The much anticipated high-profile tour of central Kenya by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his political foe-turned-friend Raila Odinga could happen in the next two weeks, setting the stage for a possible alteration of the region’s political landscape as we head to the 2022 political succession debacle.
On Tuesday, State House spokesperson Kanze Dena confirmed there are plans for the visit although a date has not been set.
“There are plans but they are yet to be finalised. When we do, we shall inform the public,” she told the media.
The trip, which had earlier been planned for this month, was postponed amid a simmering rebellion by some central Kenya politicians over the duo’s political pact.
It is expected that the visit will help residents understand the objectives of the March 9, 2018 handshake.
The visit comes at a time when the President has vowed to deal with defiant central Kenya politicians, most of whom have transferred their allegiance to his deputy William Ruto.
Pundits say the rebuke by the President has shaken the region politically. A majority of Kiambu and Murang’a politicians have been championing Mr Ruto’s candidature in the 2022 polls despite Mr Kenyatta calling for an end to the premature campaigns.
The President and Mr Odinga are expected to popularise the Building Bridges Initiative and inspect and launch several development projects.
Some leaders accuse the Kenyatta administration of abandoning them, claiming that the President has neglected key sectors that formed the economic backbone of the vote-rich region.
On Tuesday, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru welcomed the visit. “We accept the handshake brought peace and calmness to the country and support them in their efforts to build a cohesive country. We will also use the opportunity to drum up support for the Big Four agenda and focus on development. President Kenyatta remains our regional kingpin and his presence will affirm Mt Kenya is solidly behind him,” she said.
Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi said the visit will have political casualties. “The President pronounced himself on his agenda and his ambition to unite the country but some have decided to defy him and as he promised at Kasarani last week, the leaders have no option but to mend their ways before it is too late. His visit will have huge political ramifications for Tangatanga leaders,” Mr Ngugi said.
Murang’a Senator Irungu Kangata said the tour will play a significant role in popularising the ideals behind the handshake.
“It’s good for the two leaders to visit the region because they will be selling the handshake and unity to the electorate. We shall welcome them warmly,” he said.
Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, among the most vocal Mr Ruto supporters, welcomed the visit, saying: “We are very happy that the President will be coming to inspect development projects that have even made some of us to be ranked highly. And to dispel rumours that there are leaders in the region who don’t love him, he should even start his tour with Kiharu. However, for Mr Odinga, we have never supported him and we will never do so,” he said.
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said Mr Ruto stands to lose if the President decides to fight his political detractors. “The President has been clear on early campaigns, but Dr Ruto’s troops did not adhere to the directive and he has never cautioned them,” he said.
Mr Muchoki Muthara, a political scientist, told the Nation that Mr Kenyatta’s visit will clearly reveal whether he is on good terms with his deputy, a move he opines may make or break Mr Ruto’s campaigns.
“If the President makes true his threats that he would deal with the rebel leaders in his own backyard, he may be compelled to explain his strained relationship with his deputy since the defiant leaders have been ‘loitering’ with Dr Ruto across the country,” Mr Muthara noted.
MPs Anthony Kiai (Mukurweini), Munene Wambugu (Kirinyaga Central) and Gichuki Mugambi (Othaya) urged the President to address the issues of tea and coffee farming.