President Uhuru Kenyatta is set to meet restive Mt Kenya region leaders at the Sagana River State lodge in Nyeri, today.
Invites for the meeting are said to have gone out yesterday even though official communication was yet to be made by the time of going to press. Leaders from the region received calls from their respective county commissioners, inviting them for the meeting whose agenda remained tightly guarded.
According to some of those invited Deputy President William Ruto will not attend.
Sources indicated that the president has chosen to hold the meeting with leaders to whip them to his side ahead of the publishing of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report.
Those aware of the plans for the get together indicated that Uhuru wants to pacify the ground, which has been hostile forcing him to cancel a number of planned meetings in the region.
Last weekend, the president was forced to cancel a meeting set for Murang’a at the eleventh hour after reports emerged that the ground was hostile.
Reliable sources told The Standard yesterday that Uhuru has called the meeting in which over 3,000 influential personalities, including all elected leaders, opinion shapers, influential elites, elders and religious leaders, will be invited.
An invite to one of the leaders shared with The Standard showed that no specific agenda of the meeting was being disclosed ahead of the meeting. Believed to have invites to the meeting that has a tentative starting time of 9am are youth and women leaders from the region, which has been rudderless with the impending exit of their leader at the expiry of his second and final term in 2022.
Although most of those targeted for the meeting yesterday said no official invites had been extended, reliable sources said there were ample signs that the State Lodge at Sagana River on the edge of the Mt Kenya forest in Nyeri County was being prepared for a meeting of a large group of people and all indications pointed at the Mt Kenya region leaders.
Perhaps underlining the suspicion with which the president’s camp looked at the rival camp in the area titillating towards his deputy William Ruto, most invites for the meeting were being reliably delayed until the last minute allegedly to pre-empt groupings from holding agenda planning meetings.
Most of those expected to attend the meeting have been asked to make it early and would get their attendance cards at the State Lodge gate upon presenting their Identity Card and phone numbers.
Ruto event called off
Yesterday evening, an MP from Meru said the local county commissioner called to confirm the date in a pattern replicated for all invites in the counties in the region.
The region has been rallying behind the jeshi ti ngenu (youth are not happy) clarion call to express their displeasure about the performance of the Jubilee government.
Nyeri County Woman Rep Rahab Mukami was forced to cancel the Inua Mama Jenga Taifa meeting that was scheduled to take place today in Nyeri, to be graced by deputy president as chief guest, to attend the president’s meeting.
“I had to shelve the meeting to go listen to the president,” she said.
This is the second time, the president and the DP have organised events in the same county. And this comes just four days after a similar incident happened in Murang’a.
“We know as much as the meeting is for us to strategise about the region’s development agenda, I know he will read the riot act and rally us to support the BBI report,” said an MP from Central Kenya.
Surprisingly, it emerged that the president could have left out some Tangatanga lawmakers who have rattled him in the past, criss-crossing the country in the company of the DP in defiance of his calls to focus on his development agenda.
Ruto’s ally Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, for instance, had not received an invite and when contacted denied knowledge of the scheduled meeting.
Speculation was, however, rife on the true intent of the president’s meeting as the invite was extended to all governors, Members of the County Assemblies (MCAs) and other leaders.
MPs Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati), Sabina Chege (Murang’a County MP) and Maina Kamanda (nominated) also confirmed they have been called. Ngunjiri disclosed that 20 people have been invited per constituency, however, he affirmed the DP had not been invited.
“We have been invited by the President and will honour it. We can differ in opinion but the president and DP are still our leaders until 2022 as per the law,” he said.
He lauded the DP for being wise in postponing events that could clash with the president, stressing that protocol demands so.
“Kuna wakora huko Office of the President (OP) who planned the event bearing in mind that another is on course. The DP has always kept off and joined the president in his function. In this one, every constituency will take 20 people and the DP is not invited,” said the Bahati MP.
He argued, “This is not a PG meeting. We are going to get instructions.”
Ms Chege said the president has invited leaders from the ‘House of Mumbi’ to discuss home issues as the leader of the region.
“I expect the meeting to tackle issues of coffee, tea and agriculture sector as a whole. We will also have an opportunity to seek forgiveness, stop fights and respect each other going forward,” she said.
She regretted to note that leaders allied to the president and the DP have been jostling to win their support by purporting to speak for them.
“Since the 2017 election, we have had opposition from the ruling party. We should use the meeting to speak openly and forgive each other and make amends,” she added.
Murang’a Senator Irungu Kangata confirmed that the president has called them for a meeting and a myriad of issues will be addressed.
“We have been invited for the meeting. The agenda will be known tomorrow (today),” said Kangata.
“It is very helpful. The community needs to be assured of the measures taken by the Executive to redress social and economic problems in the region.”
Igembe South John Paul who is an independent candidate also confirmed he was invited.
“I received a call from State House to attend the meeting,” confirmed the MP without disclosing who called him.
Ruto’s confidant, Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa confirmed he will be attending the meeting.
“I will be at the Sagana meeting,” he said.
Support for BBI
In the wake of political developments that have left his backyard rudderless and without a clear successor, the president’s itinerary has lately been shrouded in secrecy and open to abrupt last minute changes.
Last weekend, the president called off, at the last minute, a harambee he had planned to attend at the Anglican Church in Kenol, Murang’a county only hours after Dr Ruto called off his own planned event nearby.
State House spokesperson Kanze Dena would not confirm or deny whether there was a meeting planned for Friday at the state lodge.
“Ndugu yangu (my brother), I advise you to wait for official communication from our portal,” is all she said when reached for comment.
The president is understood to be keen to talk to leaders from the region as the country eagerly waits for release of BBI report and as he comes under more pressure to give direction on the post-Uhuru political set up for Mt Kenya.
There is more recent political pressure and a need to react to negative perceptions about the poor performance of the economy, rise of the cost of living and the removal of the interest rates caps that many in the region perceive as portending more danger in the coming days.
Uhuru has an opaque political dalliance with opposition leader Raila Odinga and is said to be keen to stem the growing rebellion by pro-Ruto allies in the region. “If this meeting happens, I expect the president to go all out and read the riot act to some of the careless pro-Ruto leaders,” said one of the pro-Uhuru MPs from the region. “He will stop short of telling them to think big and stop minding their own stomachs.”
Yet the president’s camp is said to be still wary of surprises from the camp of his restless deputy is capable of spurning even at a statehouse meeting. Reliably, that is why the invites have been delayed until the last minute and would most likely go out late today.
This is seen against the background of enthusiastic dozens of pro Ruto legislators passionately in the Tanga Tanga camp from every county in the region against just a handful of pro-Uhuru camp Kieleweke camp insiders led by nominated MP Maina Kamanda and Nyeri town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu.
In counties like Tharaka Nithi and Laikipia, literary the whole parliamentary groups are pro-Ruto while in the vote rich Meru County where there are 12 legislators, only Igembe North’s Maoka Maore clearly identifies with Uhuru’s agenda.