By NLM Writer
The political duel between Governor Peter Munya and his main opponent in the Meru gubernatorial race Senator Kiraitu Murungi, which has been simmering for close to two years now, boiled over after President Uhuru Kenyatta toured the county in June.
In what promises to be to be a titanic battle for the hearts and minds of Meru voters, the two candidates are full throttle on the campaign trail. Other candidates include Dr Kilemi Mwiria (Maendeleo Chap Chap), Winnie Kaburu (Wiper) and independent candidates Kiambi Atheru and Buuri MP Kinoti Gatobu, who are said to, cumulatively, command a “sizeable” following.
Munya, the Party of National Unity (PNU) leader kept off the Jubilee campaign tour in which President Kenyatta was accompanied by his deputy William Ruto, where they advocated for the party’s six-piece voting pattern in Meru.
But the President, who traversed the Imenti, Tigania and Igembe, acknowledged that Governor Munya had his own supporters, who he asked to vote for him and decide on whom to support for the governor’s seat.
The war of words between the two Munya and Kiraitu camps escalated afterwards, especially with the booing of Jubilee candidates during the tour.
Senator Murungi blamed the governor for being behind the heckling that saw the President and the DP fail to effectively drum up support for them (Jubilee candidates). He cited a meeting in Maua in which he was forced to cut short his speech after he was shouted down. But Munya is of the opinion the pro-Munya chants are an indication that he is gaining more ground.
The decision to dissolve Alliance Party of Kenya (APK) to join Jubilee is the heart of the bitter differences between the erstwhile political comrades, who first worked together ahead of the 2013 General Election.
They supported each other for their respective posts. Governor Munya was APK Director of elections. Such was the faith Senator Murungi had in Governor Munya.
But a defiant and unapologetic governor, who has fashioned himself as an independent-minded leader, has declared a supremacy contest with his opponent. Pundits say his morally courageous and nationally popular stand on a number of issues has proved he can withstand the Jubilee wave.
He has vowed to make his political life miserable and promised to win in 2017 because “everywhere I have been to, including to Murungi’s perceived Imenti turf, locals are happy with my performance… they have endorsed me for a second term.”
According to the governor, Murungi lost the plot when he sold APK (Alliance Party of Kenya), “which would have given us bargaining power as a people. But our political dream as the Ameru remains. We will buy a TV for the old man (Murungi) when he retires next year.” He has also not shied from linking the Senator to the multi-billion Triton and Anglo-Leasing scandals that rocked the Kibaki administration.
But Kiraitu’s aggressiveness and go-getter attitude puts him in a good position to tame the governor. The Senator accuses Munya of failing to properly use money allocated to the county government to launch development equally.
The scheme for 2022 elections is also shaping this year’s election, with Governor Munya standing in the way of DP Ruto who has been regularly visiting the Mt Kenya East region.
The vocal county chief says he is determined to go it alone against DP Ruto’s wave in Mt Kenya as he positions himself for the highest elective office. Both Munya and the DP have said they will run in 2022.
Munya has publicly confessed that he is not in good terms with the DP due to his political forays in the county and accuses him of visiting Meru with politicians who undermine him.
His time in office has been tumultuous. In the first year, he battled, and won, a petition in court challenging his election.
He fell out with the DP in 2014 when he appeared to support the re-election of Dr Kilemi Mwiria after the Court of Appeal sitting in Nyeri nullified his election.
Although he maintains he is supportive of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-lection in 2017, Munya has been on a campaign to popularise PNU, perhaps to demonstrate his influence has not been threatened by Ruto’s overtures in Meru.
Divisions in the Meru sub-tribes remain a key factor in the outcome of the governor race. Munya comes from Tigania with voters in Tigania East and Tigania West while senator Murungi is from the populous Imenti sub-tribe, which commands votes in South Imenti, Central Imenti, North Imenti and Buuri.
Local observers reckon Igembe will be a key determinant in the outcome of the final tally. Governor Munya has picked his running mate Peter Kaberia from Igembe while Linturi leads the Jubilee campaigns in the region.
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