The death of the powerful Internal Security minister George Muthengi Saitoti and his assistant Joshua Orwa Ojode, the MP for Ndhiwa in a police helicopter, startled the nation in no small proportions. And for those Kenyans who believe in jinxes, they already have itemised June 10 as one of those jinxed days to be aware of, in the political calendar of Kenya. The crux of the matter is that George Saitoti was destined never to be the President of Kenya. So was Ojode who was destined to die in a plane crash.
Is Maina Njenga destiny to be found in national politics? Last Saturday’s inauguration of Mkenya Solidarity Movement (MSM) at the hallowed grounds of Kamukunji, in downtown Nairobi, had just one star—the (in)famous Maina Njenga—once the undisputed pseudo-messianic leader of the proscribed Mungiki youth movement which stunned the country with its cultural oathing and grotesque killings across the Kikuyu community a few years ago.
The launch of the MSM attracted some key ODM MPs and notable upcoming leaders such as Brian Weke, who last August ran for the Kamukunji seat on a Narc-Kenya ticket, Bob Ndolo, who hopes to run for the Nyakach seat and Ngunjiri Wambugu, who has cast his eyes on the Tetu seat.
Although Maina holds no discernible position in the party whose leader is the former powerful Internal Security minister in former President Moi's government, Godfrey Gitahi Kariuki, placards reading 'Maina Njenga for presidency' said it all. Njenga is the man to watch and the man to be worried by his move is Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, who recently also launched his party, the National Alliance at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, under the glaze of his father’s statue.
“Maina has been conducting his politics on the periphery, but with his entry into active and competitive politics through a registered and fully compliant party, Maina is announcing to Kenyans that he is legit(imate) and is very ready to engage in serious politics nationally,” said Ngunjiri.
Maina himself told this writer in an exclusive interview that he wants “to engage in clean and transparent politics” devoid of shenanigans and subterfuge. “We want to follow the law, because our party is legal and we are law abiding citizens. The good thing about democracy is that the people get to decide who their leader will be, without being coerced—either by money or ethnic logic.”
The launch of the Mkenya party at the Kamukunji grounds was not without its apparent political connotation. Maina told me that the choice to launch the party at the famous grounds was deliberate and well-calculated. “Kamukunji is a metaphor for the nationalist political struggle and home to the urban-underclass, where the rank and file while away time pondering the vicissitudes of their harsh life.”
There is no gainsaying the fact that although Mkenya Solidarity Movement mandarins argue that it is a nationalist party that hopes to infuse the tenets of nationalism in the minds and hearts of the Kenyan youth, it is obvious that its first and natural hunting ground for votes will be from the Kikuyu community. And this is where Maina Njenga and Uhuru Kenyatta's political paths will undoubtedly once again crisscross.
For the last decade or so, Maina and Uhuru’s political lives have been intertwined—sometimes working together, like in 2002 when Maina threw his support behind Uhuru’s presidential bid—and sometimes being at loggerheads, especially after the post-election violence that rocked the nation after the contested and controversial presidential elections of 2007.
In 2007, the clarion credo for the Kikuyu nation seemed to have been—everybody for himself and Mwai Kibaki for us all. In 2012, with the ICC case hanging over Uhuru’s head like an albatross, the new clarion credo seems to be everybody for himself and Uhuru for us all, something that his erstwhile friend Maina seems to find fault with.
“I will tell you this for the umpteenth time, that I have no problem with Uhuru Kenyatta per se,” Maina said to me. “But I have a problem with some of the 'advisers' who surround him and whose advise about me is ill-informed, skewed and partisan.”
Maina seemed to be falling back on the 'bad influence theory' on his latest relationship with Uhuru Kenyatta, who has today become his political nemesis.
“Those advisers—and I know some of them—are cheating him when they tell him he is the only leader among the Kikuyu community. What about Martha Karua, Paul Muite, Peter Kenneth, Maina Njenga, for example? Aren’t they leaders? Uhuru must know that there are other leaders from the region and it is the people who will ultimately decide who will lead them and not through domination or using colossal amounts of money to buy loyalty.”
The latest spat between Maina and Uhuru was in April this year, when the Limuru (II) A Gema meeting was held at the Jumuia Conference Centre, soon after former cabinet minister Njenga Karume was buried. Maina attended the meeting, and the meeting had to end impromptu, because he became the focus of attraction, when the religious leaders presiding over the meeting refused him to speak. “It is Uhuru who told them to bar me from speaking,”said Maina.
“When he learnt that I was on my way to the meeting place, he asked that the programme be changed so that he could speak first which he did hurriedly and then left after claiming he had urgent matters to attend to in Nairobi.” Meanwhile before he left, Maina said “Uhuru instructed the religious leaders to make sure I did not address the crowd”.
It was ridiculous, says Maina. “How could I not be allowed to address a crowd I had helped mobilise?” There were about 2,000 people in the auditorium, half of whom Maina had helped bring to the meeting. “Uhuru had himself asked me to mobilise youths for the meeting, only for him to turn around and ask the organisers to ensure that I do not speak at the forum.”
But Munyori Buku, Uhuru’s spokesman disputes Maina’s assertion that he helped mobilise the crowd. “Many of the people were mobilised by the Gema affiliate groups that are scattered across the country,” said Buku.
When Maina stood up to visit the bathrooms, 500 youths escorted him and when he returned to the hall, the meeting could not carry on, because majority of the youths shouted the religious leaders down for not allowing Maina to speak. In the subsequent Limuru (II) B, after the first one had aborted, Maina mobilised 7,000 youths, who this time had to meet in the open ground with heavy police presence.
“It is okay for Uhuru not to want to be seen with me in the same precincts because of his ICC case, and I understand that very much, but he can’t seek to gag me—I am a leader just like he is.”
The former Mungiki leader says this is not the first time Uhuru—“who I know very well”—is back-stabbing him. “In 2002, I sought to run for election in Laikipia West on a Kanu ticket. During the nomination, I floored my competitor, but I was shocked to learn that Uhuru had instructed the Kanu headquarters to issue the ticket to the loser.”
Maina’s 'backstabbing theory' is lend credence by Kiraitu Murungi who just last week loudly lamented that Uhuru had betrayed him and had led him through the garden path when he gave him the impression that he would settle at the Alliance Party of Kenya, which Kiraitu had spent an inordinately amount of time preparing for him. “He even paid rent for the APK premises,” observed Kiraitu, “but all this was a ploy to hoodwink us.”
Uhuru's choice of the National Alliance Party of Kenya —which was once led by Lawrence Nginyo Kariuki, a politician from Kiambu county and which he had bought secretly from the politician, has left tongues wagging that Uhuru does not only stroke tribal politics, but also sectarian ones.
“It is obvious why he opted for the NAPK which he later christened TNA. It is a Kiambu party, where he draws the largest chunk of his fanatical following,” noted a senior Meru politician. “I can tell you this, the return of the Kenyatta family hegemonic project is real and is a threat to the advancement of democracy and plural politics in this country.”
Mkenya Solidarity Movement hopes to cast candidates for various political seats across the nation. In Nairobi, the party has targeted three parliamentary seats—Kamukunji, held by Yusuf Hassan, Embakasi, which if the new created constituencies are ratified will be split into several constituencies and Dagoretti, which are held by Ferdinand Waititu and Beth Mugo respectively. Is this a signal that MSM intends to take the battle to Uhuru's bastion of support?
Maina claims, “Some of these MPs chest-up and prance about, but without my support, they would not be MPs today.” Waititu, a former councillor for Njiru ward is one such MP. The other one is Sonko, the MP for Makadara, who was made to eat humble pie by Maina, during the Limuru rally. Sonko had proclaimed his support for Uhuru, which led to an uproar from the youths, who owe their loyalty to Maina and not Uhuru.