Forays in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s backyard by 2022 presidential hopefuls have lifted the lid on the huge dilemma of identifying their running mates.
Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and Amani National Congress (AMC) leader Musalia Mudavadi have pitched tent in the region, engaging locals, attending events including church service, to woo the vote-rich region.
But even as presidential hopefuls scratch their heads over what tactic to apply in order to capture Mt. Kenya votes, The Service Party (TSP) leader Hon. Mwangi Kiunjuri had a candid conversation with The Star newspaper political reporter as outlined in the following extracts:
Political parties have escalated activities ahead of 2022. What’s TSP doing?
The Service Party, which launched in June 2020, is a grassroots party that understands the people’s needs and the bottom-up economic model. We have offices in 27 counties, candidates in 19 counties and we are expanding.
TSP believes a party should be based on issues, policies and programmes. We are opening offices and popularising the party and our candidates for the 2022 polls. We are strengthening our secretariat at headquarters and regional levels. We are preparing nomination rules, a code of conduct and nominations board. We are ensuring we are aligned to the Political Parties Act.
Will TSP field a presidential candidate?
A party does not necessarily need a presidential candidate to be strong or responsive to the people’s issues. In many democracies, like Germany, there are many strong parties but they haven’t fielded presidential candidates. Kenyan parties have been formed as special-purpose election vehicles. PNU, Narc and now Jubilee had big names but collapsed early.
Is TSP’s leader preparing to be a running mate?
I am not the only Mt Kenya person qualified to be a presidential running mate. We have so many leaders and all are qualified. So, it depends on the qualifications a candidate wants. Some candidates may want quiet and passive running mates while others may want assertive people who will campaign for them.
Are you planning to be DP William Ruto’s running mate?
I am a politician. My priority is ensuring our community is united and I’m working on that. I’m not waiting to be a running mate. But when the time comes and someone wants me to be his running mate, he must demonstrate why he wants me. I must also demonstrate why I want to be his running mate.
The Deputy President’s seat is not the most comfortable if it is not respected. It is the last seat one would want. It’s the most disrespected office in this country.
You can become very powerful and respected without being a deputy president.
Is TSP seeking an alliance with DP Ruto’s UDA?
TSP supports partnership on key national and regional issues. Our first choice is that person who articulates the issues dear to us. TSP has irreducible minimums. We want security for people and the right to own property. Assure us you will allow Kenyans to do business anywhere and not destroy business. Support agriculture. Support farmers. At least 10 per cent of the budget should be spent on agriculture.
The DP is on record saying small parties should be dissolved [and join UDA]. Will you dissolve TSP?
We will not, we are not a small party. We are in 27 counties and have candidates in 19 counties. So, if the DP wants small parties to merge, TSP is not one of them.
Nobody will sit somewhere in a corner and feel because they are so popular and can sweep up others they are qualified to dictate. We are free [to make up] our own minds. We do that either in government or outside. That’s why I have a lot of respect for Musalia Mudavadi. He has been out of Parliament for a long time but he has never lost his relevance.
Is DP Ruto the man to beat in Mt Kenya?
It is too early to predict who will get Mt Kenya votes. As I’ve said, the wind blows very fast when it’s about to rain. But when the rains start, the wind disappears. A farmer expects a bumper harvest, only for rains or wind to destroy his crops.
What are Raila’s fortunes in Mt Kenya?
It’s very unpredictable. Until three weeks ago, nobody thought Raila could address a rally of 10 people. Nobody thought anyone could listen to Raila. People knew him as a man of the boardroom. They thought when Raila visits, stones would be flying.
But three week ago, he pulled huge crowds and people listened. Once that was unimaginable.
Two months ago, there was no conversation about Raila in Mt Kenya. But people are now talking about him and that should worry many people.
What’s the Mt Kenya Leaders Forum doing?
This is a forum of like-minded leaders who want us to be more united and forwarding looking. We’re focused, experienced and articulate the people’s issues. Even the Constitution recognises a community of interest. The regional blocs formed by governors are communities of interest.
We established a forum to push the next government to respond to our people’s needs. We are very open-minded and a technical team is working on issues presidential candidates should commit to if they want our votes.
Is the forum supporting a particular person for president?
No. We are liberal. Some support Raila Odinga, some William Ruto, others want Mudavadi, Kalonzo and others. We want a leader to address our issues. We only appointed Martha Karua as spokesperson. Anything she says is a decision of the forum. We can bring on board more leaders to champion our interest as a united team.
Have Mt Kenya people and their leaders settled on a person they will support for president?
We know all the candidates and what they believe. We have heard them and know what they stand for. We know who has supported violence. We know who’s a statesman.
Though we’re making a lot of noise, we shall stand together when the time comes. When a man seduces or dates a young girl, there is a lot of excitement. But when the time comes to wed and settle down, they retreat to their parents. When the time comes, Mt Kenya will go back to their parents.
Where there is commotion, there’s no order. It’s time to calm down and allow us to think.
You cannot predict what will happen in Mt Kenya. You can be a farmer whose crops grow well. But as harvest approaches, strong winds or heavy rains destroy everything.
What your assessment of Jubilee and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s performance?
Bricks and mortar.
They have tangible projects. In terms of infrastructure – roads, water, the standard gauge railway and others — they have performed.
However, big projects are not being felt. People don’t have money. Most people who have benefited (been paid) from these projects are international contractors. Unfortunately, they repatriated the money back to their countries, leaving Kenyans without money.
That’s why we have a beef with this government. It has done many big projects, mostly through loans. Kenyans are paying through the nose. Taxes are sky high, fuel prices are skyrocketing.
You build an expensive expressway but people lack vehicles to use it. People are hungry. They don’t have money. Isn’t that putting the cart before the horse? They should have put that money in agriculture.
They have destroyed businesses, impoverished people. International contractors thrive but local ones suffer. Government’s pending bills exceed Sh400 billion. People have died. Others battle stress and other conditions because their money is stuck.
The next government should freeze new projects. Complete the current ones first. Pay people and ensure they have money in their pockets. Otherwise, all these complex economic models will not work.
What is your advice for Mt Kenya?
We must be calm, stop the excitement and empty rhetoric. It’s time we sit down and deal with our issues. Mt Kenya people should elect leaders of their choice. Anybody asking people to vote three-piece because they want soldiers in Parliament will be an enemy of the people.
(Edited by V. Graham