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Uhuru succession hots up in Central

In exactly three years and eight months, President Uhuru Kenyatta will walk out of State House having completed his constitutional two five-year terms.

Because of his impending exist, politicians from his Central Kenya

In exactly three years and eight months, President Uhuru Kenyatta will walk out of State House having completed his constitutional two five-year terms.

Because of his impending exist, politicians from his Central Kenya region are quietly but intensely positioning themselves to succeed him in the populous region.

There is growing concern among Mt Kenya leadership over what they say is Uhuru’s hesitation to identify his heir who can lead the community’s negotiations as 2022 succession politics takes shape.

The President has avoided GEMA succession politics, instead telling those positioning themselves to inherit the mantle from him that there is no power vacuum.

In November last year, while addressing residents of Nyeri town after a meeting with MPs from the region, Uhuru who spoke largely in the local language promised to “speak when the right time comes” and that his political choices would shock people.

“Some people think that, just because I am retiring, I have nothing to say. I will say something at the right time and some of you will be shocked,” Uhuru said.

Multiple sources in the larger Mt Kenya region interviewed by the Star said they have an issue with Uhuru for failing to give them the next leader.

“All these public outbursts about 2022, calls for Jubilee Party elections and whether Deputy President William Ruto should succeed the President, have everything to do with who should be the community’s next kingpin. They are all using this situation to gauge their popularity and attract the attention of the President,” a second-term MP from the region who sought anonymity for fear of repression told the Star yesterday.

Read: Mt Kenya to revamp PNU, DP and Kanu ahead of 2022 poll

During President Jomo Kenyatta’s era, the region had recognised former President Mwai Kibaki as its most senior leader despite a huge pool of ambitious politicians.

Murang’a governor Mwangi Wa Iria, who is also reported to be among the potential successors of the President, said the process of getting a new kingpin for the region should be shaped by “natural forces”.

“I wouldn’t call it succession politics but transitional politics. Transitional politics is a natural process that outlives a leader. This country has two former Heads of State who, when their time came, exited naturally on the basis of the democratic forces both in 2002 and 2013. So 2022 transitional politics will not be different,” he told the Star.

He added: “Politics has its own life. It is both art and science. Meanwhile, President Kenyatta has a democratic and constitutional mandate, which has constitutional timelines.”

In 2002, Kibaki became the de facto leader of the Central region after he successfully defeated President Daniel Moi’s choice, Uhuru.

And in 2013, Uhuru became the region’s leader after he was proposed by the late powerful Cabinet minister John Michuki and widely accepted.

Key politicians have started positioning themselves as potential heirs of Uhuru in Mount Kenya politics, with some jostling to be Ruto’s running mate in 2022 presidential race should the President honour their 2013 pact.

In the 2013 deal, Uhuru would be in power for 10 years as the President and be succeeded by Ruto for another 10 years.

But last week, JP vice chairman David Murathe, among other anti-Ruto forces, came out saying there is no political debt Mt Kenya owes Ruto.

Read: DP Ruto should retire in 2022 - Murathe

Among those positioning themselves to catch the President’s eye are Kirinyaga governor Anne Waiguru, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, Tharaka Nithi senator Kindiki Kithure, former Kiambu governor William Kabogo, Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri, Nyandarua governor Francis Kimemia and his Kiambu counterpart Ferninard Waititu.

Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, former Gichugu MP Martha Karua and ICT CS Joe Mucheru are also considered to be potential contenders.

Residents of Embu, Kirinyanga, Laikipia, Meru, Murang’a, Nyandarua and Tharaka Nithi counties have long stood with leaders from Kiambu and Nyeri. Now they are saying it is their turn to produce a leader.

Gatanga MP Joseph Nduati said the front-runner to succeed Uhuru is Peter Kenneth because “he is not divisive, is level-headed and has experience even for running for president and city governor.”

He said PK is being courted by both the Raila and Ruto groups because of his national appeal, adding that for such a role, the candidate needs to stand a good chance to be elected President.

“PK can easily be accepted in the region and nationally. He fits the bill. He has been keeping a low profile because he does not want to be the subject of speculation prematurely. He gives the present top leaders a chance to do their work without distractions,” he said.

“PK is the man for Central Kenya. You know, even in Central Kenya, we are conscious of the fact that Nyeri and Kiambu have produced Presidents, in fact, Kiambu has produced two - Mzee Kenyatta and his son Uhuru Kenyatta. We in Murang’a feel that we need an opportunity to also show our ability for political and economic management. The whole of Mt Kenya is very aware of this dynamic even as talk starts about who will get into Uhuru’s shoes,” he added.

Waiguru said it was still early to talk about succession politics but should the region settle on her, she will take up the position.

She said the people of Central Kenya will have the final say on who takes over from President Uhuru.

“It is now 2019. The presidential elections are almost three years away. Kenyans need their leaders to focus on issues that uplift their livelihoods; that is what they were elected to do. While I would obviously be honoured to get such an endorsement from the President, ultimately it’s the people who will decide,” she said.

“It is too early for that conversation. My hands are currently over full with Kirinyaga county leadership. When the time comes for a serious debate on presidential and other elections, I will reflect and consult and give my considered position. The only thing I can say at this point is that the next top national leadership tickets must be gender balanced. Women have shown they can lead and must now sit at the top table. Who that woman or women will be, time will determine,” she noted.

Read: Speculation rife on Raila-Uhuru meeting as CSs summoned

Kikuyu Council of Elders national chairman Wachira Kiago told the Star it was too early for the succession talks since the seat is not vacant and has President Kenyatta.

“We as elders recognize our President Uhuru Kenyatta as our kingpin and Mt Kenya region leader and those seeking to take over should desist. When the right time comes we will announce our stand,” Kiago said.

Muranga senator Irungu Kang’ata said Kenyatta remains the region’s de facto leader and he will determine the political direction of the region come 2022.

Kang’ata insisted that while Uhuru’s exit is inevitable, the region has no successor with the necessary gravitas to assume the mantle.

Such a successor would require high-voltage endorsement, financial muscle and longstanding political experience.

“Point to me any single politician from the Kikuyu community with more than 15 years’ experience. There is none,” he said.

Lawyer Kimani Wakimaa told the Star the youth feel there is no one besides Uhuru who has shown traits of upholding the community’s agenda and they are taking matters into their own hands.

“We are worried we have no one who will fit in Uhuru’s shoes after he leaves office,” he said. “Youths are forming political groups to nurture someone who will ensure their voices are heard.”

Wakimaa said the community should look out for someone with a clean track record and build collective support.

“Youths should think of the future and support someone from the grassroots level all the way up, someone with integrity and leadership skills,” he said.

Kiambu Majority leader Anthony Ikonya said it is high time the region started planning ahead.

“We should have a youth caucus that is strong and devolved to all Mt Kenya counties, which should aim to groom a leader from the MCA level all the way up,” Ikonya said.

He added: “Already, politicians are aligning themselves for 2022. The youths cannot claim to have someone whom they will support come out from nowhere. They should align themselves with leaders who have their interests at heart”.

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