Have William Ruto’s adversaries regrouped under the so-called Mount Kenya High Level Uongozi Forum?
That is the question in the minds of many going by the list of attendees of the first Mount Kenya Forum held on July 5 at Safari Park Hotel.
Though the convener of the meeting Peter Kagwanja, husband of Foreign Affairs cabinet secretary Monicah Juma, stated it was a platform for academics, policy thinkers, corporate and public leaders from Mount Kenya region to secure development in the face of the divisive 2022 succession politics, the list of attendees betrayed the cause.
The guests, according to the list, were carefully selected with leaders rooting for Ruto given a wide berth.
The likes of Murang’a governor Mwangi Wa Iria, Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, his Kikuyu counterpart, Kimani Ichung’wa and all those supporting or suspected of backing Ruto for presidency in 2022, were not invited to the meeting.
In contrast, Uhuru Kenyatta’s fiercest critics such as economist David Ndii, were at the high table, dining and wining with those they have been castigating as either economic or political failures and corrupt.
The meeting, according to highly placed sources, was funded by State House through Interior principal secretary Karanja Kibicho and former presidential adviser Nancy Gitau.
Kibicho and Gitau are opposed to Ruto taking over from Uhuru in 2022.
Curiously, the first guest speaker was Sabina Chege, the woman representative for Murang’a county.
Sabina graced the high table barely a month after she changed tune and backed the March 9 2018 handshake between Uhuru and Raila Odinga.
Her opposition to the handshake saw her heckled by a section of the crowd during the Embrace Kenya women leaders’ meeting in her backyard, forcing her to change tune.
The second guest speaker was Linus Gitahi, former chief executive, Nation Media Group. Though Gitahi has not declared political ambitions, those in the know say he is laying the groundwork to contest the Nyeri governor’s seat. The current holder, Mutahi Kahiga has declared his support for Ruto, and hence Gitahi, if he decides to go for the seat, will definitely join Raila camp.
Former Murang’a senator, Kembi Gitura, currently the non-executive chairperson to Kenya Medical Supplies Authority, was also in attendance.
The former deputy speaker of the Kenyan senate between 2013 and 2017 is among former Central Kenya legislators who have hinted at forming a coalition with Raila in 2022.
Others in this camp include former senators Mutahi Kagwe (Nyeri) and Muriuki Karue (Nyandarua). The politicians last year were hosted by Kakamega governor Wycliff Oparanya in his Nairobi residence where they discussed modalities of teaming up with Raila in 2022.
Kagwe who was also in attendance is said to be angling to be a running mate to either Raila or the candidate the ODM leader together with Uhuru will back in 2022.
Another guest speaker was Joseph Kaguthi, a pensioner administrator who served as a provincial commissioner and was chairman of National Agency for the Campaign Against Drug Abuse. Those close to him say he has no time for DP for unexplained reasons.
Former Meru woman representative Florence Kajuju was also in the high table. The chairperson of the Commission on Administrative Justice has also shifted political allegiance to Uhuru. Initially, she was in Ruto’s camp.
Nominated MP Maina Kamanda was also in attendance. The former Starehe MP is a prominent member of the Kieleweke group that is opposed to Ruto taking over in 2022.
Daniel Karaba, former senator for Kirinyaga county and former MP for Kirinyaga Central was another guest at the forum.
Karaba who contested on 2017 polls on a Jubilee ticket but lost the senate race to Charles Kibiru, who vied as an independent, blames Ruto for his loss. He claims his agents, whom he sourced on realising he was not being supported by those sponsored by the party, were blocked from accessing polling stations to monitor voting, counting and tallying of votes on instructions from the DP.
Julius Karangi currently non-executive chairman of the National Social Security Fund was also in attendance.
The former Chief of Defence Forces is a key ally and adviser of the president and is also said to be opposed to Ruto’s ascendancy to power.
Former Justice minister Martha Karua was another key attendee. The former Gichugu blames Ruto for her loss in the Kirinyaga gubernatorial race to Ann Waiguru. Karua contested on Narc-Kenya ticket while Waiguru run on Jubilee Party.
Kanini Kega, the Kieni MP and chairman of the parliamentary committee on trade, industry and cooperatives, who was also present, is said to have ditched Ruto.
Another key guest was Peter Kenneth, the former MP for Gatanga.
The 2013 presidential candidate still blames Ruto for his failed Nairobi gubernatorial race.
He claims the DP rigged the Jubilee primaries in favour of Mike Sonko who eventually won the seat.
Mugo Kibati, the chief executive officer of Telkom Kenya and formerly director-general of Kenya Vision’s 2030 Delivery Board was another attendee. Though he has not publicly declared political ambitions, Kibati is suspected to be eyeing the Kiambu gubernatorial seat. He is close ally of the president.
Kithure Kindiki the Tharaka Nithi senator and formerly leader of majority in the senate was another key speaker.
Initially a Ruto man, Kindiki has since switched allegiance to Uhuru for fear of state persecution. He is also said to have been unhappy when Ruto sent signals that he was not his preferred running mate owing to the few votes he would bring on the basket.
Francis Kimemia, the governor of Nyandarua and former secretary to the cabinet and head of civil service was another attendee. Sources say the governor has no time for Ruto whom he blames for his demotion and eventual sacking as secretary to the cabinet.
Amos Kimunya, the MP for Kipipiri constituency in Nyandarua and a former minister of Finance was another attendee. He is also said to have fallen out with the DP.
Kithinji Kiragu, who contested the Embu gubernatorial seat on a PNU ticket, who was also present, has reportedly joined the Kieleweke team that is opposed to Ruto.
Paul Muite who also served as Kabete MP was another speaker. He strongly believes that Ruto is not the ideal candidate for the presidency due to his failure to play a role in Kenya’s second liberation struggle.
Nakuru governor Lee Kinyanjui was another attendee. He backs his brother Gideon Moi for the presidency in 2022.
Tycoon Peter Munga founder of Equity Bank Ltd and Equatorial Nut Processors was also in attendance. He is said to have parted ways with the DP after the latter embraced his perennial foe Wa Iria.
Another attendee was Nderitu Muriithi, the governor of Laikipia county.
A nephew of former president Mwai Kibaki, Muriithi, who won the seat as an independent, believes Ruto was putting brakes on him to cut him to size. He is now angling to be Raila’s running mate in 2022.
Kiraitu Murungi, the governor of Meru was also present. The former MP for South Imenti constituency and former cabinet minister recently called for Limuru 3 meeting for Gema to decide who to support in 2022, saying support to Ruto was not automatic.
Justin Muturi, speaker of the national assembly of Kenya, was also present. Muturi is Uhuru’s spanner boy and is unlikely to go against his boss rain or shine.
Mutahi Ngunyi, founder and managing director of Consulting House Ltd who is famously known for tyranny of numbers phrase during the 2013 elections, was another attendee. He is known to be close to Kikuyu barons, and will definitely back the candidate Uhuru and Raila will go for.
Priscilla Nyokabi, Commissioner at the National Gender and Equality Commission and the first Nyeri woman representative, was another attendee. Nyokabi is said to blame Ruto for her loss in the last polls.
James Nyoro, deputy governor, Kiambu county was another attendee. He fell out with Ruto when he worked in his office as agricultural adviser.
Kiambu senator Kimani Wamatangi was also among the attendees.
Former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru, currently the non-executive chairman of the Kenya Investment Authority, was another attendee. Waweru also blames Ruto for imposing Sonko in Nairobi.
Others who attended the meeting included late Karanja Kabage, Karuti Kanyinga, Carole Kariuki who serves as the chief executive officer of Kenya Private Sector Alliance, Joseph Kieyah, chairman of the Coffee Sector Implementation Reforms, Anne Kihiu, chief operations manager at the Africa Policy Institute, Nairobi, Patrick Mariru, MP for Laikipia West and Karega Munene of United States International University