Monday, September 15, 2008



Political heavyweights woo Gema vote
September 15, 2008
The Standard
By Moses Njagih

Central Kenya is shaping up as the next political battle ground as President Kibaki succession contenders trooped to the region to reach out to voters.

Leading the brigade were top 2012 presidential contenders — Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Prime Minister Raila Odinga — who extended an olive branch to the Kikuyu with messages of reconciliation and calls for unity.

From left, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Kinangop MP David Ngugi and Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi during the Mathira constituency interdenominational prayers and homecoming ceremony for the area MP Ephraim Maina at Karatina Stadium in Nyeri North District. PHOTO: VPPS

Also present at the homecoming party of Mathira MP Ephraim Maina were PNU’s top brass, including Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, another likely 2012 contender.

It was a symbolic visit for Raila who at the height of presidential campaign was evicted from a hotel just a few hundred metres from Karatina Stadium, the venue of party-cum-political meeting.

Raila brought along Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi and Lands Minister James Orengo, who also spoke strongly for unity among communities.

However, the meeting in the President’s native Nyeri, had deep political overtones for the region that voted for Kibaki almost to a man in last year’s hotly contested poll.

Democratic right

Raila revisited the contest, saying he was not bitter with the residents, as they had even told him they would not give him their votes last year.

Alluding to post-election chaos that saw thousands of Kikuyus evicted from the Rift Valley, Raila said the violence was unjustified as people had a democratic right to vote the way they want.

"When I came here to campaign, people told me they would elect Kibaki. That’s what they did and it was their democratic right," he said. "Nobody should suffer for exercising his democratic right."

Raila said: "No one should consider himself above the interests of the entire nation. We agreed to share the animal that we felled to accommodate the interests of all Kenyans."

Nearly all central Kenya and ODM-Kenya MPs pitched for the settlement of IDPs, a majority of whom were evicted from the Rift Valley.

It was telling that MPs from the Rift Valley were not in attendance.

Agriculture Minister William Ruto told The Standard that he was invited to the party, but was unable to attend as he was committed elsewhere.

"I had committed myself to attend a fundraising for Makuyuni ACK Church in Makueni," Ruto said on the telephone.

When pressed to explain why he was in Makueni while Ukambani MPs and the VP were in Mathira, he retorted: "You Press guys look for trouble where there is none. It wasn’t a must that I attend that party."

He said one should spare time for God.

Central Kenya MPs said the country could not move ahead unless all IDPs were assisted to go back to their farms.

They said they were disappointed by the way the Government was handling the issue, as it did not seem like a priority.

Raila, however, assured them that the Government had resolved to resettle them.

Kalonzo, who has been reaching out to the region’s politicians for support in his 2012 bid, said Kenyans must embrace one another irrespective of their tribe or ethnic background.

He gave an example of sporting events when Kenyans come together to cheer the home team, saying the same spirit should also prevail.

"I decided to support Kibaki rather than Raila because I thought if I supported the latter, the bloodshed would certainly have continued," said Kalonzo.

The VP said he had to make a decision however unpopular it was.

He added: "We almost lost this country with the madness that followed the General Election and we had to make sacrifices." Deputy Speaker Maalim Mohammed was booed when he said the region should give another tribe a chance to occupy the presidency.

The absence of President Kibaki, whose Othaya constituency is just a stone’s throw from Mathira, symbolised his impending departure from the national contest.

"Kalonzo is the Vice-President, so he represented the President," said a source close to ODM-Kenya, adding that the VP "had made significant inroads in the province after six visits".

Meru leaders reject PNU

Central Province and outlying districts of Embu, Meru and Kirinyaga bagged about four million votes.

With President Kibaki out of the scene in 2012, it is expected PNU will attract many overtures.

However, PNU suffered a blow at the weekend when nine MPs announced they were leaving the party ahead of the grassroots elections today.

Assistant Ministers Kareke Mbiuki (Nithi) and Kilemi Mwiria (Tigania West) and MPs Silas Muriuki (North Imenti), Alex Mburi Muiru (Tharaka) and Mithika Linturi (Igembe South) made the announcement on Saturday at a Press conference at the Meru County Hotel.

"We today announce that we shall no longer be members of PNU. In the next few weeks, we shall announce the name of our new political party," said Dr Mwiria, the Higher Education Assistant Minister.

Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi, who is coordinating PNU’s grassroots recruitment drive in Eastern Province, was surprised with the new direction his colleagues had taken.

"This is a surprise to me. The MPs had already forwarded the names of the delegates from their constituencies who were to organise the PNU membership recruitment," said the minister.