President Uhuru Kenyatta will today come face-to-face with rebel leaders allied to his deputy William Ruto in a Mt Kenya only meeting as he fights to rally the region behind the handshake.
Uhuru’s Jubilee Party is in turmoil and the President has been unable to make public the Building Bridges Initiative report three weeks after it was completed.
Worse, Ruto and his allies are threatening to shoot it down unless ODM leader Raila Odinga “renounces and apologises” over the violence that marred the Kibra parliamentary by-election.
“As the Majority Leader in the Senate, I will not table anything on BBI or handshake until the principal partner of the handshake confesses his sins and asks for forgiveness for what happened in Kibra,” Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen vowed this week.
A section of Mt Kenya leaders have also vowed to reject a parliamentary system of government should it be proposed by the BBI task force, putting the President in a tight spot.
The Star has established that today’s meeting, perhaps the biggest in Central Kenya since Kenyatta rode to power for a second term in 2017, will bring together all elected leaders from a record nine counties.
There will also be at least 19 opinion leaders per subcounty.
The counties are five from Central – Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Nyeri, Nyandarua – and three from upper Eastern – Embu, Meru and Tharaka-Nithi.
Other leaders will be drawn from the Kikuyu dominated counties in the Rift Valley – Laikipia and Nakuru, often referred in political circles as the “diaspora”.
During the visit, the President is expected to tour the traditional Kiambuthia shrine in Kieni East for prayers.
Shrine coordinator Wambugu Nyamu confirmed that the President is expected at the shrine in Mt Kenya forest at around 10am.
It remains unclear how Uhuru will deal with the pro-Ruto brigade who are unlikely to change their stance against the BBI.
In June, a furious Uhuru vowed to “crush” his detractors trying to derail his unity and progress agenda.
“Let them not think they can threaten me. I will flush them out from wherever they are ….wait and see,” the President pledged, signalling a battle against Tangatanga MPs in his Central backyard.
While State House was by last evening yet to confirm whether the President will be present, Central leaders said they had indeed been invited to the meeting.
Among those who confirmed are Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga and his Kirinyaga counterpart Anne Waiguru.
Waiguru described the meeting with Mt Kenya leaders as “welcome and long overdue.”
“I expect the President will take stock of his development legacy and seek to address any development challenges being faced by the region. This would include coffee and tea prices and infrastructure development,” the governor told the Star.
She went on: “I also anticipate that he will use this opportunity to seek support for the handshake and the BBI by assuring the leaders that their concerns about representation and allocation of resources, taking cognizance of our population, have been adequately addressed. Finally, I anticipate he will address matters of gender equality in the BBI.”
The meeting is likely to expose the political divisions that have for the first time rocked the “House of Mumbi” and threatened to scuttle Uhuru’s legacy.
On the one hand are MPs allied to Ruto under Tangatanga and, on the other, legislators allied to Kielweke pushing for a political deal between ODM leader Raila Odinga and Mt Kenya.
Uhuru’s Central backyard is divided ,with political realignments taking shape ahead of 2022 presidential polls.
Leaders that have strongly stood with Ruto despite what is said to be a state onslaught include governors Ferdinard Waititu (Kiambu), Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri) MPs Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira), Anthony Kiai (Mukurwe-ini ), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Kimani Ichung’wa (Kikuyu), Jonah Mburu (Lari), Githua Wamacukuru (Kabete) and Alice Wahome (Kandara).
Others are Faith Gitau (Nyandarua Woman Representative), Wangui Ngirici (Kirinyaga) and Catherine Waruguru (Laikipia).
The pro-Uhuru and Raila politicians are Ngunjiri Wambugu (Nyeri Town), Ann Waiguru (Kirinyaga governor), Gathoni Muchomba (Kiambu Woman Rep) and Paul Koinange (Kiambaa).
Other Central MPs are silent on a wait-and-see mode.
Apart from Igembe North MP Maoka Maore, the majority of Meru, Embu and Tharaka -Nithi leaders are largely still backing the DP.
Yesterday, Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata said while the President will be making policy pronouncements on many issues, he should resolve the divisions in the region.
“We all need to sit down for the President to give us the direction. The Tangatanga and Kileleweke factions are of no help to us as a region. We need to address these divisions. I belong to Uhuru and it is only logical to support the President until his term is over,” he told the Star.
The plan of today’s meeting is to have Uhuru interact with opinion leaders from all counties at the grassroots level.
He will also plan how to initiate several development projects that were integral in Jubilee’s 2017 campaigns.
Lawmakers who spoke to the Star yesterday said they expected the President to talk about the worsening state of the economy which has affected businessmen from the region.
The concerns include resuscitation of the coffee, tea and dairy farming which they claim have been “wheeled to their death-bed” under the Jubilee administration.
“Our people are demanding answers from us on why the prices of milk are dropping, why coffee and tea are not fetching them money. Businesses have been closed down in towns in our counties and therefore we will be sharing these concerns with the President and propose ways forward on how to get out of this economic quagmire,” Nyandarua Women Rep Faith Giatu told the Star on phone.
In May, Uhuru visited the Embakasi Inland Container Depot and directed the management to clear confiscated goods after an outcry from small traders.
The war on counterfeit goods is alleged to have brought some genuine businesses which employ youth to their knees.
The MPs also said they expect Uhuru to give them direction on the Jubilee succession plan, to address murmurs that erupted following the recently released census report and what they called abuse ofstate machinery to politically harassed leaders allied to Ruto.
The release of the BBI report has caused jitters in the region and Mt Kenya leaders have already made their stand known: They will not support recommendation for a parliamentary system.
A week ago, while addressing a press conference at Parliament Buildings, the legislators said they would reject a proposal to either elect a Prime Minister or President in Parliament, saying they were disadvantaged in terms of numbers.
Governor Mutahi Kahiga said the county is prepared to host the President.
“We are glad that he has been very kind to Nyeri as we have some projects that are ongoing like the Chaka market, Ruring’u stadium, Othaya Level Six Hospital and for those we are very appreciative of him. We are ready to meet him and very glad that his coming,” he said.
The governor, however, said he was not aware whether he would be launching any of the projects as some of them were incomplete but said the fact that they were being done was good enough.
Othaya Level Six Hospital has been completed and operationalised some of its departments.
The governor said leaders expect to raise the concerns of farmers in Nyeri with the President and especially on coffee, tea and milk.
“Those are the key issues that our people need him to know about and especially the instability in the coffee sector,” he said.
He also cited the launch of the Sh 3 billion cherry fund and that they will be calling upon Uhur to have it fast tracked so that area farmers can benefit.