Published on March 30, 2008, 12:00 am
By Francis Ngige
The intrigues and power games that has delayed the naming of the Cabinet has brought to the fore a quiet succession battle among politicians from Mt Kenya.
And as lobbying for the slot of deputy Prime Minister reserved for PNU intensifies, local politicians are split.
|Mr Uhuru Kenyatta and Ms Martha Karua in a past talk show. The two are touted as the front-runners for the PNU’s deputy Prime Minister’s position.|
One camp is allied to Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Ms Martha Karua and her Local Government colleague, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta.Hard line stance by some powerful politicians around President Kibaki — believed to be mostly from his community — is seen as the stumbling block to the naming of the Cabinet.
Now that Kibaki would not be eligible to vie for the presidency in 2012, politicians, especially from central Kenya, are angling for his mantle.
And the battle of supremacy is swiftly shaping up to be between the two ministers, each lobbying for recognition as the region’s supreme.
The two have been mentioned several times as the possible successors to Kibaki who commands a following among the Kikuyu, Meru and Embu.
The quiet succession battle has seen the groups allied to the two ministers meeting separately to consolidate their positions.
A fortnight ago, when MPs allied to Karua met at Railways Club in Nairobi, a section of those allied to Uhuru were at Intercontinental Hotel.
An MP close to Uhuru intimated to The Sunday Standard that supporters of the Kanu chairman felt that if he were named a deputy PM, it would put him in a better position to be the community leader.
“If Uhuru is appointed deputy PM, he would be second in seniority after President Kibaki in the eyes of people in Mt Kenya region, making him a possible successor,” said the MP.
Uhuru, the MP said, has gathered MPs from Kiambu and Thika to his side, who are keen on convincing President Kibaki to hand him the deputy premier’s slot.
On the other hand, politicians from other Central Province districts have used every public gathering to pitch for Karua.
Karua and Uhuru are said to be keen to ensure that they retain their current powerful ministerial portfolios, which would see them remain influential and possibly use their positions to fulfil their presidential ambitions.
Apart from that, one of them is touted to become a Deputy Prime Minister, a position that would be an indicator of things to come.
The Internal Security minister, Prof George Saitoti, has also featured prominently in Kibaki succession talks.
With Uhuru having a head start, since he has previously vied for the presidency, Karua is likely to rely on her role in the Annan mediation to push her case.
The Gichugu MP is part of the Government mediation team and has been an ardent defender of Kibaki and the Government.
This has earned her admiration by people in the announced that she was ready to take a stab at the presidency in 2012, Karua has time and again been mentioned as a possible Kibaki successor.
Sources close to the two ministers indicated that several meetings have been held among MPs allied to them. According to the source, MPs from the region are divided. Others are also rooting for Energy minister, Mr Kiraitu Murungi.
Since the talks of Grand Coalition Government started, MPs from the region have held a series of meetings to define the future.
An MP who has been attending the meetings confirmed that the issue of a leader from the region acceptable to all communities has been a subject of intense discussion.
“We do not want to be caught off guard in 2012, which may seem far but it is just around the corner. The issue of having one leader is very crucial for the region,” said the MP, who did not wish to be named.
The PNU MP said one such meeting held at Railways Club in Nairobi agreed to come up with a formula of appointing one of the leaders as the region’s spokesperson.
In the meeting, it was agreed that the leader should be acceptable to all and capable of striking an alliance with other communities, the MP said.
He said the Railways Club meeting was a follow-up to another one held last month at Greenhills Hotel in Nyeri. Most MPs from Mt Kenya region attended.
Karua and Kiraitu snubbed the Greenhills meeting, but MPs from Kiambu allied to Uhuru attended.
Another source said the meeting at Greenhills that extended late into the night was about the possibility of appointing a community leader before the end of the year.
“Most of the MPs felt that the issue of a possible successor of Kibaki should be prioritised lest the people in the region get caught up napping in 2012,” said the source.
The re-alignment meetings have also included MPs from Nakuru and Laikipia districts – the Kikuyu Diaspora.
Former Gatanga MP, Mr David Murathe, an Uhuru ally who is privy to the meetings, denied that they were meant to pick Kibaki’s successor.
He said the meetings were aimed at bringing together people of the region ahead of 2012.
“Jockeying for positions at this early age is irrelevant. What we are doing is to ensure that we put all our people in one basket in readiness for the future,” said Murathe.
He added: “Having learnt bitter lessons in the past, people from the region want to be united and speak in one voice before choosing a leader to champion their cause.”
A week ago, Murathe stirred controversy when he claimed that MPs from the region had endorsed Uhuru for deputy PM.
He claimed that he was in possession of minutes of the meeting that picked Uhuru for the post. Karua is being fronted by MPs from Nyeri and Kirinyaga.
Murathe’s position was immediately disputed by majority of MPs, especially from Nyeri and Kirinyaga. They denied knowledge of a consensus on whom to support for the position.
In an earlier interview with The Standard, the former MP who spoke on telephone said MPs from central Kenya had resolved to support Uhuru for the position of deputy PM.
He alleged that a Cabinet minister who attended the meeting delivered a message containing the MPs’ resolution to support Uhuru.
“It is the feeling of most of the MPs from the region that Uhuru deserves the position of deputy PM for the role he played during the elections,” said Murathe.
But voicing their opposition, some MPs from the region refuted Murathe’s claim that it was a foregone conclusion that Uhuru would be named deputy PM.
Mwea MP, Mr Peter Gitau and his Kieni counterpart, Mr Nemesyus Warugongo, denied the claims of a consensus on who to support for the position.
Speaking in separate interviews, the MPs said although the matter was discussed at a meeting a week earlier, no common position was reached.
“There was no consensus on who we will support, and it is obvious that the appointment of the deputy PM is the prerogative of the President,” said Gitau.
Gitau urged that instead of lobbying for who to take what seat, the MPs should wait for the President to decide who to be included in the Cabinet.
“We should not create enemies by supporting people on the basis of their ethnicity, the appointment should be merited. Let the President do his part,” said the MP.
Gitau, who has also attended such meetings, said of more importance is regional parliamentary representation. He said the local people were looking for a leader to champion for their interests.
He said leaders from the region would be lobbying to have extra seats in Parliament once the issue of comprehensive constitutional reforms is tackled.
“We cannot understand why Central Province with millions of voters has only 29 constituencies. Our vote strength is watered down by the number of electoral areas,” he said.