Kiraitu Murungi Faces Acid Test in His 30 Year Political Career

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    Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi addresses delegates at the National Miraa Scientific Conference held in Nairobi on Wednesday, October 27, 2021
  • Meru governor, Kiraitu Murungi, is one of the longest-serving elected leaders, having joined elective politics in 1992 when he was voted in as the Member of Parliament for South Imenti.

    Kiraitu, who turned 70 years in January, is defending his seat on a Devolution Party of Kenya (DPK) ticket, a party he founded in 2021. Should he win re-election, it will be his seventh term as an elected leader.

    The governor, in an interview with The Standard on Saturday, May 21, stated that he is working on a decent exit from politics after he serves his second term (August 2022 - August 2027), should he recapture his seat.

    Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi
    Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi addressing a crowd at a past event

    However, things are not rosy for the politician who holds a record of never losing in a political contest. Meru Senator, Mithika Linturi of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and Woman Representative, Kawira Mwangaza - an independent candidate, have promised the governor a gruelling battle in the county’s top seat.

    Both Linturi and Mwangaza have accused the governor of nepotism in employment and awarding of tenders, poor delivery of services, and disrespect towards elected leaders.

    Kiraitu - a seasoned politician who cut his political teeth in the Daniel Arap Moi era, however, terms their claims as unfounded, promising to send them to political oblivion.

    It will be remembered in 2017, that Kiraitu, who was then the Meru Senator, joined the gubernatorial contest promising to teach then governor, Peter Gatirau Munya, a political lesson after he allegedly disrespected him.

    Kiraitu would go on to clinch the seat but Munya challenged his victory at the High Court. He would, however, withdraw his petition after President Uhuru Kenyatta brokered a peace deal between the two, and appointed him to his Cabinet.

    Linturi is seen as the fovurite in the race bearing in mind the UDA euphoria sweeping in the Mount Kenya region, which Kiraitu seems to be fighting against.

    The Senator enjoys the backing of Deputy President William Ruto and a host of seasoned politicians from the region, whereas the governor seems to be a man isolated by his peers owing to his support of the Azimio La Umoja political faction affiliated with Raila Odinga.

    Coming at third place is Mwangaza, a self-made politician who rose to fame after trouncing then Meru Woman Rep, Florence Kajuju, in 2017, despite the latter enjoying the backing of President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kiraitu and the deputy President.

    Mwangaza - who owns a radio and TV station broadcasting in the Meru dialect - is gambling with her political future since she has served for just a single term. Losing the seat will be detrimental to her, as a comeback in the later years will not be a walk in the park.

    However, she has also mastered the art of politicking and her approval rating has been on an upward trajectory. Should she succeed in her quest to unseat Kiraitu, she will cement her legacy as the next possible Meru kingpin after the governor and Munya.

    Both Mwangaza and Linturi are capitalising on the ailing health sector, which seems to be Kiraitu's biggest headache. 

    Over the last few months, Kiraitu and the county health staff have had one of the worst standoffs since the inception of devolution, and this threatens to tear apart his re-election bid.

    All said and done, Kiraitu, however, seems to enjoy some mileage in the contest as he is one of the most experienced politicians in the region. The decision by Munya and former Higher Education Assistant Minister, Kilemi Mwiria, not to run for the top seat has given him some advantage over his competitors.

    As things stand now, it is a wait-and-see situation.

    Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi in his office.
    Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi in his office.