For the first time since the advent of multi-party democracy in 1992, Mt Kenya region is heading into a General Election without a clear political direction.
With only 13 months left to the next polls, the vote-rich region is yet to decide on whether it will field a presidential candidate or not.
A few politicians who have shown interest in succeeding Uhuru as the region’s kingpin appear to have little to offer in terms of marshaling the required support to win the top seat.
As such, top presidential candidates from other regions have been pitching a tent in Mt Kenya to woo voters to back their bids.
Deputy President William Ruto, Opposition Leader Raila Odinga, Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka, and ANC boss Musalia Mudavadi have all been trying to make inroads in Central.
William Ruto forays
Ruto is arguably the politician who has visited Mt Kenya region more times than any of his potential competitors and currently enjoys significant support in the region.
He has acquired a number of vocal foot soldiers led by Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira), Moses Kuria (Gatundu South), Kimani Ichungwa’h (Kikuyu), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Alice Wahome (Kandara), Irungu Kang’ata (Muranga), Mithika Linturi (Meru) among others.
From the onset, the DP appears to have learned that it won’t be possible for him to sail through without the support of Mt Kenya. His Rift Valley backyard had about 4 million registered voters in 2017.
With other vote-rich regions like Western, Nyanza, and Eastern likely to produce presidential candidates in the upcoming polls, Ruto is highly banking on Mount Kenya’s indecisiveness to clinch the presidency.
Mt Kenya numbers
In 2017, the region had about 5.3 million registered voters according to IEBC data; this transcended to 31% of 19.6 million voters. It is estimated the region’s numbers could shoot to between 7 to 8 million in 2022.
With such a big basket of votes in his fold, Uhuru only needed approximately 20% of the votes from other regions to ascend to power, assuming his home turf backed him to the last man.
It is therefore numerically impossible for one to ascend to power without the support of Mt Kenya. It is against this reality that all serious presidential candidates are facing the Mountain.
Raila Odinga’s charm offensive
The ODM leader has become Uhuru’s close buddy ever since they shook hands on March 9, 2018. He is banking on his good rapport with the head of state to woo Mt Kenya voters to support his bid.
On Friday, June 18, the ODM leader met business tycoons from the region who reportedly promised to rally behind his presidential bid.
Raila has also been hosting elders from Mt Kenya. The first meeting was held at his rural home in Bondo in October 2020, followed by another one in Karen in May 2021.
The former premier, a great champion of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), has also been seeking an audience with voters from Central Kenya through the media, particularly vernacular radio stations.
Currently, his ODM party is working on a plan to seal a cooperation deal with Uhuru’s Jubilee Party ahead of 2022. Jubilee is popular in Mt Kenya, and a deal with the Orange party would most likely boost Raila’s chances of winning the presidency.
In 2017, Raila garnered 6.8 million votes (44.9% against Uhuru’s 8.2 million (54.2%), although the Supreme Court annulled the results over irregularities.
Going by the above numbers, pundits argue Raila might only need 25% of Mt Kenya votes (of 2017) to cross the 50+1 mark. However, this is based on assumption that all factors will remain constant.
In the last General Election, Raila teamed up with Kalonzo (running mate), Mudavadi, FORD Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula and Chama Cha Mashinani boss Isaac Rutto under the National Super Alliance (NASA).
As it stands, none of them is willing to work with the ODM leader again. Apart from Rutto, who has joined the DP’s Hustler Nation, the remaining three are working together under One Kenya Alliance, including Gideon Moi, the KANU chairman.
They have also been independently traversing parts of Mt Kenya to seek support from locals.
One Kenya Alliance inroads
About a week ago, Mudavadi led his team for a two-day visit of Central Kenya. He met a host of local leaders whom he urged to rally behind his bid.
In September 2020, the ANC party leader visited in Nyeri where he addressed massive crowds that captured the eye of the media.
The former vice president is banking on the fact that he worked with Uhuru in 2002 and has remained a close friend to woo Mt Kenya voters to return the favour.
Gideon too has not been left behind in the scramble for Mt Kenya vote. In March 2020, he hosted over 1000 delegates from Mt Kenya in Kabarak and declared his interest in succeeding Uhuru.
Six months later, the KANU leader hosted female leaders from Uhuru’s backyard and urged them to back his bid.
Kalonzo is another regular visitor in Uhuru’s home turf. He has been presenting himself as the ‘friend of the Mountain’ due to the geographical proximity that exists between Central Kenya and Eastern region.
Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, another presidential hopeful, has also been trying his luck in Mt Kenya and his visited the region more than three times.
This growing infiltration and penetration by outsiders has seen the region’s unity and loyalty stretched to the limit and split between the East and the West, for the first time in history.
As 2022 approaches, it will be interesting to watch how voters in this region will vote.