Why the Centre Cannot Hold: The Nyumba, Raila and the House on the Hill
Saturday, 05 November 2011 00:07 BY JOE ADAMA
Installation ceremony at mukurwe wa nya gathanga shrine: Karume, by seeking to wrest the position ofMt Kenya communities spokesman from Uhuru during the younger mans greatest hour of need and relevance, has demonstrated that there is a potent struggle at the top in Central Kenya for post-Kibaki political control.
The unilateral investiture of James Njenga Karume as the Central Kenya communities spokesman and senior-most sage elder last weekendis the surest sign yet that it is no longer business as usual in the Mt. Kenya vote bloc, the nations largest and most cohesive in terms of insularity. The installation was attended by at least 5,000 elders andother people and its expenses were met by Karume himself, the billionaire underwriter of many another political initiative and campaign throughout Central Kenya over the years.
Another signal was sent out by the University of Nairobi Vice Chancellor,Dr. Joe B. Wanjui, when he said that he had looked far and wide for the person most likely to succeed President Mwai Kibaki and actually take his legacy forward and had alighted on none other than Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Dr. Wanjui endorsed Raila at the latters own residence in Nairobi in arecent meeting also attended by Karume, Charles Njonjo, MP Stanley Munga Githunguri, Nation Media Group Chairman Wilfred D. Kiboro (who is also the Standard Chartered Bank Group Chairman), Royal Media Group Chairman SK Macharia, the PNU Chairman, Colonel (Rtd.) James Imbui, businessman/golfer James Koome, MP Mithika Linturi and others.
The Power Barons Take a Stand
Karume, a former Kiambaa MP and one-time Defence Minister and Wanjui, a one-time CEO of multinational East Africa Industries (now Unilever Africa), have long been among President Mwai Kibakis staunchest election campaign financiers and advisers. They have been with him since at least his exit from the Daniel arap Moi regime on December 25, 1991, and the formation of the DemocraticParty.
Karume, most probably Kenyas firstAfrican millionaire in any denomination, was one of founding President Jomo Kenyattas most ardent supporters and courtiers. Karume and Dr. Wanjui remain among the richest, most powerful and influential people in Kenya, separately consulted and confided in by other power players, foreign envoys and regional leaders.
Dr. Wanjui endorsed the PM in the following fulsome terms: I have been President Kibaki's supporter and friend for many years. I am still his friend and supporter. But after looking around and searching far and wide, the only person capable ofconsolidating the leadership and development Kibaki has established is Raila Odinga.
A recent measure of Karumes enduring clout in Central Kenya and among Rift Valley Kikuyus is that despite not making it back to Parliament in 2007 and being in his 80s, after his eldest son Joseph Karume Njenga died in a road accident in September this year, his funeral was attended by the President, Prime Minister, Vice President and scores of other dignitaries from all sides of the political spectrum, all of whom spoke from the podium and praised both father and son and yet the son had never held public office nor evendabbled in politics.
The power elite from all large ethniccommunities and quite a few smaller ones were there to be seen to mourn with Karume, a pillar of Mt. Kenya politics and business and aleader of the Gema (Gikuyu, Embu, Meru and Mbeere) communities.
The return of Njenga Karume
Another measure of Karumes clout was provided by Raila himself at the height of the 2007-08 post-election violence (PEV) and soon after. At an international press conference on January 3, 2008, Raila accused Karume of financing the banned sectMungiki in the PEV and of doing this at meetings attended by Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi. Later, as Prime Minister, Raila went far out of his way to apologise to Karume over his allegations and to seek to absolve him of any such wrongdoing. But he has never extended the same retraction to Uhuru.
Now that Karume has been investedleader and foremost elder of the entire Mt. Kenya region in a controversial ceremony at the Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga shrine in Muranga, which symbolises the Agikuyu myth of origin, and has been thus elevated in opposition to Uhuru Muigai, son of Founding President Jomo Kenyatta, and Dr. Wanjui has joined the ranks of wealthy powerful Kikuyu elder statesmen who have declared they have no problem with a Raila Presidency, it is quite clear that things have fallen apart deep inside Mt. Kenya and the traditional centre cannot hold.
That centre has revolved around thePresidential families of the Kenyattas and the Kibakis, around which all other factors in the Mountain circle like satellites.
This is not the first time that a vast ethnic centre based around a Presidential family has failed to hold and the regional vote bloc voted with its feet in a direction not sanctioned by the patriarch(s) it happened to the Daniel arap Moi hold on the Rift Valley at the 2007 General Election, in full view of the still-living patriarch, retired President Moi himself. Not only couldMois own children, including favourite son and heir Gideon, not get a word in edgewise to get themselves elected, but the fallout had the same figure at centre-stage a Raila Odinga making a bid for State House.