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Mt Kenya erupts as Azimio and Kenya Kwanza pitch camp



The naming of Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua and Narc-K leader Martha Karua as running mates by Kenya Kwanza Alliance and Azimio La Umoja-One Kenya coalitions has stirred the Mt Kenya region into a frenzy of political campaigns as the two main candidates battle to win voters.

The battleground region with more than five million votes is on the radar of Azimio flag-bearer Raila Odinga and his Kenya Kwanza counterpart William Ruto. As soon as the announcements were made, campaign teams were rallied up and deployed to begin rigorous campaigns to popularise the presidential tickets.

Itineraries of both teams have had to be rearranged to ensure maximum coverage of the region while avoiding clashing events. Wherever Azimio goes, Kenya Kwanza is following and vice versa. Aspirants and lawmakers are on speed dial of the candidates to mobilise voters and ensure rallies go on without heckling.

Campaign planners have had to go back to their diaries and draft new itineraries that keep changing by the hour, keeping mobilisers on toes to ensure each stopover has crowds to address and the messaging is coordinated. Mr Ruto’s team is downplaying the appointment of Ms Karua, saying she will not be effective under Mr Odinga and selling Mr Gachagua as a defender of the region and trumpeting the bottom-up model as the cure for joblessness.

Azimio, on the other hand, is marketing their ticket as a safe pair of hands that will free the country from poverty, corruption and selling policies like universal health coverage and the Sh6,000 for the poorest families that Mr Odinga has promised. They also say the Ruto-Gachagua ticket cannot be trusted because of corruption allegations.

Karua: We can’t choose anyone just because he was promised votes

For the last four days, both teams have pitched camp in the central region with the sole aim of popularising their presidential running mates, who are now tasked with delivering the voting bloc. Since Tuesday, the Odinga-Karua team has held campaigns in Kirinyaga, Embu, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Nyeri and Murang’a.

Yesterday, Ms Karua led a host of elected leaders in a major campaign blitz in Nyeri. For the fourth day running, she has held campaigns since her unveiling as running mate on Monday.

She staged a rigorous campaign by holding a series of rallies in Karatina town, Chaka market, Nyeri town, Kiandu shopping centre, Mukurwe-ini and Othaya town before crossing over to Murang’a for yet another highly charged campaign. In Murang’a, she visited Kiriani, Kangema, Mukuyu, Maragua and finally Kenol.

A day after DP Ruto named Mr Gachagua as his running mate, the Kenya Kwanza Alliance hit the ground running, taking their campaigns to Mr Gachagua’s village in Hiriga, Mathira Constituency.

What had been set as a funeral service for Mr Gachagua’s brother, Reriani Gachagua, turned into a political homecoming for the MP under his new role. The funeral set the stage for the Kenya Kwanza team to popularise their team-up.

This came as Ms Karua was being unveiled as Mr Odinga’s running mate. And following the same script, the Azimio team hit the ground running and readjusted their itineraries focusing on the Mt Kenya region.

Yesterday, the Kenya Kwanza team pitched camp in Embu where DP Ruto presided over an economic forum before heading for Ukambani for political rallies. Today, DP Ruto and Mr Gachagua will take their campaigns to the heart of Central Kenya, with rallies slated for Murang’a and Nyeri in an apparent move to erase yesterday’s footsteps of the Azimio team.

In the absence of Mr Odinga, Ms Karua has taken point during the campaign trail with the backing of allies of both the former premier and President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The Azimio team has brought out the big guns, including top government officials, as well as the old guard allied to the Jubilee Party.

Yesterday, Cabinet Secretaries Peter Munya (Agriculture) and Joe Mucheru (ICT) accompanied Ms Karua as she toured Nyeri and Murang’a. Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri and head of Presidential Delivery Unit (PDU) Andrew Wakahiu were also present, as were MPs Ngunjiri Wambugu (Nyeri Town), Gichuki Mugambi (Othaya), Jeremiah Kioni (Ndaragwa), Mpuru Aburi (EALA), Nyeri Deputy Governor Caroline Karugu, and Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina. Other politicians present were former MPs Ndung’u Gethenji (Tetu), Mary Wambui (Othaya), Kabando wa Kabando (Mukurwe-ini) and Priscilla Nyokabi (Nyeri Woman Rep). Mr Kabando and Ms Nyokabi are seeking the Nyeri senatorial seat.

During her Nyeri campaign tour yesterday, Ms Karua pledged to intensify the war on corruption by going after those who have stolen public resources. “If you look at my demeanour, I don’t joke or laugh when it comes to doing my job. I would like to invite you to help me fight corruption. Together with my principal Raila Odinga, we will ensure all the money that is lost to corruption is instead channelled to development projects,” she said.

She asked voters to reject leaders who are trailed by allegations of graft and plundering of government resources. She stated that with their commitment to fighting graft, they will seal all corruption loopholes to ensure money allocated to work for Kenyans is utilised diligently.

She said over Sh2 billion being looted from government coffers will cater for programmes like the Sh6,000 stipend promised for vulnerable families and healthcare through the proposed Babacare.

At the same time, Ms Karua called for political tolerance during the campaign season, hitting out at pockets of political hecklers that turned up during some of her rallies. “We came respectfully to campaign for Azimio. Your vote is in your pocket and nobody can grab it from you. Let us listen to one another without shouting one another down. You will have the final say with your vote. Respect me and I will respect you,” she said.

She further stated that Azimio was geared to change the politics of Kenya through persuasion that will help the masses decide while encouraging them to shun politics of destruction and chaos. She also urged that all sides look for votes in a respectful manner, urging those that lose the August 9 polls to accept the results peacefully.

Speaking in Embu, Kenya Kwanza pledged economic transformation for Kenyans as they rallied voters to back them at the ballot.

DP Ruto led the delegation as he launched a scathing attack on Mr Odinga, whom he accused of betraying Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka by denying him the running mate position. In a bare-knuckle attack, Dr Ruto dismissed Mr Odinga as a dishonest person who dropped Mr Musyoka at the eleventh hour and picked Ms Karua as his deputy. “These people can’t be trusted. They have conned Musyoka, who has been a very loyal general in Azimio,” he said. “If a leader can deceive a fellow leader, then he would do worse things to ordinary Kenyans.”

By Moses Nyamori, Nicholas Komu, Irene Mugo, Stephen Munyiri and George Munene

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