Why Uhuru cannot campaign for Raila in Mt Kenya

Politics and Society

Why Uhuru cannot campaign for Raila in Mt Kenya

With just about a month or so remaining to the August 9 general election, all hopes of President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta campaigning for his favoured candidate in the Mt Kenya region are gone with the wind



Depending on his prevailing mood swings, President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta has swung like a pendulum in his promise of campaigning for Raila Odinga, the Azimio coalition flag-bearer, whose chairman is the president.

Alive to President Uhuru’s ambivalence, his cohorts, have tried to explain it away, hoping that their excuses will wash: Yet, they are just as ambivalent as the President himself. “You don’t expect him to hit the ground running, that is why now you find it is Martha (Karua) and Raila. They are both on the ticket. Uhuru is not on the ticket,” said David Murathe, President Uhuru’s mouthpiece in May, 2022.

On the same breath, Kieni MP and Jubilee Party Director of Elections said to the media that President Uhuru will indeed, in the months of June and July, hit the ground running and vigorously campaign for Raila.

The wooing of the Mt Kenya region has been framed as now a contest between Rigathi Gachagua and Karua

To add onto why President Uhuru will not be drumming support for Raila, Murathe disingenuously invented another reason – he framed the wooing of the Mt Kenya region as now a contest between Rigathi Gachagua and Karua. “Ukienda Mt Kenya, the game is not between Raila and Ruto, it is between Rigathi and Karua. Who can best take care of Mt Kenya interests? Who will represent us?” Gachagua is the running mate of William Ruto, the Kenyan Kwanza coalition presidential nominee.


Photo: Rigathi Gachagua @rigathi Twitter

Cleverly, what Murathe was saying, in not so many words, is that, it was a hopeless venture campaigning for Raila in Mt Kenya region, by whomever, worse off by Uhuru. He also reduced the contest to be between two local politicians and prayed that GEMA nation will fall for the ruse that what they are being asked to do is, vote between the two deputies. So the question of the day is: Between Karua and Raila, who is the presidential candidate?

In 2021, the President’s loyalists noticing their boss’s indecisiveness, concocted a possible reason as to why Uhuru might not sell Raila in his home turf; We don’t want Raila to be seen as Uhuru’s project if he campaigns for him in Mt Kenya region, they said. Paradoxically, that’s precisely how Raila is viewed in GEMA land – President Uhuru’s project. 

Raila aware of the “project tag”, has ostensibly tackled the problem headlong: “Mimi nimesema nitaingia (Mlima Kenya) peke yangu, nitafanya campaign peke yangu. Sitaki kupachikwa ati project ya Uhuru Mkiniona mmeona Uhuru……I’ve said I’ll enter the Mt Kenya region myself and I’ll do my own campaigns, I don’t want people to think I’m Uhuru’s project, (but) if you see me, you’ve seen Uhuru.

Ironically, even after detailing how he will conduct his own campaigns in the region without President Uhuru’s support, consciously, he still reminded the people that if they see him, it will be as good as seeing their (own son) Uhuru.

I have said I will enter the Mt Kenya region myself and I will do my own campaigns, I don’t want people to think I’m Uhuru’s project

After Karua was picked as Raila’s deputy, the story changed: “Now that Martha Karua is the running mate, the President can now step back and let Karua woe the mountain for Raila.” The assumption was that Karua, an experienced politician, who hails from Kirinyaga County would dazzle the GEMA nation and persuade it to love Raila. That love is yet to be publicly manifested, thirty-four days to D-Day.

Photo credit: Martha Karua SC @MarthaKarua

What has been the President’s position vis-a-vis campaigning for Raila or not, in Kikuyuland? “Those who think I will not be on the campaign trail should hold their horses,” said Uhuru in April, 2022. “They will soon see me traversing the country telling the people my truth. Where do they think they can take me?” Posed President Uhuru as he spoke in Kandara, Murang’a County at the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa (AIPCA) church.

Whether by country he meant the republic of Kenya or Mt Kenya region is a matter of conjecture – oftentimes, ethnic GEMA leaders have tended to conflate the two.


“There is nothing I want to benefit from personally. Those criticising the handshake I did with Raila know that now we have peace….” Truthfully, the GEMA nation has refused to buy into the handshake deal and to date, it remains opposed to it. Since consummating the handshake on March 9, 2018, President Uhuru has yet to tell the “(Mt Kenya) people my truth.” The GEMA nation has always felt that it wasn’t privy to the handshake.

“When Uhuru in 2012 went courting Ruto as his running mate for the presidential run, he made conscientious efforts to explain to the Mt Kenya people of his difficult choice,” said a Kiama kia Ma (the truth council) elder I spoke to. “In March 2012, for example, the Nakuru meeting with the Kikuyu leaders was long and exhausting, he had to persuade us why he was picking someone who had terrorised us in 2007.” 

The elder said the GEMA nation was totally against Ruto’s candidature in 2013, “but Uhuru persuaded us, he should have used the same persuasive skills to convince us about Raila in 2022.”

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga Photo: @UKenyatta/Twitter

Of the many reasons Uhuru proffered in winning the Mt Kenya region’s support in wooing Ruto, was that Raila wanted him jailed at the International Court of Justice (ICC) at The Hague, said the elder. “What’s so difficult in coming back to us again and explaining his newly-found love with someone who wanted him jailed? This is a question (among others) that has been awaiting him in his home turf.”

Hence, the “myth” surrounding the handshake deal insofar as the GEMA nation is concerned, has been one of the biggest reasons President Uhuru has prevaricated and procrastinated over presenting Raila as his preferred choice in 2022, in the Mt Kenya region. “The people from the mountain have been waiting for Uhuru to officially introduce the Azimio candidate to them, the same way he did with Ruto.” 

If the Mt Kenya people’s attitude towards the handshake has been one of mutual mistrust, the Lake region’s attitude has apparently been that of apprehensiveness: “We hope that Jakom (Raila) knows something we don’t. Otherwise why should we welcome him (Uhuru) all the time and he can’t take Raila to his backyard,” said an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) MP. Since the handshake in 2018, Uhuru has yet to take Raila to Mt Kenya region.”


“All the time” has been the visits in 2020/2012 President Uhuru did in Kisumu, where he was rapturously welcomed. In his first visit to Kisumu in October 2020, President seemingly wowed the lake region by telling it that he would most welcome a local consort to be making him ugali. Ugali is the lake region’s staple food.

Raila has yet to be welcomed in the Mt Kenya region, the way Uhuru has been in Kisumu

The other time Uhuru was in Kisumu was for the June 1, Madaraka fete, 2021. Again, the lake region ecstatically received him. Guess what? Raila has yet to be welcomed in the Mt Kenya region, the way Uhuru has been in Kisumu.

At the February, 2022 Sagana State Lodge enclave, President Uhuru before a controlled crowd, confessed that he was among the people who had demonised Raila in the Mt Kenya region so much so that the region hitherto finds it anathema to vote for him. 

“During the 2017 campaigns, Uhuru went around Mt Kenya region telling us Raila was a lunatic, that if he become the president, if he would confiscate our property and reduce us to being paupers. He pleaded with us to return him to power, if we wanted to secure our own and children’s future.” I always remember a granny saying this in Murang’a. “Can Uhuru now guarantee us Raila is sane and will not enslave us?”

“The people have been waiting for Uhuru to come and answer these questions,” said the Kiama kia Ma elder. “He cannot expect us to dance to his whims, just because, truth be said, we’ve danced to them before.”


In January 2021, 41 MPs wrote a letter President Uhuru. In part this is what it said: “For eight years, between 2011 and 2018, you consistently and persistently cautioned us that Raila Odinga was Kenya’s foremost problem…….We must be direct and truthful with you; we cannot sell Raila Odinga in our region, or indeed any other imposed presidential candidate. You blame the leaders and the people of Mt Kenya for being reluctant to accept the handshake and the BBI. It is not their fault. The successful effort you made to persuade the people and render Raila Odinga unacceptable in Mt Kenya cannot be undone in your lifetime.” 

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