Two years after the emergence of Tangatanga and Kieleweke factions within the Jubilee party, a political battle is shaping up in the counties as the two groups prepare for the 2022 elections.
More visible in the Mt Kenya region, the Kieleweke faction is affiliated to President Uhuru Kenyatta while Tangatanga back Deputy President William Ruto.
During a speech in May 2018 along Nairobi’s Jogoo road, President Kenyatta said: “Huyu kijana yangu Ruto, yeye anatangatanga kila pahali. Mkimwona hapa machorochoroni, ambia yeye shida.”
It was his way of acknowledging that his deputy toured the country a lot and was therefore in a better position to note stalled projects. What was seen as a demeaning jibe at the DP was thus taken up by his supporters.
Kieleweke was first used by Nyeri town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu when he stated that Mt Kenya owed the DP no political favour.
Since then, the two groups have become full-blown political formations within Jubilee. They have now recruited regional and county leaders.
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, Meru County Senator Mithika Linturi and Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa have positioned themselves as the DP’s closest allies and accompany him on his weekend tours of the region.
On the Kieleweke side, Kirinyaga County Governor Anne Waiguru leads the pack. She has been active in Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) rallies and spoken against the rival brigade, accusing them of disrespecting the President. As the senior-most woman leader from the region, she is assured of a seat at the national table should her side form the next government.
Agriculture CS Peter Munya, whose disdain for DP has never been a secret, has upped his bid to be the regional kingpin after the end of President Kenyatta’s term.
A new entrant to the faction is former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth. A one-time presidential contender, Mr Kenneth has been seen at various public functions recently including the Meru BBI rally where he sat behind Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga.
In the counties, the battle is shaping up in a more fundamental way as both sides preparing for a long-winded duel. Each county now has a point man or woman on each side.
In Nakuru, Governor Lee Kinyanjui has stuck with the President while Senator Susan Kihika, the daughter of one-time Kanu firebrand Dickson Kihika Kimani, is one of the foremost supporters of DP Ruto.
A former Speaker of the Nakuru County Assembly, Ms Kihika is a frequent guest on Kikuyu TV and radio stations where she vociferously defends the DP. Recently, she accused Murang’a Woman Rep Sabina Chege of appending her signature to a document calling for the impeachment of Dr Ruto. Ms Chege denied the claims.
In Laikipia, former Governor Joshua Irungu has aligned himself with Tangatanga and is pivoting himself as the faction’s face in the county. Incumbent Governor Ndiritu Muriithi, who was elected as an independent, has so far declined to be drawn to any of the sides.
Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi has moved from being an ally of Dr Ruto and appears to have taken the middle ground. Woman Rep Kawira Mwongera, on the other hand, is a near permanent fixture next to the DP in his frequent forays to the county.
In neighbouring Tharaka-Nithi County, Governor Muthomi Njuki is the face of Kieleweke while Senate Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki is a staunch ally of the DP.
Mr Kindiki routinely hosts the DP in the county Ruto. The two forged their friendship when Mr Kindiki represented the DP at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
In Embu, nominated MP Cecily Mbarire is the DP’s point-woman while former senator Lenny Kivuti is firmly on the Kieleweke side. Once a Kieleweke member, Ms Mbarire changed allegiances and embraced Dr Ruto.
With Anne Waiguru aiming for a national seat on the Kieleweke side, Woman Rep Purity Ngirici is the team leader for Tangatanga in Kirinyaga County, where all four MPs associate with the DP.
In Nyeri, Kieni MP Kanini Kega is the President’s point-man and even hosted the Head of State recently. Mr Kega is often sent by the President to various functions as his representative and leads the Kieleweke troops in Parliament.
Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua is the Deputy President’s point man in the county, deputised by Woman Rep Rahab Mukami.
Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, whose dalliance with Dr Ruto has seen him face ridicule from President Kenyatta, leads Tangatanga troops in Murang’a County while his opposite is Woman Rep Sabina Chege.
During the BBI rally in Meru, Kiambu’s first governor William Kabogo arrived in style. Though his dalliance with Dr Ruto is low-key, his public utterances leave nothing to the imagination on where he leans. He will be facing off with Governor James Nyoro, a man who supports President Kenyatta to the hilt.
In Nyandarua, Governor Francis Kimemia has consistently supported the President while MP David Kiaraho (Ol Kalou) is the DP’s point-man in the vast county.
Nominated MP Maina Kamanda, who is a senior member of Kieleweke, said it is quite early to state who has an upper hand between the DP and President.
“All aspirants are yet to emerge. The formidable ones have not yet declared,” he said.
Jubilee Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Soy Caleb Kositany said it was good for the party to have leading lights in every region.
“It is healthy for a political party to have such competition. We will let wananchi decide who is the best candidate,” he said.