The just concluded Kirinyaga Central by-election was not an ordinary one. The actual contest between Messrs Gitari and Karaba was secondary to the meta-contest between Gichugu MP Martha Karua and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta. Karua backed Karaba while Uhuru campaigned for Gitari.
Given the high salience of ethnicity in Kenyan politics, the latter contest will determine who emerges as the chief voice of the Central Kenya voting block ahead of the 2012 general elections. Mr. Kenyatta must be happy with the latest score in Ms. Karua’s backyward given his own drubbing a few months ago in his own backyard in the Juja by-election.
Reacting to the loss Ms Karua twitted: “We have lost the battle not the war. Congrats to our team no retreat no surrender. Narc kenya marches on!”
Mr. Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s first president and very much an establishment candidate, is hoping to succeed President Kibaki as the ethnic chief of Central Kenya when the latter retires in 2012. The ultimate insurgency candidate, Ms Karua is an outsider and relatively new money who is increasingly championing the cause of the central Kenya underclass who have been marginalized by the region’s old guard elite since independence.
This blog has previously confessed a soft spot for Ms Karua, a rare breed of a principled fighter among Kenyan politicians. Mr. Kenyatta has been accused by the ICC to be among the masterminds of the 2007-08 post-elections violence that killed 1300 people and displaced hundreds of thousands. He also has tons of money.