President Uhuru Kenyatta.
MAJORITY BACK HANDSHAKE: President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Image: FILE

President Uhuru Kenyatta is making every effort to counter the anti-BBI wave in his Mt Kenya backyard in a new strategy involving the entire government machinery.

The plan is to unleash all top government officials from the Mt Kenya region including Cabinet Secretaries and parastatal chiefs to neutralise and overcome the anti-BBI sentiments. State officials are paid by taxpayers. 

They would also explain to residents the benefits of the initiative and ‘set the record straight’ on government projects amid claims the President has abandoned his ‘people’ and working to benefit the elite.

For the second time in a week, CSs from Mt Kenya held a strategy meeting including governors from the region to firm up the plans.

The Wednesday meeting was held at the La Mada Hotel, on the same day the IEBC appeared to signal that the verification of referendum signatures was almost complete.

This would trigger a full-blown campaign as Deputy President William Ruto appears likely to oppose the plebiscite.

The meeting was co-chaired by Agriculture CS Peter Munya and Interior PS Karanja Kibicho. It was attended by CSs Joe Mucheru (ICT), Mutahi Kagwe (Health), Cecily Kariuki (Water) and James Macharia of Infrastructure.

Governors Martin Wambora (Embu), Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) and Francis Kimemia of Nyandarua were present. Munya had confirmed having chaired a similar meeting by government officials to devise a strategy to address issues affecting Mt Kenya.

A recent poll by Tifa showed President Kenyatta’s Central bastion is the weakest link in the BBI push, with only 36 per cent of his supporters saying they would vote YES.

By contrast, 66 per cent of those surveyed in ODM leader Raila Odinga’s bastions said they they would support the BBI’s proposed constitutional changes.

Apart from CSs, Chief Administrative Secretaries, Principal Secretaries and heads  of parastatals would also be involved in Operation Salvage BBI.

Mount Kenya is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the BBI and would get at least 14 new constituencies. Nakuru will get five additional constituencies

Each constituency gets Sh100 million in CDF each year.

The new constituencies are part of a plan to address concerns of under-representation and entrench the one-man-one shilling ideology.

The expansion of the Executive could also offer the region a lifeline as there are fears it could take many years  before it lands the presidency again.

Controversial political scientist Mutahi Ngunyi has said the Kikuyu will not see the presidency for the next 30 years.

“Kikuyus will be out of power for the next 30 years. Their future out of government must be decided in the next 365 days,”Ngunyi said on January 5.

The charm offensive would see the state officials crisscross Mt Kenya, enumerating the development projects that have been implemented in the region by the Jubilee government.

The officials will also articulate the government’s plans and interventions to spur economic development in the region through investments in the tea, coffee, dairy and horticulture industries.

Farmers from Mt Kenya region have been complaining that its economic mainstays have collapsed during the Jubilee reign.

The government officials will also address business empowerment interventions targeting the struggling Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) reeling from the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The plan is to position the BBI as the panacea to the challenges of the Mt Kenya region, including assuring voters of a powerful post even after Uhuru retires next year.

“The Cabinet Secretaries are not working in isolation because as you know the President himself came out on vernacular radio stations to explain the BBI benefits for the region,” a state officer said.

The official noted that the President’s team had identified information gaps on the government’s ongoing and upcoming projects in Mt Kenya as well as a lot of misinformation being peddled by Tangatanga.

“It is no longer going to be business as usual as top state officers roll up their sleeves, stepping out of their comfort zones and hitting the ground in the President’s turf,” he said.

In far-reaching changes to improve farming, the tea sector which had for years seen dwindling returns for farmers is set for a turn around after the state successfully pushed for the Tea Act, 2020.

The Act provides for the Tea Board of Kenya which is expected to be in place by April as well as a shift to an electronic platform for tea auction.

Munya, a key Uhuru point man, is also pushing for the enactment of a new Coffee bill that will revolutionalise coffee farming to provide avenues for farmers to get better returns.

The two acts are seen as part of Uhuru’s plan to address concerns by farmers from his Mt Kenya region.

The government officials will now take to vernacular radio stations to directly speak to the people on the President’s ambitious development programmes.

Others will conduct extensive tours of the region, launching development projects as well as unveiling state programmes geared towards directly benefiting the common man.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya.
AGRICULTURE BOSS: Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya.
Image: FILE

A Cabinet Secretary who declined to be named confirmed to the Star that indeed they have been meeting to build synergy on how to salvage the BBI fortunes.

“We are still at the planning stage so that everybody has a clear message on the content. We are also working to separate the BBI from 2022 politics,” she said, noting that competing 2022 interests are threatening BBI.

She admitted that the BBI process had run into headwinds in Mt Kenya because of politicians pursuing personal interests who had hijacked the process while failing to send the correct message.

Our biggest problem is we are not on the same page. Some people who worked very hard initially are uncomfortable with the committees that are coming up. We are organising ourselves because the content is good.

“Our biggest problem is that we are not on the same page. Some people who worked very hard initially are uncomfortable with the committees that are coming up. We are organising ourselves because the content is good,” she told the Star.

She went on : “It is a political process, hence people want to hear from MCAs, MPs, but this will only work if the content is the same. We are working on bringing these teams together, agree on the message, and see who takes the message effectively.”

She confirmed that government officials are likely to engage with the people with fragmented messages so that “when we have one message, it won’t matter who will be taking the message.”

The fresh push to sell BBI in Mt Kenya comes against the backdrop of concerns by a section of the region’s leaders over the selection of politicians to spearhead BBI campaigns.

There are fears that the battle to lead the BBI campaigns could further erode the document’s support in the region ahead of the referendum.

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru.
THUMBS UP? Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru.
Image: FILE

Key political figures from Mt Kenya region including Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru have warned that BBI would encounter more resistance if leaders leading the campaigns are handpicked.

“While I wish them all the best, I must remind them and their appointers that BBI is a political process and if it is not led by people the community recognises as political influencers, it will have challenges, and that is the nature of politics,” she told The Standard.

The Mt Kenya BBI Secretariat comprises Kirinyaga Senator Charles Kibiru, MPs Maoka Maore (Igembe North), Ruth Mwaniki (Kigumo), Peter Mwathi (Limuru) and Jane Njiru (Embu).

They were picked two weeks ago after a meeting convened by leaders from the region and held at a Thika Hotel.

Amid infighting, the elaborate plan by Uhuru’s team could revive the BBI fortunes despite sustained forays by Ruto’s hustler nation movement.


Igembe North MP Maoka Maore at his constituency in February 2019
MT KENYA BBI: Igembe North MP Maoka Maore at his constituency in February 2019/Courtesy

On Thursday, Maore dismissed reports that there is disquiet among leaders from Mt Kenya over BBI, saying that was inaccurate.

“We are just a small team but more leaders are expected to join us to push for the BBI agenda, the region will soon speak in one voice once we meet as leaders and streamline all issues,” Maore said.

In October last year, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i declared BBI a government project, ordering national administration officers to facilitate public participation.