Hillary Mageka @hillarymageka
A letter by Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata in which he claimed that the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) is facing serious resistance in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Mt Kenya backyard has rocked the region’s political establishment ahead of the planned referendum later this year.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s allies yesterday expressed outrage at the statement, even as politicians allied to the rival Tanga Tanga faction that coalesces around Deputy President William Ruto welcomed the sentiments, saying it reflected the reality on the ground.
Yesterday, 10 governors under the Central Region Economic Block (CEREB) rubbished Kang’ata’s letter terming it “personal and unacceptable.”
“The Central Kenya region has a unique political behaviour driven by unique interests and not hysterical emotions.
To intimate that the Mt Kenya region is opposed to BBI at this stage is not only preposterous but also a serious misrepresentation of facts and reality, and we repeat very premature,” they said in a statement signed by CEREB Chairman and Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia.
“We assert that BBI captures the Central region’s interests now and beyond, for example, in areas where counties did not get extra MPs, the residents are still positive to BBI because increased resources to counties, youth, women, People With Disabilities and cognition of key economic value chains across the country such as livestock, sugar, potatoes, tea, coffee, infrastructure, minerals and natural resources,” the governors added.
The statement was signed by governors Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua), Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) and Martin Wambora (Embu).
Others included Mwangi wa Iria (Muranga), Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi) and Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri).
County bosses denied being consulted by Kang’ata on the issues he raised in his letter addressed to the President.
They also maintained that the Murang’a Senator did not consult any elected leader.
But even as the governors bashed Kang’ata, his statement was welcomed by Ruto’s associates who termed it as “the truth and nothing but the truth.”
They maintained that it would be impossible to sell BBI in the President’s political bedrock.
Tharaka Nithi Senator Prof Kithure Kindiki, a key ally of Ruto’s, opined that the BBI project and the planned referendum stood no chance of sailing through “not just in Central Kenya but all over the country.”
“Voters feel they have been taken for granted for far too long. The sellers of BBI have a difficult time ahead hawking it to a tired and hurting country,” said Kindiki.
Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, another ally of the DP also weighed in on the matter, saying the letter reflects the situation as it is on the ground.
“This is exactly what I have been saying even before I was crucified as a person who disrespects the President.
It is the truth and nothing but the truth. It will be impossible to sell BBI in Central,” Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri another Ruto ally noted.
Nyeri Deputy Governor Dr Caroline Karugu on the other hand said: “One thing is for sure, a message is as good as its messenger.
The character of the people selling the BBI document will be considered as good as the document,” said.
“In Nyeri, for instance, I have only seen two politicians at the forefront selling BBI.
The risk is that these two are not popular on the ground and their hang ups are beginning to reflect on the already sluggish uptake of the BBI,” added Ms Karugu, a one-time supporter of the BBI under the Embrace Women Group.
But the President’s allies in the region dismissed Kang’ata protestations terming the letter as ill-advised.
Led by Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, the lawmakers observed the challenges facing referendum document are due to the fact that some of its proponents are selling BBI upside down.
“We are asking someone who is unwell to take expensive bad-tasting medicine before we have explained to them that they have a critical illness that can only be cured by said medicine. They will – of course – strongly resist such efforts,” said Wambugu.
“What we must do is first explain the disease to the person we are asking to take the medicine – and detail to them what will happen to them if the disease is left uncured. Once we do this they will actually buy the medicine themselves,” he added.
In a blunt letter addressed to the President, and copied to Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju, the Murang’a senator observed that for every 10 persons he surveyed during the Christmas holiday, six are opposed to BBI while only two support it and the other two are indifferent.
“If we do not take urgent measures, I will pin myself permanently in the pillar of the shame of the spectacular defeat,” reads the letter.
While calling on the President to take charge of the referendum drive campaigns, Kang’ata argued that BBI is facing resistance despite the many good provisions it contains.
“The BBI contains many benefits for the region, which, if it fails, may be lost forever.
There is no guarantee that a new regime, where ‘our son’ is not on the driving seat, will offer these benefits to the region,” the letter further reads.
He claimed the initiative had been framed as a Jubilee factional agenda spearheaded only by the Kieleweke side and that the president’s key allies in the region had been sidelined in favour of their local political competitors.
“I will cite the example of Kangema MP, Muturi Kigano, who has been steadfastly supporting government since 2017.
He chairs the strategic committee of Justice and Legal Affairs of the National Assembly. Notwithstanding this, his political rival is spearheading BBI in Kangema to Kigano’s exclusion.
This grievance is silently brewing among MPs in the National Assembly. A number of them are ‘komerera’ (political double agents) who are bidding (sic) their time before they bolt out.”
But in a thinly veiled attack at Ms Karugu, Wambugu claimed some unelected people holding political office were out to seek political mileage and public sympathy.
“I am not even sure how someone who has never been elected by popular vote but is benefiting from a political office can now figure out when others who were elected by a popular vote are unpopular; outside an election. But that’s neither here no there,” the lawmaker held.
“What I am wondering is why these ‘popular’ people are not using their political offices to sell BBI? Or do they want the ‘unpopular leaders’ – assuming there’s any such thing – to first stop selling BBI, so that they as the ‘popular’ ones can start? He posed.
On his part, Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni accused Kang’ata of speaking from both ends of his mouth.
“I won’t be surprised if Muranga Senator Irungu Kang’ata ends up with Tangatanga,” said Kioni.
“Why did he (Kang’ata) choose to do it public? You are not appointed to such positions to advice the President in public, you have access it? He posed.
“We have seen this kind of letters before. During the days of defection, this is how people used to behave,” he added
Kioni, who also chairs the National Assembly committee on Constitutional implementation, observed that Kang’ata views were out of touch with the reality.