Why Ruto's key political fixers in Kiambu may find it hard to sell his agenda

President William Ruto.

Photo credit: PCS

What you need to know:

  • Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung'wa and allies face backlash in Kiambu after supporting the now withdrawn Finance Bill 2024.
  • Mount Kenya's political landscape shifts as disillusioned voters seek ethical leadership and reject traditional power brokers.

Had the now-defunct Finance Bill 2024 made it through and been signed into law by President William Ruto, Kikuyu MP and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wah and his key allies would have been more powerful within the executive arm of government and equally hated in Mount Kenya.

Powerful because prior to the controversial Bill and its aftermath of nationwide protests that began on June 18 and which Dr Ruto did not assent to, Mr Ichung'wah was seen as the voice of influence in Kiambu for the Executive and had the blessings of Mr Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua until recently when they fell out and fully reinforced his allegiance and loyalty to Ruto.

Mr Ichung'wah is known to be an emphatic cheerleader for Mr Ruto.

"Stop telling people at night that William Ruto is a one-term president and you will mobilise your community to undermine and sabotage the government of President William Ruto so that he fails so that you become president,'' Mr Ichung'wah berated Mr Gachagua during a fundraiser in his constituency last month in the company of his key ally who also happens to be the Head of State's political fixer.

President William Ruto

President William Ruto chats with his deputy Rigathi Gachagua during the commissioning of Changachicha Irrigation project in Nyeri County on February 15, 2024. 

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Even Mr Gachagua was playing it safe before the spat with Mr Ichung'wah. The Kikuyu legislator had the president's ear and the ground was already warming to him.

When Mr Ichung'wah poked holes in Kiambu Governor Kimani Wamatangi's development projects in the presence of President Ruto and his deputy in Lari in February this year, Mr Gachagua was torn between reprimanding his political loyalists and playing safe.

“The president, out of his mercy, allocated the position of National Assembly Majority Leader to Kiambu. And I want to ask the Kiambu leaders not to be those that fight other leaders. I want to ask our MCAs in Kiambu not to fight Kimani Ichung’wa,” the DP said, torn between reprimanding his then-political loyalists and playing safe politics to the people of Kiambu, one of the most sought counties during the electioneering period that gave Mr Ruto the most presidential votes more than in his home county; Uasin Gishu. In the 2022 General election, Mr Ruto got nearly 1.3 million votes.

Now, with the collapse of the Finance Bill and the ongoing protests against President Ruto's regime, voters believe the new political paradigm shift has exposed Mr Ichung'wah and his allies who previously used their influence in the county to get close to the executive and position themselves as the voice of Mount Kenya politics.

"I have never been so happy, for many years Mr Ichung'wah and his key allies from Kiambu who act as Ruto's political influencers in the region and the larger Mount Kenya have been exposed and trimmed from taking advantage of a non-existent perception that we listen to them and they influence our political thinking. They have long used us for selfish gains and personal interests. For lack of a better word, let me say that they have been auctioning us off. It's time for them to know that they don't own us and they don't think on our behalf," Patrick Nduati, a Kikuyu resident who sells fresh fruit in Kiambu town, told the Daily Nation last week.

Kimani Ichung'wa

Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung'wa speaks during a church servicer at Jesus is Alive Ministries along Haile Selassie Avenue, Nairobi, on December 6, 2020.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

There have been huge protests against the Finance Bill in the Kikuyu constituency, where even part of the offices of the Constituency Development Fund CDF were burnt down.

Mary Wanjiku, a trader in Thika town, Kiambu County, says Kenyans have finally opened their eyes and realised that politicians have been using them as pawns. She is angry that Thika MP Alice Ng'ang'a was able to vote in favour of Finance Bill 2024 when the signs were clear that the majority of Kenyans both inside and outside Mount Kenya were against it.

"God used Finance Bill 2024 to open our eyes as Kiambu people and see that we don’t have representatives in parliament but businessmen and women. How can we trust her (Thika Town MP) again when she openly betrayed our trust and never stood with us and voted 'Yes'? The cost of living is too high and what we see them doing is splashing huge money on social media yet we are sleeping hungry and taxes are too high," Ms. Wanjiku who sells second-hand shoes at Thika Bus station told Daily Nation during the latest anti- finance Bill when carrying a mock epitaph bearing the name of Alice Ng’ang’a.

Mr Ichung'wah and Ms Ng’ang’a are not the only ones who the voters say will never influence their voting decision again during the polls.

Kiambu Woman Representative Ann Wamuratha. She says Kenyan netizens are so cruel that they almost made her lose the seat in last year's election had she not developed a thick skin.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi I Nation Media Group

Kiambu women rep Anne Wamuratha is another person they feel is part of Kiambu leaders who have betrayed them.

Ms Wamuratha rose to fame through vernacular radio stations as a marriage counsellor where she frequented and capitalised on the gender gap mainly raising awareness of boy children and how he is always neglected.

Ms Wamuratha's voters were mainly vulnerable youth drowned in joblessness and alcoholism whom she promised to rehabilitate and champion their rights and eventually offer seed capital and start businesses. To date, most voters in Kiambu feel she was another politician hiding behind the microphone. She has forgotten about them and has joined a government cheering squad.

Geoffrey Kamau from Kirigiti, along Kamiti Road is one of the people who voted for Ms Wamuratha and does not want to hear about her.

Mr Kamau has a strong reason why she feels Ms Wamuratha has let him down and other youth in Kiambu and vows never to trust any politician again.

He was among those who fell victim to Martin Wachira several years ago. Wachira, a former representative of Riabai Ward in Kiambu, exploited vulnerable individuals battling alcoholism by offering promises of rehabilitation and seed capital to start anew.

To the alcohol addicts, he promised them that immediately he would be sworn in, he would form Kumisa Sacco where members would contribute Sh10 daily with part of their monthly savings going into rehabilitating them with the rest of their savings going into helping them establish poultry and pig farming projects and earn a decent living.

True to his word, in 2013 after he was sworn in at Kiambu County Assembly, Mr Wachira teamed up with his other four friends and registered Kumisa Savings and Credit Co-operative.

Later, Mr Wachira and his associates submitted a loan request to a local bank, falsely claiming shareholder approval to borrow Sh10 million, though they received only Sh7.2 million. This transaction coincided with a peak in members' savings, nearing Sh100 million, which was promptly deposited into Kumisa Sacco's accounts. Subsequently, Mr Wachira abruptly withdrew from managing Kumisa Sacco, neglecting to transfer responsibilities to new management. The Sacco soon collapsed, leaving members' savings at risk.

"I lost Sh 9,500 to Kumisa Sacco that I had saved while working in a car wash in Kiambu hoping to be rehabilitated and start a business. When I went to borrow against my savings to start selling bone broth soup in Kirigiti, Kumisa Sacco said they had stopped offering loans to members. Now, look at our women rep Ann Wamuratha, she has been accompanying members allied to President William Ruto who voted 'Yes' and at no time did she ever publicly side with the majority opinion of the people of Kiambu who opposed the Finance Bill. I cannot trust her and her fellow politicians again," Mr Kamau told Daily Nation.

Gatundu South MP Gabriel Kagombe

Gatundu South MP Gabriel Kagombe makes a call at the Machakos law courts on June 7, 2024. 

Photo credit: Pius Maundu | Nation Media Group

In Gatundu South, the situation is the same where constituents feel their Member of Parliament Gabriel Kagombe has betrayed them. They recently carried mock coffins protesting against him for voting in favour of the Finance Bill.

Mr Kagombe, whose surname loosely translates to 'a small cow' in the Kikuyu dialect, gained attention and notoriety when he was caught in a viral video shooting into a crowd last month, resulting in the death of David Nduati.

Magret Waithera from Gatundu South expressed her disappointment with Mr Kagombe, who entered Parliament through activism, promising to champion people's rights, only to align with the government and vote in favour of the Finance Bill.

"I voted for Kagombe, and I regret my decision. What I've learned is that politicians prioritise those who fund them over those who vote them into power. They've shown us that our worth is only at the ballot box, and their loyalty ends there. They trade deals using our voter cards and don't t treat our lives with dignity," said Ms. Waithira.

Githunguri MP Gathoni Wamuchomba. Despite being a member of the ruling coalition, she has been a thorn in the side of the Kenya Kwanza administration over what she terms unfair policies.

Photo credit: Moraa Obiria | Nation Media Group

In Kiambu, only Juja MP George Koimburi and Githunguri legislator Gathoni Wamuchomba defied the trend by voting against the Finance Bill. Koimburi has been vocal on social media, alleging that MPs were offered bribes of Sh2 million each to support the bill. A claim that many legislators who voted in favour of the Bill vehemently denied. President William Ruto eventually withdrew the bill following nationwide protests that resulted in clashes with police, claiming 39 lives.

Prof. Peter Kagwanja, who is a policy adviser and strategist notes the new paradigm shift in politics and the collapse of the Finance Bill heralds a new chapter of Mount Kenya politics and spells doom to politicians who thought they owned the mountain and transacted for personal gain using the region voting power.

"The Gen Z is crusading for an ethical leadership that is non-corrupt, less extravagant and less arrogant. The youth revolt has radically and emphatically transformed Mount Kenya's politics. The days of the region’s showy fiefs and their hubris of power are long gone. Their game is over. The voter is just waiting for them on August 10, 2027. It is a waiting game, like a death row," Prof Kagwanja told Daily Nation.

Ndindi Nyoro

Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro addresses residents at Kariara village in Nyeri County on August 7. There is talk of powerful forces behind the MP’s bid to unseat DP Gachagua.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Another politician poised to face challenges in the Mount Kenya region is Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro. He was once a favourite among Mount Kenya residents before the Finance Bill's collapse. Known for his charismatic politics, Nyoro resonated well with the youth.

Recently, he has been actively attending fundraisers across the country, sparking speculation in political circles that he might be groomed by the executive to either succeed President William Ruto or counter the influence of Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua in the region.