They say that politics is a game of numbers, and if really it is, the region of Upper Eastern should have enough numbers to justify having a political vehicle that the region can use to bargain for more resources and push for the interests of its people at the national level. Allow me to argue my point.
For a long time, the political interests of the Upper Eastern region of Eastern province have been ignored. Indeed, every leader from this region that I have spoken to appreciates that the region lags behind in terms of development because of its political naivety and lack of a common united front by its political leaders.
On naivety, whenever mount Kenya and central Kenya region has been mentioned, it has been used to mean the entire central Kenya (Kikuyu), and mount Kenya East region comprising of Embu, Meru, Tharaka-Nithi and Isiolo counties. And as much as the latter counties have had political association with central Kenya, the story has completely changed when it comes to development of the region and appointments to public offices. Indeed, it has for long been naïve of the political elite of the upper eastern region to think that their Kikuyu brothers and sisters will translate the electoral support of their candidates into development support.
There is no question that Kenya is a tribal country, and the better we appreciate this and use it as the foundation of streamlining our politics, the fight for resources and the violence that follows every election cycle in our country will never end. We have been told time and time again that Kenya being tribal, we can never rule the tribal country with an American constitution and that is why the attempts by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) on creation of more executive positions will have to be implemented at some point in our political journey. And if this is true then, the fact that political parties have been used as bargaining forums for regions means that every region will at some point have to establish parties to champion their agenda and root for more resources for their people.
Consider the Kamba region; with a voter population equal to that of upper eastern, the region has been able to negotiate for resources after every election at the national level by forging a united front. And their united numbers have made it a region that can never be ignored politically by any politician looking to lead this country. I remember at one time after the 2013 elections when President Uhuru visited the region and launched projects worth over Ksh. 40 billion, all this, his support base of upper eastern saw the first term of the president without any major projects being launched.
I know this will jot sound right, but the time for this vote rich region to disassociate itself with the Kikuyu and form a party to chart for a better future of its people it’s ripe. As long as we continue to be grouped together with the Kikuyu, we will never progress because every serious politician will ignore our impact and might as a group. Year in year out, we will be used by politicians as voting machines and dumped immediately after elections.
The central Kenya region has remained a force, and looking at central Kenya, you realize that leaders from the various regions of the vast kikuyu have for long united in groups to push for more resources. From Maringa, to Nyeri, Kirinyaga and Kiambu, leaders in these areas most times have put aside their political differences apart and fought for their people, as opposed, leaders in upper eastern have for long been disintegrated, each on their own, fighting for their personal interests and survival.
The Only time the region came close to uniting was under the leadership of Kiraitu Murungi, the Meru governor, through his bus party. That was before he was tricked into merging it under Jubilee. His intention was the most brilliant for the region in a long time, and perhaps it’s time he went back and brought us back together again. The region cannot wait to support political decisions from central like lost sheep. In all this, the people of these regions will continue to suffer; our roads are bad, years after the government started an ambitious project to connect electricity to all citizens, most residents of this area are still in darkness, there are no industries in the area and our economic activities remain ignored by successive governments despite the people of this region having heavily participated in voting all these governments in. Cabinet secretaries appointed from central Kenya are considered to represent the interests of upper Eastern, and that explains why counties like Tharaka-nithi have never had a cabinet secretary.
I’m not in any way asking the people here to be tribal, but simply to think local. As per 2017 elections, registered voters in this region were Meru County 702,480; Embu 309,468; Tharaka Nithi 213,154; and Isiolo 75,000 voters. That’s close to 2Million voters. Tell me what politician would ignore these numbers. The region simply has a voting block larger than Kamba, Coast Luo Nyanza and Kisii regions; yet no bargaining power.
As we speak, this region especially Tharaka Nithi county remains under-developed and ignored; yet with a regional party, we can begin to speak loudly, demand for more, threaten to join other political blocks, and in the process, get them to act to solve our problems.
In the meantime, the dualing of Kenol-Sagana-Isiolo road is underway and will be complete in 12 months; do you know that this road was supposed to pass through Embu, Meru to Isiolo?
I hope somebody is listening…