President Uhuru Kenyatta’s tour of the Mt Kenya region brought him face to face with a rebellion that is brewing in his stronghold as independents and Jubilee candidates clashed in several areas.
The President was, in some instances, forced to drop his “six-piece voting” call for Jubilee candidates after the crowd told him to his face that they will choose their preferred candidates.
In Meru, the President and Deputy President William Ruto met resistance in Tigania after they tried to drum up support for Jubilee candidates. Residents of Kianjai told the President to let them vote for their preferred leaders.
“If that is the case then, you are free to vote for who you want as long as you cast your ballot for me and my friend Ruto,” President Kenyatta pleaded.
In Nyeri and Murang’a, independents and Jubilee candidates clashed on who was to take charge of the President’s diary. Murang’a Jubilee candidates led by Kiharu MP Irungu Kang’ata demanded that Senator Kembi Gitura, who is vying as an independent candidate, leaves the hotel where the candidates were waiting for the President. Other independent candidates included woman rep hopeful Waithera Muithirania and Kiharu parliamentary aspirant Karanja Mburu.
“We demand that he leaves the hotel because he is not the party’s candidate,” said Mr Kang’ata, referring to Mr Gitura.
Speaking at Mabanda village, the President asked voters to elect responsible leaders but later changed tune due to pressure from the nominees. In Murang’a County, the President’s endorsement of Jubilee candidates elicited mixed feelings among leaders.
Governor Mwangi Wa Iria supported calls for non-Jubilee candidates to keep off the President’s tour.
“The President was categorical that he is fully supporting Jubilee candidates not independents or nominees of friendly parties,” he said.
In Nyeri, the fight started even before the President arrived. Both independents and Jubilee candidates were involved in a war of words over who should welcome him.
In Mathira, MP Peter Weru is making efforts to retain the seat as an independent, despite opposition from Rigathi Gachagua of Jubilee and Phyllis Wambura Maranga, another independent candidate. The President endorsed Mr Gachagua during his stops in the constituency.
While visiting some parts of Nyeri, the President was also asked not to impose Jubilee candidates on voters. In Tetu, his ally, the National Assembly Defence Committee chairperson Ndung’u Gethenji’s quest to serve for a second term, is hanging in the balance after losing in Jubilee primaries.
Mr Gethenji secured a distant fourth position in the ticket race won by newcomer lawyer Gichuhi Mwangi.
And during his visit, the MP recorded a statement at Nyeri Central Police Station alleging that County Commissioner Ngumo Karuku had threatened him in connection with attendance of the rallies. The commissioner allegedly said that Mr Gethenji’s supporters were intending to shout down the President and his deputy.
The MP, who is defending the seat as an independent candidate, however dismissed the reports stating that the commissioner was playing politics.
However, PNU candidate for Tetu parliamentary seat, Mr Mukunya Muthumbi observed that the President only campaigned for Jubilee candidates in Mathira, Kieni and Nyeri Town and avoided the other three constituencies.
“He never campaigned for Jubilee candidates in the three constituencies. Resistance against Jubilee Party is high and I believe he was briefed leading to cancellation of visit,” said Mr Muthumbi.
He also accused the President of contradicting himself by endorsing his candidates.
“We cannot be all in one party and good leadership qualities are not a monopoly of one political party.
“The other aspirants in other parties and independent cannot be dismissed,” said Mr Muthumbi.
He urged the President to campaign only for his re-election and stop advocating for “six-piece voting”.
In Mukurwe-ini, the outspoken government defender MP Kabando wa Kabando lost to newcomer Gathiaka Kiai.
Mr Kabando is also defending the seat as an independent candidate, following the loss in the primaries.