Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has denied endorsing a former presidential aspirant at Peter Kenneth for who is now running for Nairobi governor’s position.
In a statement believed to have the blessings of the president, the Jubilee party said the Head of State has pledged to remain neutral.
“Our attention has been drawn to media reports suggesting that His Excellency the President, in his role as the leader of the Jubilee Party, has indicated support for a candidate in the Nairobi gubernatorial race. These reports are untrue,” the party said in a statement signed by Secretary-General Raphael Tuju.
Mr Tuju went on, “The President has not endorsed any candidate, believing that Nairobi Jubilee members will make their choice in a free, fair and credible process at the nominations.”
However, a video taken on Saturday appears to show the president calling upon voters to pray for Mr Kenneth to get the city’s top job. Kenyatta had on Saturday, while being accompanied by Mr Kenneth to the burial of Mzee William Gatuhi Murathe, said words which have been construed to mean an endorsement for the former Gatanga MP.
Watch the video below:
“We are saying that when the nominations come, it is you who will make the decision. Nobody should come here and use someone’s name to say they have been endorsed. Whoever you select will be the person we support,” said President Kenyatta at a stopover in Kirwara in Gatanga constituency.
Mr Kenneth represented the constituency until 2013, when he bid for the presidency and came a distant fourth.
“Na muhoere njamba ino yanyu nigetha Nairobi nayo igakihotana (You should also pray for your man here so that he wins in Nairobi),” the President said, to cheers from the crowds, who then demanded that Mr Kenneth be given the chance to speak.
Mr Kenneth in turn said that he would continue to fight for the ticket in Nairobi and asked the residents to support President Kenyatta.
“Nii ningurua Nairobi ni getha riria ndirigiukaga gucera mugakiona gavana wa Nairobi (I will fight to win in Nairobi, so that when I come to visit here next time, I’ll come as the governor of Nairobi),” Mr Kenneth said.
He is facing a tough battle for the Jubilee ticket against flamboyant Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko and former Starehe MP Bishop Margaret Wanjiru.
Efforts by the party to have the three reach a consensus have reportedly hit a snag, with both parties taking hardline stances.
The winner of the Jubilee ticket will battle it out with incumbent Evans Kidero, who received a direct ticket to contest for the seat from Raila Odinga’s ODM.
Meanwhile, Jubilee politicians have silently expressed concern over the perceived renewed camaraderie between President Kenyatta and Governor Kidero that they said might tilt the scale in the county boss’s favour.
Dr Kidero last week visited State House with the Mzee Gerald Gikonyo Kanyuira-led Rwatha Investment Group, just a few days after he held hands and laughed with the Head of State over golf at Muthaiga Golf Club.
That the two have been close friends is now in the public domain, with President Kenyatta asking Dr Kidero to speak at the golf function “so that people do not say I hate opposition governors.”
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