Uhuru grants Raila free hand to court his Mt Kenya political bastions.


Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi arrive for the BBI mega rally in Kinoru Stadium, Meru county, on February 29.
RAILA’S THE MAN: Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi arrive for the BBI mega rally in Kinoru Stadium, Meru county, on February 29.

By Reporter

For the first time, it has become clear President Uhuru Kenyatta has granted Opposition leader Raila Odinga a free hand to court his Mt Kenya political bastions.

Key Uhuru allies in Mount Kenya and beyond have now turned into Raila’s political associates, triggering disquiet in Deputy President William Ruto’s camp.

Raila’s office is coordinating the countrywide Building Bridges Initiative consultative forums and rallies with the blessings of State House.

The meetings have given the former prime minister a strategic opportunity to re-brand himself and create new allies ahead of the 2022 polls.

For the first time since campaigning for former President Mwai Kibaki in 2002, Raila was given a rousing welcome at Kinoru Stadium, Meru, with the region’s top brass on hand to receive him.

I’ve been sent by Uhuru to tell you those crocodiles you [Raila] encountered in River Jordan on your way to Canaan have now been neutralised by himself [Uhuru]. So, hold our hand and cross with us to the promised land.
Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungu 

The BBI meetings are generously bankrolled by the government and have the full backing of state functionaries.

At the Saturday Meru rally, select Mount Kenya leaders appeared to be sending signals Raila was ready for the presidency.

Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi gave the clearest indication that Mt Kenya would rally behind Raila.

The political scheme would lock out Deputy President William Ruto from the region.

“I have been sent by Uhuru to tell you that, the crocodiles you [Raila] encountered in the River Jordan on your way to Canaan have now been neutralised by himself [Uhuru]. So, hold our hand and cross with us to the promised land,” thundered Kiraitu

Kiraitu, a former powerful Cabinet minister and multi-democracy crusader warned the region against defying President’s Uhuru’s directions.

“Asiye sikia la mkuu huvunjika guu (he who fails to heed counsel from elders breaks his leg),” Kiraitu used the Kiswahili proverb to refer to the political catastrophe that he said would befall those disrespecting President Uhuru.

Some analysts have argued that the Kinoru BBI meeting was a symbolic rally to send a message that Central could be ready to embrace  Raila.

“It is going to be tough for the DP in Mt Kenya region. The majority of the leaders from the region appear to have ganged up against him [Ruto] and his ambitions. Definitely the DP is walking a political tightrope,” United States International University professor Macharia Munene said..

Munene said the President has made up his mind and does not want to work with Ruto going into the 2022 elections.

“BBI is the special purpose vehicle for that reason,” he said.

Although Uhuru did not attend the BBI rally in his backyard, politicians from the region declared, in one of their resolutions that the President is the de facto political kingpin of Mt Kenya and they would follow his directions.

The resolution was meant to affirm the BBI rally had been directly sanctioned by the President.

It was at the Kinoru rally that it became clearer that the BBI campaigns could fire up a political shift in the vote-rich Mt Kenya region with Raila as the main man in the expected formations.

“As people from Mt Kenya region, we do not have any leadership vacuum here. We have no vacuum and we have no apologies to make. Uhuru is the de facto leader of the Mt Kenya region,” declared Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia.

Former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri — who was fired from the cabinet — has openly taken on the President, telling him to be ready to retire and exit politics when his second term ends in 2022.

The former head of the Public Service said until the President decides to pick his heir, the region will solidly remain behind him as the de facto leader.

“Those who have been saying that there is a vacuum should know that our leader is Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta,” the governor said in a political jab directed at Ruto and his allies from Mt Kenya.

The scolding appeared to directly target the DP, whose relationship with the President has deteriorated even as the BBI storm threatens to dash his State House chances.

Before then, Ruto had a massive following within Mt Kenya and had been seen as the President’s heir apparent.

However, the DP’s fortunes appeared to have been dimmed by what appears to be a vicious campaign by key Mt Kenya leaders against his State House journey.

Yesterday Ruto said debate surrounding the BBI should be about the welfare of millions of Kenyans and not few individuals looking for power.

“The debate about BBI should not be for few people but for all Kenyans if the original intention of the initiative of uniting the country has to be realised,” Ruto said.

Speaking at Eshiunya Anglican Church of Kenya, Kwisero, in Kakamega county, Ruto warned politicians against using BBI to divide Kenyans.

“The biggest challenge facing the country is not the greed by a few politicians seeking positions but the challenge of finding employment for millions of young people,” Ruto said.

Raila is keen to win over the vote-rich Mt Kenya support and has already climbed down from is initial demand for a powerful prime minister so as not to antagonise his backing.

The majority of the leaders from the Mt Kenya region have been critical of the executive PM, claiming a parliamentary system would greatly disadvantage them given that they have fewer constituencies.

On Saturday, the region, in the proposals submitted to the Yusuf Haji team, did not propose a powerful PM but rather one picked by the President with two deputies.

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