President Uhuru Kenyatta has assured Mt. Kenya leaders that he his continued dalliance with ODM leader Raila Odinga is not centred around 2022 presidency succession politics, but a move to ensure that peace reigns in the country.
Speaking at the Sagana State Lodge on Friday, November 15, when he met governors, senators, MPs and other leaders from Mt. Kenya region, the president said he needed to reach out to Odinga post-2017 general election to quell the then-heightening tension in Kenya.
On the much talked about Building Bridges Initiative report, President Kenyatta said he is yet to know what the taskforce has recommended in the document, and, therefore, speculations that he is eying a powerful prime minister post in 2022 are unfounded.
“Being in power means nothing when peace is elusive. And that is why I said I should look for the other man [Raila Odinga] so that we can bring political stability in Kenya,” said President Kenyatta in the meeting that had tens of journalists locked out from.
“Even in my handshake deal with Raila Odinga, I did not tell him that I will support him should he express interest in the presidency in 2022. The resolution of our meeting was that we prioritise peace in Kenya,” added the Head of State.
“You would remember that on January 30, 2018 when Raila sworn himself in, I ordered the police out of Uhuru Park. The tension in Kenya at that time was too high. We needed to defuse it,” said President Kenyatta.
And following his peace pact with Odinga, the BBI taskforce was birthed. The vehicle, sections have alleged, has recommended a Constitutional change that will see the reintroduction of the prime minister post, in which some believe President Kenyatta has set his sights on.
The Head of State, however, says, even though he is yet to receive the report, he would not mind if that suggestion is fronted.
“I do not know the contents of the BBI report yet. I hear people claiming Uhuru Kenyatta wants to become the prime minister of Kenya. I wouldn’t mind being in leadership in such a post, though let’s deal with the current situation first,” he said.
And on to issues directly facing Mt. Kenya people such as alleged lack of sufficient development projects launched in the area, coffee and tea farmers’ market woes, lack of “enough people” from the region in different state agencies, among others, the president vowed to work closely with Mt. Kenya leaders to address those concerns.
“I have met several leaders from Mt. Kenya before, yet none of them told me the specific problems, including lack of markets for agricultural produce, that they were facing,” said the Head of State.
“I would like you to be honest and tell me today: why have you waited for this long, and to use this forum particularly, to air out your grievances? Most times, I used to hear on radio that you guys are complaining, but I could not put a finger on the exact problems.
“On tea and coffee farmers’ frustrations, I would like to say I wasn’t elected alone; there are governors, senators and MPs, who should help me in ensuring the welfare of this group of people is taken care of,” said Uhuru.
The president said in a bid to ensure that all the grievances are addressed, he will organise regular meetings to plan and review whether agreements were implemented.
“Moving forward, I will visit each county [in Mt. Kenya] to listen to the county-specific problems and address them. We shouldn’t be politicking as of now; let us work for the people first. I promise to plan another meeting so that we agree on how we will help our people,” he said.
Political commentators argue that the meeting was organised to neutralise the inroads Mt. Kenya leaders inclined towards DP William Ruto have made in the area.
Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia said it was time the president got in touch with the needs of the people at the grassroots level.
“I think it is time you visit the smaller devolved units. Kindly, meet us often, visit our areas of representation and launch projects the same way you do in other parts of Kenya. We do not want other people to come here and launch projects initiated by you, yet they take all the credit and go around the country saying they are the ones who looked into our welfare,” said Kimemia.
Murang’a woman representative, Sabina Chege, on her part called for contextual distribution of funds based on population and not geographical size of an area.
“President, we love you. That explains why we have accepted to attend this meeting today. Resources should be allocated to regions and constituencies based on the constituents’ population,” she said.
This is the first time President Kenyatta is calling for such a convention following cracks in the ruling Jubilee Party. The Head of State says he believes the “feeling of being left out of State representation” could have contributed to the divisions within Jubilee.
“What makes us fight is that certain people feel left out of government representation. Like Sabina [Chege] has said, we are all equal,” said the president, who went ahead to urge the Mt. Kenya leaders not to perceive him to be politically irrelevant just yet.
“Why do you want to bury me when I am still alive? Anyone who knows where we have come from, knows where we are headed” he said.