What initially appeared as a harmless coronation of National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi as the Mt Kenya region spokesman has turned into what is shaping up as full-blown political war in the Kieleweke faction of the Jubilee Party, with a bearing on the 2022 succession race.
Leaders from Mt Kenya East – Meru, Embu and Tharaka Nithi counties – have backed Muturi and asked their colleagues from Mt Kenya East to support him.
And despite resistance from a section of leaders from the West, their counterparts from the East have encouraged Muturi to vie for the presidency and are shopping for a political vehicle for him.
The push to have Muturi on the presidential ballot, which appears to be backed by powerful forces in government, could further complicate matters for Deputy President William Ruto who wants to inherit President Uhuru Kenyatta’s backyard.
Ruto factor Muturi’s coronation revolves around a demand by Mt Kenya East leaders that they have previously supported their Mt Kenya West counterparts to win the presidency, and that it was their turn to reciprocate in the 2022 election.
The two camps at the weekend exchanged a harsh words following a statement by a group of governors opposed to Muturi that the Mt Kenya region will field a presidential candidate, triggering a rejoinder by their Meru counterpart Kiraitu Murungi.
“I am tired of cat and dog game. If dog is good for hunting, it must be good during the eating. We supported Mwai Kibaki for ten years, we supported President Uhuru Kenyatta for 10 years. We don’t want to hear a candidate from that direction,” said Kiraitu.
“We have decided to front Muturi, who is a national leader. Why is it good while we support our brothers from Mt Kenya West but bad while we seek their support? We are also men enough and now that we are leaving Jubilee soon we will revive our Alliance Party of Kenya (APK) famously known us Mbus party and look for a driver to drive us to State House,“ added Kiraitu.
It’s notable that key politicians from the region, who support Ruto such as Meru Senator Mithika Linturi, have retreated to back Muturi and while his Tharaka Nithi Senator Kindiki Kithure who has been angling to be the DP’s running mate, has gone quiet.
“We are not children of a lesser god. We are tired of escorting Mt Kenya West. It is their time to reciprocate. The arrogance we are witnessing from the other side is disturbing. We are ready for a divorce,” said the Meru governor.
Pundits say the split in Mt Kenya could be aimed at taming Ruto who is determined to win over the region.
Yesterday, Muturi answered critics who have accused him of dividing the region, saying he stands for peace and unity. Civil language Speaking at ACK St Lukes Kenya Njeru in Kangema constituency, Murang’a County, which was celebrating its 50 years anniversary, Muturi said he wants to unite the region.
“Charity begins at home and I have a role to unite the people of Kenya, starting from Parliament where I am Speaker. That is my mission,” said Muturi. He said he was not afraid of the criticism but called for use of civil language.
“We have a robust bill on human rights which gives room for freedom of expression but people should use it wisely,” he said.
Muturi was accompanied by among others MPs Muturi Kigano (Kangema), Kanini Kega (Kieni), Murang’a Women Rep Sabina Chege, Defence Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma and Water Principal Secretary Joseph Irungu. On Saturday, several governors, MPs and aspirants, who met in Kieni, hit out at Muturi, dismissing his spokesman role.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, Governors Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) and Martin Wambora (Embu), appeared rattled by Muturi’s emergence as an alternative political force in the region. During their meeting, former Kiambu governor William Kabogo said “a big river does not drain into a tributary.”
Munya, who is opposed to Muturi’s anointing, said the Mt Kenya region was yet to settle on a presidential candidate. Vote-rich region Political scientist Shariff-Peter Mogire says the Muturi affair was meant to split Mt Kenya and block’s Ruto’s presidential ambitions.
“The DP holds a considerable chunk of Central supporters especially the church community who he has been working with since his case at the International Criminal Court as well the hustlers. “There is a feeling among powerful forces that anything must be done to stop him and the Muturi anointing cannot be ruled out,” said Mogire.
But United States International University don Prof Macharia Munene says Muturi’s candidacy may not have a major effect on Ruto candidacy.
“The DP has already declared his candidacy, Muturi has not. Having a presidential candidate in Mount Kenya East and Mount Kenya West will have major effect on the DP. But that will depend on the quality of the candidate and how the person will project himself to the people,” said Munene.
The Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Embu counties are likely to be valuable hunting grounds among presidential candidates because of their large number of votes.
Meru County had 702,480 registered voters in the last election while Tharaka Nithi is often cited for its late-night swing votes that handed President Mwai Kibaki’s disputed victory in the 2007 election.