opinionBy Charles Wachira
The reason why Kiraitu Murungi, the Energy minister, is arguably a marked man in the Meru County, has everything to do with a perception that he is an insolent chest-thumper, loaded with a tendency to box above his weight. This phenomenon, his critics say, deludes him to believe that he is the King of Meru politics, a phantom position that rekindles the 1980's when the region experienced its bitterest war yet of political supremacy that saw the popular ascendancy of Jackson Harvester Angaine, then an octogenarian, to the ephemeral position.
Indeed on surface, foes of this sometimes poet who cemented his lofty academia credentials in 1978 by emerging the best student at the highly competitive Kenya School of Law seemingly appear to have a genuine suit. It is therefore not a spin -of the -coin sort of scenario. For indeed, if the demeanour of Kiraitu alone is the cause of this fissure that currently defines the political landscape of Meru, then the unresolved frustrations borne of historical wrongs are the reason why perpetually the region remains an intermittent bowl of strife so to speak.
Sure, politicians of generic stripes seldom see any good with their competitors as they always angle to play-act the role of victim while they go ahead to paint their antagonists with a black brush of villainy. Step forward, Maoke Maore, former Ntonyiri Legislator. Undoubtedly as a legislator, Maoke's tenure was remarkable in that he singularly brought to public attention the crooked ways of the Kibaki administration by revealing a plot, famously referred to as the Anglo Leasing scandal.
Coincidentally, starring as felons in this monkey business were two prominent sons of Meru, namely Kiraitu Murungi and David Mwiraria, then the Finance Minister, a duo that is widely thought to have the ear of the corridors of power. "Within the Meru region, the reality is that the cards are on the deck and what we see is Kiraitu Murungi verses the rest of the elected political leaders of Meru," says Maoke.
And what's the reason for this turn of events? "Because of his proximity to power, Kiraitu has gone ahead to fight all other political leaders. In my case, he allied himself with my political opponents in Ntonyiri on account that I blew the whistle on a scandal that would have seen the country lose billions of shillings to politically correct individuals.
That's how I lost the Parliamentary seat. And if you were to inquire from the current legislators of Meru, they will also tell you that Kiraitu covertly encourages their opponents to challenge them. Also, being the only Cabinet Minister from the region, it was incumbent on him being the senior - most politician to see that a sizeable slice of the region benefits from say infrastructure development including that professionally qualified people from the greater Meru are employed in government but particularly within the parastatals' that fall under his ministry which are numerous, said Maore
According to Maoke, Kiraitu and former Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura only helped Merus from Imenti to get high profile public jobs. "When the President last visited Meru, Kiraitu wowed him by displaying a road network worth Sh8 billion which the government had forked out. What was baffling was that the entire infrastructure was in Imenti.The rest of Meru, I can confidently say has been marginalised by the Kibaki Administration.
On balance, I blame President Kibaki as well for unwittingly allowing divisive politics to take centre role in Meru.It's widely acknowledged that if a Meru person wanted to see the President for whatever engagement, Kiraitu must be an emissary. Why, we ask? The President seems to have forgotten that Kiraitu only joined him recently while some of us, were with him from the beginning. As a father figure, President Kibaki has generally failed the Meru people," adds More.
Sure, with the collapse of political monolithism in 1991, Kiraitu joined the bandwagon of the redoubtable Jaramogi Odinga, popularly acknowledged as the Don of opposition here, who skippered the Forum For Restoration of Democracy ( FORD) political party, an outfit that had roped in a motley of individuals all supposedly craving for the entrenchment of real democracy here.
Acronymed the young Turks, Kiraitu & Co. who included Raila Odinga, Gitobu Imanyara, James Orengo, Waruru Kanja, Rev.Timothy Njoya,P eter Anyang Nyong'o, Dr Willy Mutunga , and so on stood in total contrast with the Democratic Party of Kenya fronted by Kibaki. Vexing most is the belief that Kiraitu is demanding sycophantic support from the Meru population for Uhuru Kenyatta,a blissful chap who answers to the moniker of Croesus, who is seeking the Presidency for the second time in polls scheduled in March 2013.
Tellingly the group opposed to Kiraitu is backing Raila, the current Premier for the country's top seat. In addition, critics of Kiraitu in Meru have rubbished attempts to lump them into GEMA,a parochial outfit that supposedly represents the interests of the Gikuyu, Embu and Meru people. "We as the Meru leaders want to clear the air and say that the Minister( Kiraitu) has no mandate to speak on behalf of the community,"said Gitobu Imanyara, the Central Imenti Legislator, who will face -off with Kiraitu for the Senatorial seat within the region in the forthcoming polls.
While Higher Education Assistant Minister Kilemi Mwiria, MP Tigania is on record saying Kiraitu was confusing the Meru community on matters that particularly deal with GEMA. "We cannot purport to be in a bus of GEMA when we have not consulted one another. We need to agree on the matter. The Meru community should be left alone to chart its own political destiny without interference from some individuals," Kilemi said.
According to Kareke Mbiuki, the Nithi MP , GEMA as an organisation has always given the Meru people a raw deal as he claims that after independence in 1963 those who had taken part in the struggle from the region amongst them Jackson Angaine, Field Marshal Mwariama and Baimungi were given menial positions in the new political dispensation, in other words the new government under Kenyatta was more inclined into helping former freedom fighters from the Kikuyu community.
However history proofs that the Kenyatta administration had to time for the freedom fighters irrespective of their ethnic identity and many continue to live destitute lives up to date. A perfect anecdote happened during a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission public hearings held at Meru Town hall on 17th November 2011, covering both Meru and Tharaka Nithi counties.
Wilson Kirima recounted the death of his father, Field Marshal Baimungi, who fought for the British in the World War two before joining the Mau Mau freedom army. "My father took over the leadership of the Mau Mau after the death of Dedan Kimathi," Kirima said, pointing out that his legendary father opted to return to the forest and continue fighting after independence.
Baimungi according to his son later visited Kenyatta and reached an agreement that saw him receive six flags and a Land Rover vehicle, registered KFF 660, complete with a ministerial flag. The President also promised Baimungi some land. During the emotive hearing Kirima testified the then powerful Lands and Housing Minister Jackson Angaine bad-mouthed Baimungi to Kenyatta, alleging that the Field Marshall was disloyal to the Head of State. He said Baimungi and his men heard reports of a plot by the state to kill them, and contacted his area district commissioner, for a return-to-home formula.
Instead, he said, uniformed officers were sent in to kill them. Kirima said Baimungi was buried in a grave with three others, one of whose limbs, they found, had been broken. He said the car's ignition key and log book were forcibly grabbed from the family by government operatives, after it had been used to dump the bodies. "If you continue asking for the ignition key and log book, I will kill you the same way we killed your husband," he recalled Angaine telling his mother.
In emotive show of painful memories Baimungi's widow, Evangeline Muthoni, took to the floor, held the national flag with her son, and sang the National Anthem. Invariably the rivalry besetting Kiraitu and his legislative colleagues from Meru has pulled in the influential Njuri Ncheke( Meru Council of Elders) organisation that has found its self pulling into two different directions.
Last November a faction perceived to being on Kiraitu's ringside nixed Gitobu as its legal adviser, replacing him conspicuously with Muriungi Kiugu, the 2007 PNU parliamentary candidate for Imenti Central who re-registered the organisation as a society. Baffling the culture organisation which acts as a bell whether for the community has two chairmen;Stephen Thinkei, owing allegiance to Kiraitu's opponents and Paul M'thika, the Kiraitu man.
Njuri Ncheke factions are symbolic of the split among political leaders in the region, with nine MPs pulling in different directions. Only Assistant ministers Peter Munya, Kareke Mbiuki, MPs Cyrus Muriuki (Imenti North) and Ntoitha M'mthiaru (Igembe North) are seen as backing Kiraitu. Local political pundits are keenly aware that routinely voted overwhelmingly for Kibaki in the presidential sweepstakes, for arguably reasons of ethnic nostalgia and geographical proximity.
Perhaps that's the reason Uhuru, a Kikuyu, is thought to more popular than Raila in the region. He is in the region this weekend to drum up support for his new TNA party. Attempts to get a rejoinder from Kiraitu came unstuck despite an assurance that would avail himself.