It's do-or-die for Uhuru, Ruto in Kiambaa by-elections
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto’s allies have declared the outcome of today’s Kiambaa parliamentary by-election will signal Mt Kenya’s political direction ahead of next year’s election.
The declaration yesterday raised the stakes in the election to pick the constituency’s new MP, which although having eight candidates, has narrowed to a showdown between the president’s Jubilee and Dr Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA).
Since the fallout between the President and his deputy, it’s the first direct confrontation between their rival parties in the Head of State’s home county, given UDA never sponsored a candidate in the Juja parliamentary race that was won by the hustler nation-allied People's Empowerment Party (PEP).
The two leaders never joined the campaign trail in Kiambaa, leaving their respective allies to rally supporters in political rallies, although both met their respective candidates at State House and the DP’s Karen residence.
After shadow boxing since 2018, the President lately making it clear that he is opposed to his deputy succeeding him, the outcome of the Kiambaa vote is billed to be the defining moment in the battle for supremacy in Mt Kenya where Dr Ruto has made significant inroads.
“It will be the defining moment for both Jubilee and UDA. All eyes and ears are on this mini poll,” Prof Ngugi Njoroge, a local political analyst, told the Nation Wednesday.
Jubilee has Mr Kariri Njama as its flag bearer while UDA has fielded Njuguna Wanjiku.
Other candidates are Evans Gichia (Peoples Party of Kenya ), Willie Mbugua (Independent), Koromo Muchugi (Federal Party Kenya), David Mugo (Independent), Wanjiru Muthaka (PNU) and Njoroge Ngugi (TND Party).
The by-election in Kiambaa constituency, which has 96,000 registered voters spread out in 154 polling stations, was occasioned by the death of President Kenyatta’s close ally, Paul Koinange, who chaired the National Assembly’s National Security committee.
UDA would relish the constituency as its first parliamentary seat.
On Wednesday, Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata said the results of the by-election will be the defining moment where the rubber meets the tarmac ahead of 2022.
“We are using the mini poll as our rehearsal ahead of the complete takeover of the region in the run-up to 2022. We are not competing against the President. He remains our most respected leader. But we are competing against those in his advisory team who have thrived on lying to him and leading him into a succession conflict with his own people,” Mr Kang’ata said.
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, however, disputed the position.
Lies and deceit
“It is hustlers who have been peddling lies and deceit hence confusing Mt Kenya people. On one hand saying they share the development agenda of the Jubilee party, but on the other hand wanting the electorate to vote for an opposition candidate,” Mr Ngunjiri said.
Kiambu Governor James Nyoro said: “The Jubilee team on the ground is up to the task and is very much aware of the stakes in the duel.”
Mr Nyoro had said in earlier contests, especially the one in Juja, that the President’s team suffered coordination defects.
“We have since regrouped and have really tried to deal with the hustler nation propaganda and we are sure we will weather the imperfect competition to deliver a win for Jubilee and have the truth about our loyalty and faith in the president as Kiambu people prevail,” Mr Nyoro said.
Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wah alleged that “Jubilee is pawning Kiambaa and Mt Kenya people to Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in a proposed merger.”
He said Kiambaa voters should make the statement that “we are not ready for an Odinga takeover of our politics.”
No merger plans
Kieni MP Kanini Kega, however, countered saying: “I can report that there are no such merger plans whatsoever.”
ODM and Jubilee are working on a pre-election coalition agreement.
Mr Kega said he is an insider in Jubilee party and if there were such talks to merge Jubilee and any other party, he would have first-hand information.
“Hustlers are becoming synonymous with lies,” Mr Kega said, adding: “We will shock them this time round as we assert the President’s authority and influence in Mt Kenya.”
According to Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, the Kiambaa results will cement the hustler nation wave in Mt Kenya where it has beaten Jubilee in previous ward mini polls in Nakuru (Lake View and London), Murang’a’s Gaturi, Nyandarua’s Rurii and recently in Juja constituency.
“While the ward results reflected the chronic illness that was pushing Jubilee to its death bed in Juja, its burial will be in Kiambaa,” Mr Ndindi said.
The recent defection of Kiambu Woman Rep Gathoni wa Muchomba and Lari MP Gabriel Kago has heightened perception that the ground has shifted in Dr Ruto’s favour.
But the defection of Mr Raymond Kuria, who had been cleared to run on Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria’s People’s Empowerment Party (PEP), to Jubilee also pointed to the high-level behind-the-scenes moves.
Mr Kuria said he jumped ship after he was summoned to State House by the President “who made me see the sense of the path he is taking against this hustler movement.”
Limuru MP Peter Mwathi said the hustler narrative is deceptive and will not blind the voters.
“We are countering the lies and the propaganda that has come to define the hustler narrative. They are telling us that they will deliver heaven to us when they are not delivering while they are in the government,” Mr Mwathi said.
Turned the tables
“Under normal circumstances, a by-election is nothing to worry about for an incumbent president. In fact, for Mr Kenyatta who is retiring in 2022, he can afford to rest easy and let Kiambaa people do as they wish. But not under the prevailing circumstances where his succession plot appears to be at risk,” Prof Herman Manyora, a political analyst said.
He said if Dr Ruto beats his boss in Kiambu it lay credence to the narrative that the hustler nation has turned the tables against the President in Mt Kenya.
On Wednesday, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) said preparations for the Kiambaa constituency and Muguga Ward by-elections were complete.
Kiambaa constituency returning officer Peter Muigai said he is optimistic that the voting exercise will go uninterrupted.
“We have no challenge so far and we have all the material. What is remaining is dispatching our officers to the field,” Mr Muigai said at Karuri Secondary School.
In Muguga Ward, Jubilee candidate Githinji Mungera will be facing off with UDA’s Kamau Thumbi.
Additional reporting by Simon Ciuri