Limuru III: Inside Uhuru allies’ plan

Allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta will meet in Limuru in the next two weeks to plot his succession and unite his supporters in light of the political confusion that has hit the region.

Dubbed Limuru III, the meeting to be attended by MPs, governors, senators, MCAs, aspirants, religious leaders, businessmen and professionals from the Gikuyu, Meru and Embu communities is expected to give the political direction that central Kenya will take ahead of the 2022 General Election.

It is also expected to anoint the region’s political kingpin, with the clock ticking towards the end of the Kenyatta presidency, which is in its second and final term.

Limuru III is seen as a response to a meeting last weekend by Deputy President William Ruto-allied leaders from central Kenya, in which they endorsed him as their preferred 2022 candidate in the hope of producing a running mate.

Since 1966, Limuru town in Kiambu County has been the centre of regional politics, with the first conference coming up with decisions to water down the powers of Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and his eventual removal from the ruling party Kanu.

The second meeting was in 2012 when Mr Kenyatta was anointed the Mt Kenya leader and fronted to vie for the presidency.

The third summit comes at a time when President Kenyatta is serving his second and final year and has refused to be drawn into the succession debate, as some leaders from the region declare interest to succeed him.

Region divided

Those behind the push for the meeting agree that Mt Kenya is politically divided.

The push to unite the region started by Narc Kenya’s Martha Karua, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and The Service Party leader Mwangi Kiunjuri appears to be gaining momentum, with the unity talks now roping in President Kenyatta’s Kieleweke faction of the ruling Jubilee party in its quest to galvanise the region.

Ms Karua and Mr Kiunjuri met some MPs in Nairobi on Monday, where they agreed the conference should be held without delay.

“The commitment we have is the unity of purpose for the people of Mt Kenya. We will reach out to all MPs as we deliberate on the issues that are going to be on our wish list to any candidate seeking Kenya’s presidency. Nobody is being told to leave their party unless they wish so but we must unite and speak in one voice,” Ms Karua said.

Kieni MP Kanini Kega said Mt Kenya region shares culture and socio-political interests. “As we approach 2022, the same thing will replicate. That we will have a leaders’ meeting and chart our way forward, whether we will have a candidate or not. That time will come soon,” Mr Kega said.

The resolutions from the meetings will impact the campaigns of Deputy resident William Ruto, who has made inroads in Mt Kenya for his presidential bid in 2022 as well as ODM leader Raila Odinga, whose handshake with President Kenyatta has been translated by his supporters as part of a political deal in the coming election.

The question of who will succeed Kenyatta as the region’s kingpin has deeply divided the local power elite, precipitated widespread uncertainty and politically scuttled his support base in the region.

Mr Kiunjuri said anyone making the political assumption that they have already won the Mt Kenya bloc will be in for a surprise.

“It is too early to say that you have scaled the mountain. The mountain is so high, there is also ice up there. The weather can be very rough. And therefore, it is good to keep owing people but don’t think you have succeeded,” Mr Kiunjuri said.

Key location

The Limuru Conference Centre has, over the years, remained significant in Kenya’s political history ever since it was the place where Kanu was formed in the 1960s by small parties that agreed to merge ahead of the general elections.

It was here that James Gichuru was elected as Kanu president, awaiting the release of Jomo Kenyatta, and where Tom Mboya rose to become the party secretary general, after he agreed to fold his Nairobi People’s Convention Party. It was also agreed by all the elected Legislative Council (Legco) members that all district associations would become Kanu branches.

It was failure by Daniel arap Moi and Ronald Ngala to attend the Limuru conference that saw the formation of the opposition Kadu in 1960.

In March 1966, the Limuru Conference Centre would play a significant role as Kanu called a full party delegates conference from March 12-13 1966 to dethrone Mr Odinga – who had become critical of the Kenyatta government from within.

It was also in Limuru where the first convention on the push for constitutional reforms was held in 1997 and came up with a resolution on how to force the Moi government to adopt changes. It was here where the likes of Kivutha Kibwana, Willy Mutunga and Oki Ooko-Ombaka emerged as champions of these efforts.

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