After suffering a string of electoral losses in his backyard, Uhuru Kenyatta is now focused on the Kiambaa parliamentary and Muguga ward by-elections slated for June 15 to try reclaim his lost glory. The president who is smarting from defeats of the Jubilee candidates in Juja constituency in Kiambu county and Rurii ward in Nyandarua county, has now taken charge of the Jubilee campaigns in Kiambaa and Muguga electoral regions which are in his home county of Kiambu. The president demonstrated the importance of the seats to him when he called the Koinange family members, telling them to drop out of the race. The Koinanges, where the late MP Paul Koinange hailed from, were fronting Leah Koinange to contest for the seat. The president reached to Damaris Wambui, the Kiambu liasion director and a niece of the late MP, Paul, after she cried
foul when the Jubilee ticket was handed over to Kariri Njama.
Wambui had threatened to contest for the seat as an independent candidate before changing her mind after the call from the president. Following Uhuru’s intervention, the Kiambaa ticket was handed over to Njama while Mung’ara Joseph Githinji will fly the Jubilee flag in Muguga ward. Their nominations came a day after United Democratic Alliance of William Ruto unveiled its candidates for the two by-elections. UDA secretary general Veronica Maina handed John Njuguna and Kamau Thumbi the nomination certificates for Kiambaa and Muguga by-elections respectively. The unveiling of the candidates now sets the stage for UDA and Jubilee to wrestle each other in what will play out as a supremacy battle whose goal will be to establish who controls the larger Mt Kenya region between Uhuru and Ruto. In Juja, Ruto backed Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria’s PEP candidate, George Koimburi, who turned the tables against Jubilee’s candidate, Susan Njeri alias Wakapee. Already, Kuria has withdrawn his candidate for Kiambaa, Raymond Kuria after holding talks with the deputy president.
The Kiambaa and Muguga seats fell vacant after the two legislators succumbed to Covid-19. The significance of the by-elections to Ruto was demonstrated by the presence of politicians who included Meru senator Mithika Linturi, Kikuyu lawmaker Kimani Ichung’wa and his Mathira counterpart Rigathi Gachagua during the handover of the nominations to the two UDA candidates. Juja MP-elect Koimburi was also present. The president was aware that if Jubilee fielded a member of the Koinange family it would have lost the seat to UDA. Leah’s entry had complicated matters for Uhuru given the blood ties between them since Uhuru’s father, Jomo Kenyatta’s third wife, Grace Wanjiku was the daughter of Senior Chief Koinange and sister to Mbiyu Koinange, former powerful cabinet minister. The late MP, Paul Koinange, was Mbiyu’s son. Other members of the Koinange family who have held influential posts include current Attorney General Kihara Kariuki. The AG’s mother is Lilian Koinange, the wife of Anglican bishop Obadiah Kariuki. Other influential Koinanges include Charles Karuga Koinange who was the chief of Kiambaa in 1951 and later provincial commissioner in Central and Eastern provinces who died in 2004.
Another member, Joseph Karuga Koinange was dean of students at the University of Nairobi and principal of Kenyatta College in the three years from 1979 while John Karuga Koinange was the senator of Kiambaa from 1963 to 1966 in the first bicameral national assembly. According to sources, Njama is now the frontrunner in the race. Njama contested for Jubilee party ticket in 2017 and after losing to Koinange, he returned in the race as an unsuccessful independent candidate. Njama had a strong link to the Hustler Nation movement having hosted deputy president William Ruto in 2021 but disowned the second in command after he fell out with the president. In 2017, Njama polled 15,505 votes against Koinange’s 60,166. Before the Jubilee nomination, two aspirants Erick Mutura and Charles Munyui withdrew claiming the party had a preferred candidate and that the interview process was a public relations exercise. The two are expected to join the race as independents. However, they are not likely to make any impact in a race pundits say is between Jubilee and UDA.