In Summary
  • The President accused the MPs of spending all their time in politics and not concentrating on development.
  • The Deputy President William Ruto has key allies in every county who are a permanent feature in his forays to the regions.
  • Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe wondered why the MPs had issues with being asked to focus on development.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s unexpected strong reaction to demands by Mt Kenya leaders could have adverse political implications on the Deputy President’s forays into the region.

Mr William Ruto, who relies on a strategy of direct engagement through frequent visits to endear himself to the electorate, may find himself with fewer local MPs accompanying him to functions after President Kenyatta warned against “loitering” while campaigning for 2022.

The President accused the MPs of spending all their time in politics and not concentrating on development — responding to the leaders’ claims at a retreat in Naivasha last week that the region had been neglected.

Multiple interviews with the region’s elected leaders indicated that after the dressing down by the President at a closed-door meeting and in public, most of those allied to the Deputy President — popularly referred to as Team Tangatanga (loitering) — are reconsidering being involved in the whirlwind tours and 2022 succession politics.

DEVELOPMENT AGENDA

The meetings are usually couched as pushing the development agenda but are dominated by succession politics and veiled criticism of the handshake between President Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Attempts by the Nation to engage several MPs last Friday and and Saturday on the events surrounding the President’s visit were met with silence — even from previously vocal legislators.

The President’s comment that he was not a lame duck despite serving his final term and uncertainty over his preferred successor have further muddied the waters.

On Friday, Mr Ruto was scheduled to attend the Karatina University graduation in Nyeri County, but he pulled out in unclear circumstances. However, he hosted the President and Mr Odinga for lunch at his Karen home.

BALANCING ACT

The Deputy President has key allies in every county who are a permanent feature in his forays to the regions.

“It will be a delicate balancing act between appearing to defy the President and openly supporting the Deputy President,” said an MP, who declined to talk on record “until things cool down”.

The main fear of the elected leaders is to appear to be taking on the President head-on as it may damage their chances of re-election.

One MP indicated that the “open hostility” by the President was serious and Mt Kenya leaders allied to the Deputy President will in the interim either keep off Mr Ruto’s meetings or tone down their rhetoric.

On Saturday, Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe wondered why the MPs had issues with being asked to focus on development.

POLITICS

“We are no longer in the Moi days where development was dished out from State House, it is planned in Parliament today. Let the MPs know that the President was not elected because of them but they were elected because of the President,” he said, adding that the President’s unity agenda would not be distracted by “us versus them” politics.

The move to gag Mr Ruto’s allies in the region is not new as there were previous attempts behind the scenes to force them off the Deputy President’s tours.

But even as the MPs chose to remain silent for now, it appears the revolt against the President has been brewing.

One recent open signal involved many Mt Kenya MPs joining others to openly oppose the President’s memorandum to the controversial Finance Bill in September. Some also kept off the parliamentary group meeting at State House.

COMMON REFRAIN

In recent weeks, Jubilee Secretary-General and Cabinet Secretary without portfolio Raphael Tuju has been meeting elected leaders at the grassroots.

Mr Tuju first met MCAs before meeting MPs from different counties. Though Mr Tuju has previously told the Nation that the meetings were ordinary, insiders say they were meant to gauge the mood on the ground.

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