Two senior government officials are leading highly funded ‘voter education’ drives for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election campaign in Meru and Tharaka Nithi counties.
Acting under the aegis of the Meru Professionals Association, Lands Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi and Fisheries Principal Secretary Micheni Ntiba have been meeting large groups of voters from all the nine constituencies in Meru and the three in Tharaka Nithi.
Their main message has been: turn out in large numbers on August 8.
There has been debate whether campaigning Cabinet secretaries are breaking the law. Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju is on record as saying campaigning CSs are doing so legally but principal secretaries are barred from doing the same by the law.
In Meru, the campaign is led by Prof Kaimenyi while in Tharaka Nithi it is led by Ntiba.
The leaders have held numerous meetings with youth, women, the boda boda fraternity, matatu operators, and other groups.
On Monday Kaimenyi said the association’s main aim is to educate voters and mobilise large numbers for the re-election of President Kenyatta and “of course tell them the good things that this government has done for them”.
Those who attend the meetings receive reimbursement for bus fare ranging from Sh500 to Sh2,000, which could add up to millions of shillings. There is also the cost of hiring venues, food, and accommodation.
According to the Meru Professionals Association chairman, Prof Erastus Njoka, the voter education and mobilisation in the two counties considered to be Jubilee strongholds is being undertaken by a group called Ameru Professionals for Uhuru, whose members are also part of the Meru Professionals Association.
“A fundraiser for voter education and mobilisation took place on June 9 and June 19 this year. We raised substantial funds which we are now using,” said Prof Kaimenyi during a meeting with public transport stakeholders at Mulathankari in Imenti North on Monday.
Prof Njoka, who is also the vice chancellor of Chuka University, says since the Meru Professionals Association is a neutral entity, a group within it has decided to come together and raise funds to facilitate meetings with residents from all sections of the two counties.
“We are part of the group that contributed funds for civic education and voter mobilisation,” said Njoka, who in a meeting with teachers at Kenya Methodist University rooted for Uhuru’s re-election.
Sports, Culture and Arts Permanent Secretary Kirimi Kaberia has also been seen at some of the meetings.
Kaimenyi has told the groups they have met so far to act as ambassadors for Uhuru, and ensure every voter, “including those who are incapacitated, get to the polling station on August 8”.
The minister defended himself and colleagues against claims that they were neglecting their offices to mobilise voters and said it was the constitutional duty of every Kenyan to encourage voting, and “we also get a chance to explain government projects and programmes to the grassroots”.
Both Kaimenyi and Njoka were present at the Kenya Methodist University earier this week to meet about 3,000 teachers from the two counties and Embu, whom they encouraged to mobilise communities to support Uhuru.
The meetings attract hundreds of participants and have occasionally been attended by national government administrators usually coming with a peace message. Kaimenyi has previously met hundreds of artistes and boda boda operators and matatu operators.
“So far we have had encouraging response. We want everyone to come on board so that we can educate voters to make informed choices because we want leaders who are for peace and development,” he said.
Prof Njoka admitted that the group faced the challenge of dwindling resources but added that he was hopeful that the message had reached the target audience.