THE Meru region could could be planning to breakaway from Jubilee.
With a storm brewing in Rift Valley over the proposed referendum, a critical voting bloc in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s 2013 presidential victory, a turn of events in Meru is complicating the political re-election arithmetic for the President and his Deputy William Ruto.
Meru has traditionally voted with its ethnic cousins and neighbours, the Kikuyu of Central, but several politicians from the region have in the recent past openly defied the ruling Jubilee and even threatened to leave President Uhuru’s coalition.
The latest to rebel is Senator Kiraitu Murungi, who announced yesterday that he too is breaking away from the Jubilee position of campaigning against the proposed referendum. Kiraitu joins Meru Governor Peter Munya in pushing for the Pesa Mashinani referendum.
Kiraitu has also threatened to pull his Alliance Party of Kenya out of Jubilee unless the coalition releases APK’s share of the Political Parties’ Fund. Kiraitu has given Jubilee 30 days to release the cash.
“APK demands that its initial share of Sh80 million, which has been released to the coalition, be paid to the party forthwith, on or before the expiry of 30 days from today, failing which the Alliance Party of Kenya will have no choice but to review its position as a coalition partner,” Kiraitu said in a statement.
But Senate Majority leader Kithure Kindiki, who continues to oppose the referendum, said the divergent voices being heard within Jubilee are confirmation of the coalition’s respect for the principle of open democracy.
“Views expressed by members within the coalition should not be construed to be rebellion or division. Like any political association anywhere in the world, members have the liberty to raise concerns and at the same time deliberate on practical solutions to strengthen internal systems,” the Tharaka Nithi senator said in an interview.
The majority of Jubilee governors from Central and Mt Kenya regions bolted out of the pro-referendum drive owing to pressure from the government. The most high-profile defector was Nyeri Governor Nderitu Gachagua, who had been active in the Yes campaign before he changed his mind.
“APK fully supports devolution and decentralisation of resources as enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and welcomes the initiative to increase the quantum of national budgetary resources transferred to the national government,” Kiraitu said.
In what could shake Jubilee popularity in the region, Kiraitu brought on board Senate Majority Whip Beatrice Elachi and North Imenti MP Abdul Dawood. Also backing Kiraitu are 17 members of the County Assembly who would play a critical role in endorsing the referendum Bill.
Presidential candidates have for years relied on the Ameru people to bolster their numbers. Members of the community have in return always held a number of key and strategic positions in government.
In the current government the highest-ranking officials from Meru are Education Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi and the chair of the Public Service Commission, Margaret Kobia.
The region is also known to vote for candidates based on their own merit and not party allegiance. In the last elections, two ODM MPs – Cyprian Kubai Iringo of Igembe Central and Mpuru Aburi of Tigania East – were elected despite Jubilee’s dominance.
Imenti North made history when it elected Rahim Dawood, a Meru of Asian origin, to Parliament while Buuri elected 26- year-old Kinoti Gatobu MP as an independent candidate.
Cord leader Raila Odinga has been capitalising on Meru to make inroads into Uhuru’s backyard. He led his troops to the region two weeks ago to popularise the Okoa Kenya referendum and also launch its signature collection drive.
Ruto’s Rift Valley backyard is split over the referendum push in the face of simmering rebellion against him.
It is said Ruto’s backers are jittery that proponents of the plebiscite led by Bomet Governor Issac Rutto are out to rock URP from within to neutralise the DP’s political influence in the vote-rich region.
This would significantly threaten the more-than-a-third of the total votes that Uhuru garnered in the 2013 presidential race, should the President retain Ruto as his running mate in 2017.
Comparatively, Uhuru scored 1,895,075 votes in Central, while in Rift Valley Ruto brought into the Jubilee basket a staggering 2,188,422.
Kericho Senator Charles Keter, the DP’s closest ally and point-man, yesterday cautioned the people of Rift Valley against heeding “diversionary’ agitations that only serve to destroy the region’s unity that has been built over the years”.
Keter went on in an interview: “The people of Rift Valley are awake to the fact that they cannot gamble with their unity. URP will emerge from the current challenges even stronger and more united in readiness for the 2017 race”.