Kang’ata: I Was A Tangatanga Founder, One Never Changes

What you need to know:
Those that love the President have a duty to be candid and speak the truth. That is not rebelling.
The President is my friend who even spared time to attend my wedding.
Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata is walking a political road that he has no experience — defying the powers-that-be.

His December 30 letter to President Uhuru Kenyatta on the unpopularity of the Building Bridges Initiative in Mt Kenya has thrown him in unfamiliar political waters.

What next for the senator?

Q: What motivated you to pen the now famous letter to President Uhuru Kenyatta on the BBI?

A: It was the realisation that whereas the President Kenyatta government is doing well in Mt Kenya, especially in improving infrastructure and reviving the coffee and the tea dreams, something was amiss politically. There exists an apparent disconnect between the government and Mt Kenya people. Its ranking particularly on key agenda like the BBI in all honesty is very low. I had also lived in denial, believing that those complaining did not have a point. But our people’s concerns grew to a magnitude I could no longer ignore.

Q: Critics say you panicked when your nominee in the December 15, 2020 Gaturi ward by-election was trounced by the Tangatanga team.

A: That loss was a statement of the underlying political situation in Mt Kenya. The ruling Jubilee party made mistakes during the nominations. I had advised the party leadership not to issue the certificate without a conclusive negotiations among the losers.

Unfortunately, I was ignored. The results vindicated me. I kept hearing shouts of thirikari ino ni gute (this government is useless) during the campaigns. The Gaturi ward election results made me start an in-depth inquiry into the problem. I wanted to know what awaited us as a government in case of a referendum and perhaps the 2022 General Election. The truth is that only two out of 10 people have confidence in us. It is a sad reality.

Q: The letter sounds like something you should have orally conveyed to President Kenyatta. Why not just get to him?

A: I express my thoughts better in writing than verbally. Secondly, experience informs me that it is good to keep records. The demerit of writing is the leakage to the media, something I regret. However, the debate surrounding this matter has uncovered the many that shy to speak the truth.

You won’t believe it if I were to reveal all the Kieleweke (the Jubilee team supporting President Kenyatta) and Tangatanga (those backing Deputy President William Ruto) politicians who have privately praised me on this. Ask earlier BBI proponents why they are refusing to take active leadership roles in its favour since my letter became public. Things are bad on the ground, and that is the raw truth.

Q: Coming at a time the presidency is on a warpath with its in-house dissidents, just months after you benefited from a dewhipping spree, where did you draw the courage to rebel?

A: Those that love the President have a duty to be candid and speak the truth. That is not rebelling. I did it in good faith and respect. I endeavoured to use polite words. That cannot be deemed to be crossing swords with my boss. But the nature of humans is that they love to see blood. I do not mind those calling for my dismissal as Senate majority chief whip. If being truthful to my political boss, party and country is a mistake that warrants dewhipping, I’m ready to bear the cross.

Q: You have said on many platforms that you are under pressure to recant the letter and its contents.

A: The first to reach out to me expressing all manner of panick-driven threats was Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju. He urged me to resign as Senate chief whip if I would not have recanted the letter by January 5. I told him I could not do so because I did nothing wrong. Mr Tuju told me the BBI bosses were not happy with me. He said (Orange Democratic Movement – ODM – leader Raila) Odinga was not happy with me for blocking his endearing project in Mt Kenya ahead of the General Election. I told him my concern was not Mr Odinga but Mt Kenya people and our President.

Q: Have you been receiving death threats over that letter?

A: Yes, both by phone and verbally. Already, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations has arrested a person in connection with the threats I received on phone indicating a plan to strangle and then behead me. The person will appear in court soon.

There have been other threats from political leaders indicating that I will be audited and dragged into a scandal, be charged in court, my property auctioned as I am sent to prison. The price of being truthful in this country is costly at times. There are those who have thrived on feeding the President with lies. These liars are refusing to keep the peace. The truth should reign.

Q: Some have said there is nothing more in your actions but a man on a journey to rejoin Tangatanga, for that is where the votes are.

A: Our supporters did not elect Tangatanga or Kieleweke. Not even the handshake between Raila and President Kenyatta on March 9, 2018. They elected us in Jubilee. Those factions are our creations. Mt Kenya voters have time and again told us to unite and speak in one voice.

In that unity, I would not mind sharing a platform with colleagues irrespective of their political leanings. After all, we are all Jubilee. Where voters are is where my passion is since we were elected to listen to them in serving our terms. Uniting under that philosophy is the most important gesture a leader can extend to the electorate.

Q: Is there hope that Jubilee will unite, given that the President and his deputy appear no longer together?

A: The President is my friend who even spared time to attend my wedding. On the other hand, I was since 2013 Deputy President William Ruto’s chief marketer in Mt Kenya. I was a founder member of Tangatanga. The President and his deputy remain my party leaders and I will disrespect neither. Even when it is said the President is at loggerheads with his deputy, we have not been sanctioned to be disrespectful to them.

Those undermining the DP only do so for their own reasons but I can assure you they are not acting on behalf of the President Kenyatta. Let me advise those undermining Ruto. I will use the words of American Author Buckminster Fuller who said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Q: You are coming out as a man whose strategy is not national but purely simplistic in repositioning yourself for a local political office in Murang’a county.

A: I have not yet expressed ambition to contest a national position. There is no problem strategising for a local office. If I , for instance become Murang’a governor in 2022, I will team up with 46 others to belong to the Council of Governors and push for the national good. There is no problem in executing a programme to seize power in Murang’a as long as I do so while sticking to national values.

And for your information, Murang’a county is too important to be dismissed as local. It feeds Nairobi and gives it water. It is the home of tycoons who control nearly 25 per cent of the national wealth. It hosted freedom and democracy fighters. It should also be remembered that Murang’a is the home of John Michuki, a man who delivered this country from the matatu and Mungiki madness.

Q: With factional politics in Mt Kenya, what is the region’s 2022 political course?

A: The political side that addresses key regional concerns of tea, coffee, milk, rice, potatoes and business will carry the day. It is a fact that the region will not have a viable presidential candidate. The candidate that has visited the region more and addressed our economic concerns will get the votes.

The people on the ground have decided. They will vote in a certain way. You have seen them fight during public events in an apparent show of political decisiveness. They have witnessed handshake supporters treat them with disdain in the push for the one-man-one-shilling equitable share formula. This is not Kang’ata talking. It is the ground speaking.

Q: Wealthy individuals and councils of elders appear determined to influence the direction the region takes. Don’t you think Mt Kenya is about to get pawned to the highest bidder?

A: Mt Kenya voters are too wise and progressive to be influenced that way. I just do not see this happening. We were in a more intricate position in 2002 when the mountain fielded two strong presidential candidates – Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta. The people of Mt Kenya were able to read the script properly. They told Mr Kenyatta to wait as they opted for Mr Kibaki.

Those getting panicky about Mt Kenya’s future need not to. These are people with a knack for making the most significant political decisions to their advantage. Elite negotiations are important and beneficial as they can help a community extract some crucial bargains. But it may not have an impact on 2022 politics because of several factors.

The changing demographics, rapid urbanisation in the region and new technology have shifted political power from the elites and gatekeepers and atomised area democracy. The presidential candidate who reaches the people directly and circumvents gatekeeping may walk away with the prize this time around.



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