The Rise And Fall Of Peter Kenneth-A Wasted Promise
When Ethiopian poet and writer Hama Tuma wrote “The Case of the Prison Monger”, he might as well have been referring to the likes of Murang’a politician Peter Kenneth in the opening paragraph of that short story.
Mr Tuma wrote that “great expectations make frustrated men”. And that might be the best description of Mr Kenneth’s life so far in politics since he was first elected Gatanga MP in 2002.
“Our parents, being realists, teach us from the outset not to yearn for big things – when you stretch up to reach higher things you drop what you had under your arms,” Mr Tuma wrote.
Mr Tuma urged ambitious men and women to “hold on to what you have and be satisfied since the more you want, the more chance you will lose what little you already have”, illustrating what has become of Mr Kenneth – a wasted promise.
Everything appeared to be going well for Mr Kenneth when he was MP for Gatanga. The daily news about him was how he had delivered development projects and made the constituency a classic study of what a progressive legislator can do.
He even managed to make Gatanga a more urban constituency that had its own water and sanitation company, Gaswasco, and an independent power supply line. Gatanga, touted as having music as its cash crop, was on a level of its own in Murang’a.
With a history of being substantially rich, Mr Kenneth’s main worry as MP was not about himself – as he had, and still has, successful money-minting business empires with partners stretching from Kenya to Europe and Asia.
His star appeared to be made for a brighter shine every dawn, until 2012 when some strange political bug bit him. Out of the blue, Mr Kenneth decided that he had come of age and had the mettle to contest the position of Mt Kenya kingpin and the presidency.
No one in Murang’a politics can give an exact analysis of what got into Mr Kenneth’s mind. And to signify the negative impact of what got into his mind, he has not rediscovered his political star since.
It happened that President Mwai Kibaki was retiring in 2013 after serving two terms, and a transition General Election was to be held that year.
In line to succeed him in Mt Kenya was Uhuru Kenyatta. But Mr Kenyatta had a big problem in the International Criminal Court (ICC). He had been accused in September 2011 alongside five other Kenyans of planning and executing crimes against humanity in the 2007/8 post-election violence that killed 1,500 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.
All indications among laymen were that Mr Kenyatta would be banned from contesting and it was suspected Mr Kenneth was exploiting that chance to package himself as the alternative son of the Mountain to install himself in the throne of greatness.
Indeed, frowning upon Mr Kenneth’s move, famed benga musician John De Mathew, who was reputed as the area’s musical prophet, released a song that spoke about the emergence of political hyenas in the Agikuyu community who were following a man whose hands were swinging by his sides as he walked with the hope that they would fall off.
Mr Kenneth’s face featured prominently in the video of the song, but not as the good boy of the message being aired.
His emergence on the stage did not go down well with Mt Kenya seasoned politicians, such the then Interior minister John Njoroge Michuki, who, in agitation, declared that Mr Kenyatta was the unanimous choice for the throne of area kingpin and the presidential candidate.
“If you ask me,” said the no-nonsense minister, “anyone who wants to work with us must go through Uhuru Kenyatta, who is the undisputed Agikuyu leader. Otherwise we are going to fight you politically.”
In a quick rejoinder that baffled many in the region, Mr Kenneth came out to publicly denounce Michuki’s sentiments. Pointing at the space slightly above his right ear with his index finger, he alluded to the possibility that those issuing such statements were either nuts or senile.
Now, Michuki was not your ordinary man in the Mt Kenya region. He was widely respected and loved, and Mr Kenneth scored his ever lower political marks in that single statement. But he soldiered on.
Mr Kenyatta was not barred from contesting the presidency and he went ahead and won. Mr Kenneth managed 72,786 votes, accounting for 0.60 percent of the national tally.
Many in Murang’a believe that had Mr Kenneth applied due diligence in his political math, he would have contested the Murang’a governor seat in 2013.
“It is a known fact that had Mr Kenneth vied for Murang’a governor, Mr Mwangi wa Iria would not have contested and had he run, he would not have won. Most likely,” says area political analyst Prof Ngugi Njoroge.
“But Mr Kenneth took a bigger step than his pants could allow and graduated himself from among the best MPs to the political cold room.”
He added: “Mr Kenneth was the best Murang’a could have thought of as its governor and would have been voted for in a fanatical way … but as Mr Tuma said, he stretched his hands to go for higher things and dropped what was under his arms.”
But as it was, he once again decided that Murang’a politics were too rural and he vied for Nairobi governor, where he was thoroughly thrashed by Mike Mbuvi Sonko. Political pride and unbridled ambition appeared to be Mr Kenneth’s driving force.
At the time, President Kenyatta appeared to support him for the Nairobi seat but Mr Sonko proved to be too grounded to budge.
After Mr Kenneth’s loss, he appeared to canvass for a Cabinet post, and Irungu Kang’ata and Sabina Chege appeared to be his mouthpieces then.
Dr Kang’ata was a senator and Ms Chege a woman rep, and in several and frequent statements, they reminded President Kenyatta that it was not fair to keep such a son of Murang’a in the political cold longer.
As the 2022 succession elections neared, Mr Kenneth appeared to dream again that he was made for political greatness. He had aligned himself with the Handshake politics between Mr Kenyatta and Raila Odinga.
To observers, Mr Kenneth seemed convinced that his second chance to become Mt Kenya kingpin had presented itself with the looming retirement of President Kenyatta.
“Many are saying that there is national fatigue for yet another Mt Kenya presidency. That is not true and no person [or] community … stands barred by any law to contest as long as he is qualified,” Mr Kenneth said in 2020.
The Rise And Fall Of Peter Kenneth-A Wasted Promise