Amani party leader Musalia Mudavadi’s meeting with Jubilee Vice chairman and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s confidant David Murathe on Saturday has stirred the political grapevine.
Murathe hosted Mudavadi for more than seven hours at his rural home in Gatanga.
The two attended the burial of renown businessman Muchai Githu in Shomo village, Gatanga constituency, before retreating to Murathe’s home around 5pm.
Mudavadi is reported to have left Murathe’s house after midnight, sparking intense speculation on the mission and substance of their meeting.
Also in the meeting described as “a men-only club” were a few businessmen and influential political operatives who had been invited by Murathe. They included Capt Kungu Muigai, Uhuru’s cousin and de facto spokesman of the Kenyatta family.
Kungu is known to be in the President’s inner circle and is patron of the National Council of Elders and inter-community networking group.
Also present was former Kenya Pipeline and Kenya Volleyball Federation boss Waithaka Kioni.
Yesterday, Murathe played down the meeting and said people should not read too much into it. He told the Star that Mudavadi had shown up for the funeral and he decided to host him since former area MP Peter Kenneth and sitting MP had left for Kitale.
“I was then left with these foreigners who have visited our village and I slaughtered for them as a good host. In fact, I was in China and I brought my trip back by one day to make it for the funeral,” Murathe said.
He added: “I drove from the airport straight to Gatanga. I had no clue that he (Mudavadi) was coming but it is true we spent a lot of time together. You know I went to school with him. Do not read anything into it.”
The funeral service was attended by among others Kenneth, Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi and Kieni MP Kanini Kega.
The meeting came a week after the Star exclusively reported that the ANC leader was shopping for a running mate from central Kenya in his bid to succeed Kenyatta who is constitutionally ineligible to run again.
Murathe is no ordinary central Kenya politician. He is Uhuru’s close ally and confidant, having played a major role in his presidential campaigns in 2013 and 2017.
He was at the forefront in the formation of TNA party and later transforming the Jubilee Coalition into Jubilee Alliance Party, the precursor to the current Jubilee Party.
Murathe is also well known to Mudavadi since their days at Nairobi School.
The meeting comes barely two weeks after President Kenyatta told a gathering of Nyeri leaders that he will shock them with his preference for successor. His statement, made against the backdrop of divided opinion in central Kenya over his successor within the Kikuyu community and support for the 2022 Presidential election sent tongues wagging. Some have interpreted it to mean Deputy President William Ruto is not guaranteed of his — and by extension the central Kenya — backing while others say it was directed at pouring cold water on the premature 2022 election campaigns.
Murathe has in the past openly differed with Ruto’s allies who have accused him and others around the President of trying to undermine the DP’s bid. But the former Gatanga MP has dismissed those claims, telling the Star in a past interview that it was in the interest of Ruto for Jubilee to stay intact and his allies should not cause a split.
Since his re-election, Uhuru has avoided making any direct endorsement of Ruto’s presidential bid despite their Jubilee pact.
His November 3 declaration that his choice in the 2022 succession politics would be a shocker to many was the closest he had come to commenting on the controversy.
During the same meeting, Uhuru told MPs from Mt Kenya region MPs to spearhead development and avoid succession talk and ‘loitering’.
The remarks surprised MPs who have been aggressively marketing Ruto’s presidential bid in the populous region despite the President’s repeated cease-and-desist warnings against 2022 politicking. They saw it as the clearest indication that Uhuru may renege on his pre-election promise to back Ruto for the country’s top job.
But a week later, Ruto confounded friend and foe when he hosted the President and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, seen as his political arch-enemy, at his Karen residence. The subject of their lunch meeting remains mysterious although it has done little to clam the hostilities between Raila and Ruto’s supporters.
Two days later, when Ruto visited Homa Bay and later Migori to launch “development” projects, he was shunned by MPs allied to Raila. It was the first time the DP was venturing into Raila’s political stronghold.
Despite withering criticism against his tours, Ruto has maintained his tempo of harambees and development tours around the country, presiding over three to four events in one day in far-flung places.
In May, Uhuru threw a jibe at his DP publicly chastising him for loitering (tangatanga) across the country in weekend politicking.
As an indication that his “shock you” remarks in Nyeri is wreaking political havoc, Kitui Senator Enock Wambua tongue-in-cheek last Friday asked Uhuru to look favourably upon Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s bid to succeed him.
Instead, Uhuru indirectly urged leaders to transform politics from partisan ethnic contests to issue-based campaigns in the countdown to 2012 and make it possible for everyone to seek votes from every part of the country.
“Kila mtu ambaye ako na haja na hiyo kura aitafute kwa njia ya amani kwa sababu ni sera zake ndio zitamuuza. Na hiyo ndio siasa sisi tunataka (loosely translated; all those interested in the seat should campaign on policies to determine who wins),” he said.
It is understood that the Saturday meeting agreed to form a working group that will help market Mudavadi as the best and safe pair of hands to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“The team will be up and running in a matter of weeks,” said a source familiar with the meeting.
The plan, according to multiple people interviewed by the Star in confidence, is to set up similar teams in all of the region’s counties before Mudavadi begins high profile tours from next year.
For starters, the Nasa co-principal will make low-key appearances in churches in the region starting with this weekend in Kiambu county.
“Mudavadi was informed that although the region was receptive to him, many people know of him but do not know him. He must therefore express his desire to the Kikuyu himself and by his actions. He must show a degree of hunger to succeed,” said another businessman who attended the meeting.
It will not be the first time Mudavadi will be engaging with Uhuru politically. Both were in Kanu when former President Moi — who predicted that Kanu will rule for 100 years — endorsed Uhuru as the party’s presidential candidate for the 2002 election. Mudavadi remained in Kanu and served as vice President for three months as the Uhuru went on to lose to Mwai Kibaki.
In 2013, a deal between Uhuru and Ruto to support Mudavadi for the presidency aborted after Uhuru was pressured to back out and contest. He rescinded his decision which he blamed on the devil and went on to win the election, with crimes against humanity charges hanging on his head at the ICC. Mudavadi was left with egg on his face and performed dismally at the election. He attempted to run in 2017 but abandoned his bid and supported Raila Odinga, for whom he was chief campaigner.
Incidentally, Peter Kenneth, who is Murathe’s close ally is seen as the front runner to succeed Uhuru as central Kenya’s preeminent political figurehead. He has yet to show ambition for 2022 although he is expected to gun for the top two positions. -The Star