Emerging forces in Meru politics

Emerging forces in Meru politics

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The battle for the Meru gubernatorial seat in the 2022 elections is shaping up to be a contest between Uhuru Kenyatta’s allies and those of William Ruto. Already, Meru woman representative Kawira Mwangaza, a close ally of the deputy president, sent the incumbent Kiraitu Murungi to the drawing board after declaring in front of the deputy president her intention to vie for the county’s top seat in 2022. The woman representative while speaking at Uganda Martyrs Catholic Church Kibirichia in her Buuri backyard stated that she was preparing to take Kiraitu head-on, adding that should Agriculture cabinet secretary Peter Munya decides to enter the race, she will floor the two down. Mwangaza, who runs a popular charity programme christened Okolea, is a big headache to Kiraitu as they both hail from Imenti constituency while Munya is from Tigania.

Kawira Mwangaza

Analysts say, if both Mwangaza and Kiraitu find their names on the ballot paper, it will favour CS Munya. Her mettle was tested during the 2017 general election whereas an independent she unseated then incumbent Florence Kajuju of the Jubilee Party. Initially, Mwangaza was with Munya’s Party of National Unity before defecting to Jubilee, where she lost to Kajuju in the primaries, opting to go for the seat as an independent. Munya served as the first Meru governor and has hinted he might enter the race with the only dilemma being that he and Kiraitu are in Uhuru’s camp. There is a likelihood the president will prevail upon the CS not to contest the seat in favour of Kiraitu. Mwangaza is also a preacher and runs a vernacular TV station.

Her war with Kiraitu escalated ahead of the Building Bridges Initiative rally at Kinoru Stadium after the governor warned Ruto’s allies to stay 100 metres away from the meeting. Ruto’s allies later attended the Kinoru meeting but save for Meru senator Mithika Linturi, they were not given a chance to address the gathering. Now Kiraitu, Mwangaza war exploded after the governor deployed county revenue collectors to storm a television station she owned to demand repayment of a debt. A confrontation ensued between Meru county revenue board CEO John Ntoiti and Mwangaza over the Sh509,000 debt. Ntoiti had gone to the building hosting Baite Television Station to demand the management pay up its debt, or face recovery action. The TV station is owned and managed by Mwangaza and her husband Baicu Murega and is situated next to her residence.

Mithika Linturi

Brandishing the notice and the list of payments, Ntoiti demanded the couple pays the money owed as far back as 2016 and produce a licence allowing them to operate. But Mwangaza and Murega denied owing the county government any money with the woman representative demanding the revenue boss produces a court order allowing his team to enter her compound. Prior to that, the war of words pitting Kiraitu against Mwangaza had seen them trade accusations over sabotage of each other’s development projects. At one time, Mwangaza, bishop of the Baite Family Church, led the residents in a sit-in at the county commissioner’s offices, accusing Kiraitu of using a public works officer to sabotage a Sh20 million Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, a project falling under her office.

But county commissioner Allan Machari dismissed the claim, saying the project was at the preparatory stage and no money had been lost. But Mwangaza claimed MCAs allied to the governor had been castigating her Okolea projects and asking her to provide water for residents. It later emerged that Mwangaza had filed a report with the police following a threatening audio recording against her. She furnished the Meru criminal investigations office with the recording where a man claimed to be a sub-county administrator was heard issuing unspecified threats against her. In the 94-second recording between a Meru based reporter and the administrator, the official says they will teach Mwangaza a lesson. The man takes issue with the manner in which Mwangaza’s Baite TV aired demonstration by owners of private cars who were barred from ferrying passengers in Meru town.

Kiraitu Murungi

For now, reports are doing rounds that the woman representative is a character of loose morals. This follows reports that Baite TV news anchor, Murega Baicu had neglected his family after marrying her employer, Mwangaza. The details were made public by the news anchor’s daughter, Jane Baicu who indicated that she was facing major challenges in her education as her mother is unable to cater for the college fees yet the father is nowhere to be seen. The daughter said they were abandoned in 2015 and currently lives with her mother and two other siblings near Tigania Catholic parish. “I have applied for my college and university and my dream is to pursue a KMTC diploma. I might get admitted but I am not sure that my mother will be able to pay for the course,” the daughter is quoted saying.

Josphat Kabeabea

Responding to the allegations, the news anchor stated that he would not comment on a matter that was still in court. According to him, his first wife had resorted to taking the issue on child support to court thus should be resolved there. Mwangaza married Baichu, a popular musician and pastor, in 2018 at a colourful wedding in Meru county. In an August 2019 interview, Murega narrated how his guitar skills attracted the woman representative to him and culminated in marriage. Together, they run Kamankura records which turned to Baite Family, encompassing Baite TV and Baite Records. The two also run the Baite Family Church where they both minister, attracting congregants through the music-filled broadcasted church services. For Kiraitu, he is also caught up in a vicious battle with Munya over the control of Mt Kenya East politics.

Kiraitu, who was initially seen to be Ruto’s ally, has of late gone silent on national politics. The region has 10 members at the national assembly where Tigania East MP Josphat Kabeabea, Rindikiri Muruithania (Buuri), Halima Mcheke (nominated) and Kawira as well as Linturi, have been vocal in favour of the DP while the rest, save for newly-appointed deputy majority whip, Maoka Maore, (Igembe North) who is an ardent Kieleweke member, have avoided the Uhuru-Ruto battles. Former education assistant minister Kilemi Mwiria is also salivating at the prospects of occupying the seat but pundits say his chances are minimal. Another key player in region politics is Eala nominated MP Mpuri Apuri, who has formed a new party PEU. He is currently now working with Munya after deserting senator Kiraitu