said he will also back Raila should he contest the presidency.
Imanyara, who decamped from ODM to Maendeleo Chap Chap last year to duck the anti-Raila wave in the region, said he is firmly behind his colleagues in backing Raila.
“I associate myself with the statement they made fully,” Gitobu, a celebrated human rights lawyer, told the Star.
Also joining the bandwagon yesterday were former Senate Deputy Speaker and immediate former Muranga senator Kembi Gitura.
Gitura termed the handshake an act of statesmanship that lowered the political temperatures and provided a conducive environment to fight corruption.
“Maybe the politics will come because they follow concrete issues. But for now what we are looking at is major support for the handshake, which has reduced the political tempo,” Gitura said. “Without the handshake it wouldn’t have been easy to fight graft,” he said.
Last month, Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen accused some of Uhuru’s allies of secretly plotting to scuttle Ruto’s 2022 bid, a declaration that has further poisoned the strained relationship in Jubilee. He was compelled to backtrack but a month later, again launched a scathing attack on Raila, accusing him of being the mastermind of the Mau Forest evictions.
Raila has remained tight-lipped on his political strategy but his inner circle, including his elder brother Oburu Odinga, has sent signals that it’s not over just yet for Raila.
“Raila has no option but to contest because that is what the public wants. I can tell you the support of these leaders will be a game-changer. In the last election, they were denied Jubilee tickets by Ruto,” Meru ODM activist Japhet Muroko claimed.
But South Imenti MP Kathuri Murungi yesterday dismissed insinuations that the community had agreed to back Raila.
“That is their personal opinion. It’s not a communal decision…At the moment my concern is not 2022 politics but service delivery to my people. And that is also the thinking of the President and his deputy. Now it’s time to implement the Big Four agenda,” he told the Star.
CAPITOL HILL, RAILA SECRETARIAT
Since the handshake, Raila has hosted many high-profile politicians, businessmen and professionals from the Mt Kenya region at his Capitol Hill office in Nairobi.
Most of the politicians visiting to consult lost in the last elections and are being closely watched by the sitting ones. They include ex-Kiambu governor William Kabogo, former MPs Jamleck Kamau (Kigumo), Kabando Wa Kabando (Mukurueini) and Ndung’u Gethenji (Tetu).
The battle appears to be split between sitting and former lawmakers. On the other hand, there are those among sitting MPs who have stated their reluctance to back the DP, while some have thrown their weight behind him.
Ruto’s active role during last year’s Jubilee nominations appears to have worked against him, with some claiming he plotted their downfall.
Kabogo and former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth are among leaders from the Kikuyu community who have publicly claimed Ruto orchestrated their downfall.
Yesterday, Kabando said they fully support the Uhuru-Raila deal but declined to comment on 2022 politics.
“We are supporting the UhuRao Building Bridges to create a new, united prosperous Kenya. 2022 isn’t relevant now. Welfare, peace and unity amongst Kenyans is the priority,” Kabando told the Star.
Mt Kenya has been Raila’s Achilles heel over the years, with leaders from the region portraying him as a bogeyman whose presidency would be detrimental to the community
The region consists of 10 counties — Embu, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Laikipia, Meru, Murang’a, Nakuru, Nyandarua, Nyeri and Tharaka Nithi — that traditionally vote together because of the perceived ethnic bonds of the communities.
But despite the political realignments, there is also a vicious battle on who will deputise Ruto, among his supporters in the region.
According to political pundits and some leaders, Senate Deputy Speaker Kindiki Kithure is the front runner from Mt Kenya East.
“Kindiki has a special chemistry with Ruto and they are able to propel this country in the next 10 years,” Maara MP Kareke Mbiuki told the Star last week.
Hitherto, Trade Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya — who was a fierce Ruto critic and temporarily decamped to Raila after Uhuru’s August 8 victory was nullified — was also considered as a possible candidate.
Njoroge’s song is perhaps the most coherent expression of the division in Central Kenya. He accuses the elite of amassing wealth while the poor struggle to access basic services. He asks why the government comes up with policies and lies to Kenyans that they are poor people-oriented.
“Are you taking us for fools or do you assume we are weak? The maize farmers are now wailing and the coffee farmers are uprooting the coffee and discarding it,” he sings.