Tigania East Constituency: Munya faces repeat battle with former MP Karauri

A repeat fight between assistant minister Peter Munya and former Kenya Literature Bureau chief executive Mathew Adams Karauri is expected in the constituency. Mr Munya defeated Mr Karauri in the 2002 election.

Mr Karauri is running on the ticket of Forum for Republican Party (Forepa), which is deemed to be the vehicle the Meru community will be using to bargain for possible power-sharing after elections.

In the race also are Mr Mpuru Aburi, who seeks election on the Kibaki-friendly Democratic Party’s ticket, businessmen Martin Mwiti Mugambi and Gichunge Mwirabua, Nyambene county council vice-chairman David Gatuma, Mr Kibaya Mbui and pharmacists Kamenchu Kiru and Peter Kaluai.

Others are the leader of Green African Party, Mr Mutuma Mwereria and engineer Gichunge Kabebea.

Mr Mugambi, who is a Nairobi-based quantity Surveyor and son of a retired senior assistant commissioner of police Silas Mugambi, has helped with a number of projects, which include the ACK St Catherine parish building and bridges, and poor secondary school students with fees.

Mr Munya, a former Moi University law lecturer, took the constituency by storm in 2002 when he took on Mr Karauri who was a more experienced politician, and beat him hands down.

The former don is bracing himself for the battle to prove that it was not by fluke that he felled a political giant who had represented the larger Tigania since 1979 before he was briefly interrupted by Mr Benjamin Ndubai in 1992.

Although Tigania East is one of President Kibaki’s strongholds, parliamentary candidates have to fight their own battles as parties are irrelevant here.

It was for this reason that Mr Karauri won in 1997 after the constituency was split despite having stood on a Kanu ticket which was unpopular in the Mt Kenya region.

It was the same scenario when Mr Munya, on a Safina ticket, beat Mr Karauri to the third place despite having stood on the popular Narc party.

There have been two distinctive blocs competing to produce the MP over the years — the upper Muthaara zone and the lower Mikinduri. Mr Karauri and Mr Aburi are from Mikinduri, and when both stood in the last election, it was widely believed they shared the local votes, handing victory to Mr Munya, the only candidate from Muthaara.

But this time round, Mr Munya faces an acid test in his backyard with Mr Mugambi in the running. Mr Mugambi is from populous tea-growing Karama location which used to be Mr Karauri’s stronghold. Dr Kaluai, a former provincial drugs inspector, is also from Muthaara.

Mr Munya may be disadvantaged by Mr Gatuma’s entry because the latter, also from Muthaara and one of his chief campaigners in 2002, is in the race as they seem to have parted ways.

The MP could also get substantial votes from the Mikinduri area because he has won the support of Mr Karauri’s former chief campaigners.

Mr Karauri, who has had a chequered career in the Tigania politics and was rejected by voters in the last election, is a veteran politician, and anybody who thought the debacle was a sign that he had perhaps reached the twilight of his political career may be in for a surprise.

The defeat was even more telling because he had run on the Narc euphoria which, he thought, would guarantee him victory.

Local opinion leaders attribute the debacle to several factors, which could become issues during the campaigns, namely, coffee, tea, the infrastructure, education and security.

When he first went to Parliament, Mr Karauri’s campaign platform was that he was going to streamline the coffee industry. But this did not happen because it was during his tenure that the sector collapsed countrywide.

It was also during his tenure that the Meru North farmers cooperative union collapsed.

He will most likely be confronted by the constituents to explain what became of the union’s assets.

But during Mr Munya’s tenure, the Kibaki administration has initiated tangible development in the area, and this fact could be a plus for the MP.

Mr Munya, an assistant minister in the Office of the President, has contained cattle rustling that for many years had troubled herdsmen in the northern grazing zone. But he may be put to task on land adjudication.

Another issue likely to come up during the campaigns is inadequate health facilities. Apart from Muthaara dispensary which is near the MP’s home, no facility, including Karama health centre, has a maternity wing in the entire constituency.

The status of roads is also expected to be an issue.

The Meru-Mikinduri-Maua stretch has over the years been used as a campaign tool, but nothing has happened. But the fact that engineers are now on site could give Mr Munya some political mileage.

His rivals say, however, that they will challenge the MP to explain how Sh2.4 million for upgrading the Karama-Mbaranga-Mucii Mukuru road was spent as it is impassable even in the dry season.

And the constituency has for a long time fared poorly in the national examinations. It is claimed that when he was in Parliament and served as an assistant minister for Education, Mr Karauri interfered in the management of the schools, resulting in the poor academic performance.

The management of the constituency development fund will also most likely feature.

There have been accusations, like in most parts of the country, that the committee comprises of Mr Munya’s friends. But he rejects the accusation and points out that he has built and equipped a number of secondary schools using the money.

But the recent splitting of Meru North District to give rise to Igembe and Tigania districts is a godsend for the MP as the residents had been travelling long distances to Maua for services.

Mr Aburi, who appears to pull crowds in the constituency, is remembered for the Orange campaigns during the 2005 referendum on the Wako draft constitution. But he has since ditched ODM Kenya most probably after realising that the party cannot sell in the Mt Kenya region.

If the clustering of candidates in Muthaara goes all the way to the poll, he will be the man to watch.

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