A combination of factors that included poor choice of a candidate by Jubilee, voters’ distaste for the Building Bridges Initiative and arrogance by Uhuru Kenyatta’s allies are to blame for the party’s dismal performance in Nyandarua county’s Rurii ward by-election. It was a by-election that was a do-or-die affair for the president and his deputy, William Ruto, as they square it out for political supremacy in Mount Kenya region. Uhuru who has lost the political grip of the region to Ruto, was using the by-election to assert his superiority while the deputy president was keen to cement the gains he has made.
The president’s representatives on the ground included Nyandarua governor Francis Kimemia and Ol Kalou MP David Kiaraho, who were backed by the provincial administration. They had firm instructions from the head of state to do everything possible to ensure Jubilee’s candidate, Peter Thinji, thrashed United Democratic Alliance candidate, Francis Muraya, and a host of others in the by-election. Ruto on the other hand dispatched UDA squad who included MPs Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu) and Jayne Kihara (Naivasha) who camped in Ol Kalou together with their host, Nyandarua woman representative, Faith Gitau to campaign for Muraya. Ruto even addressed a rally via a phone link of Gachagua, a move that electrified the voters. But Jubilee, according to sources, has Kimemia to blame for the loss.
Also being blamed is majority leader in the national assembly who doubles up as Kipipiri MP, Amos Kimunya. Kimunya’s constituency, Kipipiri, neighbours Ol Kalou where Rurii is one of the wards. Kimunya irked the voters in the ward when he threatened to resign if Jubilee failed to deliver in the Rurii by-election. Kimunya was to later say his utterances, captured in a video clip, were political sentiments he expressed without first consulting “the people of Kipipiri on whether he should resign as majority leader”. According to Nyandarua residents we spoke to, Jubilee lost the race when the party mandarin picked Thinji, a land broker and chairperson of the Ol’ Kalou business community, as the ward’s flag bearer. Thinji’s name has featured in land cases in the region, making him unpopular. Thinji was picked from a list of nine candidates who had lined up for the Jubilee ticket only for Kimemia to bulldoze his selection.
In contrast, Ruto’s party, United Democratic Alliance settled on Muraya who eventually carried the day. As part of campaigns for Thinji, the government had distributed 70 title deeds to residents of Njabini and Ndunyu Njeru colonial villages in an exercise overseen by Kimemia. But the gesture did not entice the residents to vote for Thinji who in the by-election was thrashed by Muraya. In the mini poll results released by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Muraya garnered 4,303 votes beating his close contestant Thinji who garnered 3,143 votes. Muraya was declared the winner by the IEBC returning officer Agnes Wanjiku. Isaac Ndegwa of Maendeleo Chap Chap came third with 51 votes, Gerald Njoroge (independent) garnered 21 votes followed by Susan Wangechi of The New Democrats who garnered 17 votes while Peter Gathiaka garnered 11 votes.
“The people of Rurii have spoken and they have decided that it is Muraya who they want to be their MCA. We are urging the county government of Nyandarua to support him in delivering to the people of Rurii,” said the woman representative who is a close ally of the deputy president. She was flanked by Naivasha MP Jayne Kihara and UDA secretary general Veronica Maina. The Rurii seat fell vacant following the death of John Mburu wa Maria who succumbed to cancer in January this year. During the campaign, UDA was on the receiving end as its agents were harassed by police. The party, through Veronica Maina, said its key agents had suffered at the hands of police who were being used to rig the election.