Top professionals and businessmen from Ukambani have been roped into Jubilee Party’s political strategy to lead President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election campaign and help woo the community.
The strategy involves getting respected high ranking professionals and prominent business leaders to rally behind President Kenyatta’s bid for a second term.
In the 3013 presidential contest, Mr Kenyatta garnered 89,064 votes in the region against Cord’s 768,025 votes.
Jubilee Party has identified prominent figures from the three counties of Kitui, Machakos and Makueni to bolster campaigns by elected MPs and weaken the dominant Wiper Party, which most of them defected from.
The two-pronged approach is informed by the difficulties Jubilee MPs are likely to face in the opposition stronghold and lack of a national politician to lead the campaigns.
In the 2013 elections, former Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu led Jubilee campaigns in the region. But now, first-time MPs like Rachel Nyamai (Kitui South), Kisoi Munyao (Mbooni), Joe Mutambu (Mwingi Central) and Francis Mwangangi (Yatta) are in charge.
According to Dr Joshua Kivuva, a political science lecturer at the University of Nairobi, the new faces will help the President’s troops on the ground, but they will have to fight perception problems.
“Wiper Party still enjoys vast support in Ukambani. Those who defected from the party to join Jubilee will have to contend with accusations of having betrayed the community’s cause,” Dr Kivuva said.
The strategy also attempts to weaken the grip of former Vice President and Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, since the entire team comprises close allies instrumental in his 2007 presidential bid.
WORK WITH PRESIDENT
Some of the new faces were paraded at public rallies by the President and his deputy, Mr William Ruto, during their recent tour of Ukambani.
Tycoon Peter Muthoka, founder and chief executive of Andy Forwarders, one of Kenya’s largest transport and logistics firm, was introduced to “greet the people” at rallies in Mutomo, Kibwezi and Makindu towns, a privilege not accorded to most MPs.
Mr Muthoka, a former board chairman of CMC Motors, hails from Machakos County. He is widely known for his controversial role as the top shareholder of the automobiles dealer, which saw him ousted in 2011.
Mr Muthoka accompanied Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto in their two-day tour. He said he had agreed to work with the President to deliver key development projects in the region. “We’ve agreed to bring our people together and fast-track development in Ukambani,” he said in his brief address at AIC Kibwezi Girls Secondary School.
But the tycoon’s open involvement in Ukambani politics and the high-level presidential campaigns have raised eyebrows since he usually keeps a low-profile. It is not clear what his political role will be.
In Kitui, the new faces leading Jubilee campaigns include lawyer Paul Musili Wambua, who is the Chancellor of Embu University, and environmentalist and businessman Isaac Kalua.
Prof Wambua is a long time close ally and legal practice partner of Mr Musyoka.
However, after parting ways with Mr Musyoka in legal practice, Prof Wambua has been drifting towards Jubilee.
Dr Kalua has been on Mr Kenyatta’s side since his 2002 first presidential bid and has been chairman of Kenya Water Towers Agency since the last days of President Kibaki’s rule.
He also ran for Kitui Central parliamentary seat on a Kanu ticket in 2002 but has since kept away from elective politics, concentrating on business and conservation work through his Green Africa Foundation.
Dr Kalua confirmed the existence of a team of top Kamba professionals and businessmen working to bolster the efforts by Jubilee-leaning leaders and aspirants for various seats in the region.
“Yes, there’s team that is very neutral and which is removed from internal political competition because we are not interested in elective seats and, therefore, can advise objectively and correctly on the dynamics on the ground,” Dr Kalua told the Sunday Nation.
Another new face in Jubilee’s campaigns is former Chief of General Staff Jeremiah Kianga, who is also the chairman of Kenya Railways. The soft spoken retired general, who also featured prominently in the presidential tour, is highly respected in Ukambani and is seen as a possible point man for Jubilee Party in Makueni.
During the Kibwezi rally, Gen (rtd) Kianga was endorsed by Jubilee MPs, led by Mwingi Central MP Joe Mutambu, as the man they would be seeking advice from on how to deliver the Kamba vote to Mr Kenyatta’s basket.
He accepted his new political advisory role and pledged to help President Kenyatta get more votes from the region.
Nairobi businessman Sam Muumbi, who comes from Makueni, has vast interests in real estate and banking sectors. He is another big name on Jubilee’s side. Mr Muumbi has been the chairman of the Kamba Council of Elders.
Mr Musyoka’s loyalists insist that the defection of Wiper MPs to Jubilee was inconsequential and that the new strategy was doomed to fail.Kitui Rural MP Charles Nyamai said the government had a constitutional obligation to develop the whole country, adding that the much hyped projects had not been initiated at the behest of Wiper defectors.
He said some of the projects were part of Vision 2030, planned more than 15 years ago.
“Ukambani is part of Kenya, whether it voted Wiper or Jubilee is a non issue. The president needs to rise above the perception that development can only be achieved if leaders are aligned to the ruling party” Mr Nyamai said. He said some of the projects were part of the Vision 2030 planned more than 15 years ago and will benefit the whole country not just Ukambani region and therefore that it was wrong for anyone to play politics with them.