How Uhuru’s 2022 Retirement has Exposed Mt. Kenya’s Lack of Successor, a First since 1963

It has now emerged that the retreat by Mt Kenya leaders held in Naivasha last week degenerated into a heated argument as a section of the leaders wanted the community to ‘strategize’ now that they do not have a tangible successor post President Uhuru Kenyatta.

This comes against the background that there has never been a time when there was such a glaring lack of a potential heavyweight in the region since independence in 1963.

After Jomo Kenyatta, the whole region recognized Mwai Kibaki as its most senior leader despite a huge pool of ambitious politicians such as former Attorney General Charles Njonjo.

Kibaki had remained the titular Mt Kenya leader until the return of multi party elections in 1992, when he was given the scare of his life by Kenneth Matiba.

It would take another five years for Matiba to fade off the scene through a combination of personal misfortune and political hard tackles by the establishment and for Kibaki to re-establish himself as the communal political heavyweight, eventually clinching the presidency in 2002.

The retired President would remain the regional kingpin until 2009 when in the dying years of the presidency, former Cabinet minister John Michuki, known for his outspoken stance, publicly made it clear that the now President Uhuru Kenyatta was best suited to be the incoming community leader, giving him a clear head-start over perceived rivals.

The community and observers are worried that in the last four years to the end of the Uhuru presidency, there seems to be no clear leader from the Mt Kenya to pick up the baton.

It is such fears that have prompted some leaders such as Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata to advise the local leadership to strategise for the community’s political future.

Mr Kang’ata has been a lone voice pushing for this cause in the recent past, but his attempt to bring this discussion to a retreat of 80 Mt Kenya legislators last week in Naivasha was shot down and shelved. The second term legislator had also wanted the retreat to discuss the fate of Uhuru’s political career, arguing that the President was too young to retire at 61 in 2022.

It is an argument that had been advanced previously by Jubilee Party Vice Chairman and key Uhuru confidant David Murathe and recently at the burial of Gikuyu music legend Joseph Kamaru by nominated MP Maina Kamanda.

But there has been silent opposition, especially from politicians seen as hard-line supporters of Deputy President William Ruto on broaching of this subject.

South Imenti MP Kathuri Murungi concurs with Kang’ata, saying the region cannot manage to be without a helmsman when Nyanza has Raila, Ukambani has Kalonzo (Musyoka), Western has Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula and Rift Valley the Deputy President.

“A pointman is good because they offer political direction and you can see how easy it was for Uhuru to succeed Kibaki because his backyard was long secured, giving him a clear head-start,” Kathuri told the Standard.

There has already been insinuations from Mt Kenya East that 2022 would be the time for Central to pay them a political debt.

“We are under instruction by our people not to accept anything less than Deputy President’s position,” said Mr Murungi.

On whether the plan is still on for Ruto to succeed Uhuru, Kang’ata said: “Yes, 100 per cent. However, there are conversations to see if doing so translates to getting a person from the region as his deputy.”

According to most observers, some leaders considered strong contenders, such as former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo and former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth are out in the political cold. Others such as Cabinet Secretaries Mwangi Kiunjuri and Peter Munya are just holding appointed offices.

Those mentioned from Mt Kenya East, including Senate Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and Kiraitu are seen as having shaky political backyards, to some extent because of Meru sub-tribal political dynamics.

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