Why bigwigs are slugging it out for Mt Kenya - Beaking Kenya News

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Saturday, 7 November 2020

Why bigwigs are slugging it out for Mt Kenya


For the first time since the advent of multi-party democracy in 1992, President Uhuru Kenyatta's vote-rich Mt region has turned into a tough battleground for outsiders seeking the presidency.

Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga are in a fierce battle to win over the crucial region that for once may not have a serious presidential contender in 2022.

Lack of a clear successor when Uhuru retires in 2022 has also triggered a high-stakes game to control the key region that decisively delivered Jubilee victories in 2013 and 2017.

Ruto, who fell out with the President and lost out in the success matrix, is seen as a lone ranger in his attempts to counter Uhuru's campaigns to shove him out of the succession picture.

Raila, the former prime minister in the Grand Coalition government, political observers say, is the man to beat in Mt Kenya, given his camaraderie with the President.

His friendship with Uhuru has caused many leaders from the President's backyard to coalesce around him in part of the strategy to lock Ruto out of Mt Kenya.

Jubilee nominated MP Maina Kamanda told the Star the handshake between Uhuru and Raila will produce the country's fifth President.

“I am not a mad man. I have been in politics for enough time to read the signs. In the next few months, we are going to show the country where power is going to be in 2022 after the President exits,” he said.

The former Starehe MP said Ruto will be a hard-sell in Mt Kenya because of the way he has been undermining the President and government programmes.

“Mt Kenya is under the full control of the President and he is going to determine the direction the region will take in 2022, obviously that direction will involve Raila,” Kamanda said.

National Assembly Majority Whip Maoka Maore said the BBI process is going to usher in a new political dispensation that will vanquish critics of the handshake.

“Mt Kenya remains the President's bedroom. It is not up for grabs as people think. Under his leadership we will focus on who will continue his rich legacy,"the Igembe North MP said.

Maore, a Ruto critic, said the DP's supporters across Mt Kenya will desert him  once "the real 2022 politics hits the ground in earnest".

The DP badly badly needs Mt Kenya's overwhelming support if he contemplates of replicating Jubilee's 2013 and 2017 victories amid fears any split could damage his his quest for the top job.

Mt Kenya's nine counties including the diaspora Nakuru, had a total of 5.3 million votes in 2017 polls, reflecting a 31 per cent of the 19.6 million voters registered

The Mt Kenya region's votes in the repeat 2017 presidential election amounted to more than half (53 per cent) of the 7.4 million votes that Uhuru polled. Raila boycotted the election.

The region came out and voted almost to a man as Raila appeared then to  threaten Uhuru's bid for a second term  after the first elections were discredited and nullified.

Uhuru secured nearly four million votes with a turnout that averaged 98 per cent.

The Rift Valley, Ruto’s stronghold, was second, followed by Nairobi.

In 2013, Uhuru and Ruto rode to power after sweeping Rift Valley and Mt Kenya.

Uhuru had then polled 6.1 million to secure 50.07 per cent of the national vote to avoid a run-off.

Raila managed 5.3 million, with Uhuru avoiding a run off by a mere 800,000 votes.

However, in the 2017 polls, the President managed to widen the lead to 1.4 million votes, though the outcome was annulled by the Supreme Court.

The analysis reveals Jubilee's victories could have be cancelled out without a massive voter turn out in Mt Kenya. 

This demonstrates why the Mt Kenya bloc — comprising Kiambu, Murang’a, Nyeri, Embu, Kirinyaga, Nyandarua, Laikipia, Meru and Tharaka Nithi, as well as Nakuru — could be battleground in 2022.

Analysts say the President has decided to step forth and directly influence his succession after his alienation from Ruto, the former heir-presumptive.

The Building Bridges Initiative is seen as the masterstroke crafted by Uhuru's mandarins to reconfigure the country's political landscape and take charge of succession politics.

But it faces a hard slog. 

While President Uhuru has categorically stated he is not interested in any position after he retires in 2022, there are murmurs that he could want to reward his backyard with the  position of Prime Minister.

The BBI report that would amend the Constitution, proposes creation of the position of prime minister with two deputies - in what the President and Rails have argued would cure the zero-sum game of the winner-takes-all. A costly, questionable remedy, critics say.

The plum PM position is said to be the ultimate reward for Mt Kenya region if his axis romps to victory.

On the other hand, Ruto is walking a political tightrope to enhance his grip on the vote-rich region, without his bad blood with the the President complicating his chances.

The DP has claimed several of his allies have been threatened by the government to abandon him, saying "trumped up" graft charges targeting his troops are part of the scheme to block his presidential bid.

Last week, Ruto mounted an aggressive tour of the President's backyard and declared that his run for State House was unstoppable.

He warned that BBI was part of a scheme to destroy his chances in 2022.

Luo elders are expected in Nyeri on November 14 to meet their Kikuyu counterpart in part of an elaborate plan to endorse Raila as the President's heir.

A delegation of more than 500 Kikuyu elders had on October 10 made a historic trip to Raila’s Bondo home — popularly known as Kango Kajaramogi — where they 'endorsed' Raila for the President.

Signalling a major political bomb that Ruto's allies have said seeks to ruin him, Uhuru made a triumphant entry into Kisumu on October 22 after he received the BBI report.

Kandara MP Alice Wahome, a Ruto supporter from Mt Kenya. insisted the DP had attracted a lot of supporters because he cares about the welfare of the common mwananchi.

“The DP is a man who understands the real issues the ordinary mwananchi is facing like lack of jobs and low prices of commodities. The economy is under performing and the Covid-19 situation worsened everything. That is what we are giving priority to,” the fiery MP said.

She said the DP has built his own network of supporters not just in Mt Kenya but also across the county because of the way he tackles the real issues affecting ordinary people.

“The empowerment programme to equip the youth and vulnerable groups is part of the practical ways the DP is addressing economic challenges,” she added.

But political risk analyst Dismas Mokua said the DP has found himself in a political corner after the BBI process was unveiled.

Mokua said, the BBI report has confronted Ruto with a  conundrum that could complicate his chances to win over Mt Kenya or succeed the President.

“Things are clearly desperate for Ruto as he mulls his binary options. He can either support the BBI and run with Jubilee successes and failures, or oppose the BBI proposals and position himself as an outsider,” Mokua said.

He said the DP's body language and statements while visiting  the President’s backyard suggest that he finds the BBI proposals at odds with his Hustler philosophy and State House ambitions.

“Positioning himself as an outsider demands that he comes out in the open and either rejects the BBI proposals in toto or resigns as the Deputy President,” he said.

BBI is the President's project.

“It will not be a walk in the park for Ruto in Mt Kenya when the President and Raila pitch tent there to campaign against him," he said.

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