In Kenya’s vote-rich Kikuyu community, opinion was sharply divided over outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta’s move to back his one-time rival, Raila Odinga, rather than his deputy, William Ruto, as his successor in the tightly-contested election set to take place on August 9.
Mr Kenyatta – who has reached the constitutional limit of two terms in power – was long regarded as the community’s political kingpin, with its elders proudly referring to him as “our son”.
But during the BBC’s visit to Nyeri County – which lies in the Kikuyu heartland of Mount Kenya – it became clear his credibility has taken a knock over his decision to endorse Mr Odinga in what he has portrayed as an attempt to forge national unity after decades of political animosity.
Lawyer Wahome Gikonyo felt Mr Kenyatta had betrayed Mr Ruto, who had helped him win two elections against Mr Odinga.
“Ruto did the donkey work in 2013 and 2017. Were it not for him Uhuru would not have become president. Is that the way to repay a friend?” Mr Gikonyo remarked, as he spoke to the BBC in his office in the county’s biggest town, also known as Nyeri.
Some residents, such as Pastor Hannah Kanyithere, felt Mr Kenyatta should not have become involved in the battle over his successor.
“Why is the president taking sides in this election? However bad his deputy was, he should have remained neutral,” he added.
But taxi driver Hassan Kahoro was equally passionate in his defence of Mr Kenyatta, suggesting that with ethnicity being a major fault-line in Kenyan politics, the time had come for the Luo community to produce its first president – Mr Odinga.
“We should give the Luo community a chance to lead this country. Who said the presidency should belong to the Kikuyus and the Kalenjins?” Mr Kahoro said, as he addressed a crowd gathered near the main market.
He was referring to the fact that of Kenya’s four presidents since independence, three have been Kikuyus. The late Daniel arap Moi – who was the longest-serving president, ruling for 24 years – was a Kalenjin, like Mr Ruto. -BBC