In the footsteps of his father? Jimmy's moves raise queries : Daily Nation
President Kibaki's eldest son Jimmy Kibaki with Prime Minister Raila Odinga at a past function. PHOTO/ FILE
- Kibaki son's tours to popularise new group seen as political tactic ahead of 2012 poll
Since President Kibaki's first son, Jimmy, began touring the country, many questions have been raised as to the intention.
He has been a frequent visitor in his father's Othaya constituency, meeting local business community and youth groups. His latest such visit was on Thursday.
Jimmy has been spearheading the Simama Kenya, an initiative which, he says, is aimed at empowering the youth. And, even though he insists it is a non-political cause, but his entourage has been largely made up of politicians.
The effort which Jimmy, a businessman, is pushing on with a group of "youthful" MPs is causing disquiet in the political and NGO circles.
According to the businessman, Simama Kenya Youth Initiative – to be registered as a trust soon – is intended to economically support young people between 18 and 40 years and reconcile communities.
He says the campaign was motivated by last year's post-election violence which exposed the country as polarised.
Jimmy says his campaign was also borne out of the fact that 70 per cent of the Kenyan population comprised the youth, many of them jobless and impoverished.
"We want to fight poverty and promote a non-violent culture among the youth by involving them in productive business activities to improve their living standards," Jimmy told the Nation in an interview.
"We are a voluntary and non-partisan group that also aims to create a new brand of young leadership," adds the Nairobi-based businessman.
Raundi hii hakuna mchezo (Jokes aside this time) is the clarion call for the lobby.
The crusade kicked off last month in Mr Kiema Kilonzo's Mutito constituency. The ODM Kenya MP and Mr Tony Gachoka, the former director of protocol in Prime Minister Raila Odinga's office, are the founder members.
Other MPs associated with the group are Mr Abdulrahman Hassan of Wajir South, Mr Kambi Kazungu (Kaloleni), Cherengany's Joshua Kutuny, Jeremiah Kioni of Ndaragwa and Agriculture assistant minister Kareke Mbiuki.
The Nation has also learnt that key trustees of the initiative comprise some influential and youthful businesspeople in the country. But critics of Simama Kenya such as National Youth Convention and the Youth Agenda have cast doubts on the group's primary motive.
"Some of these people have no history of fighting for the youth. They want to hijack the youth agenda for political interests," says NYC convener Emmanuel Dennis.
Ms Susan Kariuki, the deputy director of the Youth Agenda lobby, says Jimmy's initiative does not represent the interests of young people.
"Does this group understand the problems of young people in this country?" she poses.
ODM nominated MPs Rachel Shebesh and Musa Sirma have also dismissed the movement, linking it to the 2012 election campaigns.
Mr Sirma says the group is made up of "enthusiastic" political greenhorns struggling to get a bearing in a complex political environment.
But Jimmy denies that his group is pursuing a political agenda.
"We are not a political movement but a socio-economic one. We are driven by the need to create an environment where people can work freely and express their views at the same time," says 46-year-old Kibaki.
In Nyeri, for instance, he says there are at least 10 youth groups, all pushing politicians' interests. Such groups can morph into one to create a strong resource base for their activities, he notes.
There has been speculation that the movement is part of Jimmy's strategy to inherit the Othaya seat and campaign for Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta for the presidency in 2012.
The question being raised in the political circles is why he would embark on countrywide tours instead of zeroing in on Othaya if that is his interest.
Though Mr Kibaki has not publicly declared interest in the Othaya seat, he has been making frequent visits to the constituency where has bought land next to their home and is building a house.
His association with MPs from Rift Valley such as Mr Kutuny, an ally of Agriculture minister William Ruto, is seen in some quarters, as part of efforts to build an alliance between the central Kenya elite and communities in Rift Valley.
Mr Gachoka's involvement after his exit from the Prime Minister's office has also raised eyebrows among Mr Odinga's associates, especially MPs from Luo Nyanza.
But Mr Gachoka, the team's spokesman, rules out any ill-intention: "We want to bring the youth and country together."
The fact that the Simama Kenya founders – Jimmy, Gachoka and Kilonzo – campaigned for different presidential candidates (President Kibaki, Mr Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka respectively) in the last elections has sparked murmurs that the three could be hiding something up their sleeve.
However, Jimmy remains non-committal on whether he will seek the Othaya seat, saying his interest for now is in business and creation of opportunities for the youth in ICT, agriculture and trade.
He says he will quit from Simama Kenya board when the initiative stands on its feet for younger professionals to take over.