President William Ruto
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DP Gachagua takes battle to Ruto’s doorsteps as political rift widens

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President William Ruto (left) and Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua at JKIA after returning from a four-day visit to Germany and Belgium in March 2023.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The nascent political marriage between President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua is facing a litmus test as the cold war between the two Kenya Kwanza Alliance honchos rages.

With only political leaders aligned to the two bosses having been engaged in flexing of political muscles for a while, the DP on Saturday took the battle right to the doorsteps of his boss, accusing allies of the President of trying to divide his political backyard, the Mt Kenya region.

Setting the stage for an all-out political war, Mr Gachagua accused the President’s allies of plotting against him with eyes on the 2032 succession matrix.

Without mincing his words, the former Mathira MP claimed the leaders have been holding meetings in Mt Kenya to scuttle his ambitions to succeed his boss. Speaking in Uasin Gishu county, the DP revealed how the politicians have been camping in Mt Kenya trying to undermine him by fronting another leader in the region.

And Mr Gachagua said he will not tolerate being undermined, asking the President’s allies to keep off Mt Kenya politics.

“The problem is a few leaders from this region who have proximity to the President are trying to meddle with Mt Kenya politics by trying to deceive some people to start planning for 2032 just to fight me,” said a visibly angry DP Gachagua.

The DP accused the leaders of traversing the vote-rich region with the aim of rocking his home turf in the name of planning for 2032, saying the region deserves respect for voting for the President overwhelmingly.

Disrupting Mt Kenya politics

“They are all over Mt Kenya trying to walk with that person telling him they will bring him Rift Valley votes. Don’t try to interfere with our politics but concentrate with your region. After 10 years of Ruto’s presidency, we will also not meddle with his succession. Mt Kenya politics is so complicated it can only be understood by the mountain people,” he added.

But Baringo North MP Joseph Makilap defended President Ruto and Rift Valley leaders against accusations of disrupting Mt Kenya politics.

“There is no single day President Ruto has sent any leader from Rift Valley to disrupt the politics of Mt Kenya. We therefore want to tell those engaged in ethnic mobilisation to look for something else to do,” said the MP.

On Sunday, political pundit Javas Bigambo said the DP’s sentiments meant he was carefully but indirectly accusing the President.

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“If the DP has a problem with those closer to power, the best person to address is the President, but not at a public gathering,” said Mr Bigambo.

“It is likely that Gachagua is going to face a similar fate as Julio Caesar. His ambition and desire to wield power, may easily and unavoidably, lead to his downfall. The sins of ambition led to the fall of Caesar,” he added.

The commentator said the domino effect of the collapse of mutuality, respect and cordial relations between the two has just begun. Mr Bigambo added that it was curious that he missed in the welcoming parade of the President on Saturday and one wonders why everyone else was there except him.

Domino effect

“All those are hints by the DP that the Garden of Eden is in turmoil. Initially perfect as it was, it is now in tumult. With this collapse, the domino effect will be vast, not so fast but long,” he said.

The silent rift between President Ruto and his deputy has widened the rift among leaders within the Mt Kenya region with allies of the DP claiming there are influential people within the State House “sponsoring” youthful leaders from the region to undermine Mr Gachagua’s authority.

The DP has been facing fierce opposition from a section of leaders from Mt Kenya region with some MPs coming out to front Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro as their preferred leader from the region.

Mr Nyoro has been moving around the country giving talks and conducting fund raisers, something that has not gone down well with DP Gachagua’s allies, who feel that he was being used to undermine him.

Murang’a Senator Joe Nyutu and Gatanga MP Edward Muriu have been public about their opposition to Mr Gachagua’s leadership favouring MP Nyoro, whom they identify with as the people’s link to the President.

“We have MP Ndindi Nyoro here, who in my considered opinion, is our hope (in the region),” said Senator Nyutu during a visit to families killed and displaced by mudslides in Mathioya recently, an event where MP Nyoro donated Sh1 million which he said he had been given by the President.

The public lashing out by the DP comes just days after he warned of traitors and collaborators within the restive Mt Kenya region.

While speaking in Kirinyaga County during the burial of his former teacher at Kianyaga High School on Tuesday, the DP fired a warning shot to the leaders that they would not succeed in fighting him, saying the region has a history of traitors since the colonial times.

“I am happy that the ordinary people at the grassroots are united. Only a section of leaders is trying to divide the region, but they will not succeed,” he said.

Warned his opponents

A week earlier while in Kagumo, Mr Gachagua had warned his opponents that no one can plot against him as he is even “more cunning”, reminding the group of dissenters that he is no pushover.

“For those who want to be used to divide us, continue, but our people are wise and they can see what is happening and when the right time comes for people to make a judgement, that's when those being used will know that the people of Mt Kenya are wise enough,” Mr Gachagua said.

On Monday last week, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru lashed out at the DP asking him to “avoid personalising the DP’s office” and instead allow youth to aspire to hold such offices.

In the thinly-veiled attack, the second term governor reminded Mr Gachagua that Kenya’s democracy ensures leaders hold offices as trustees and not as owners.

“Everyone has a right to dream and pursue their dreams like those in current leadership dreamt and their dreams actualised by the support of millions of youth and women. They (those harbouring political ambition) too, deserve support, not hostility,” said Ms Waiguru in the social media post.

The terse political statement from the governor follows a similar one from Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri, who has styled himself as an anti-Gachagua crusader, who went even to the extent of asking the DP to resign if he is dissatisfied with President Ruto’s administration.

“If you are dissatisfied with his administration you may as well go and establish your own government on the sidelines or you wait for three years to campaign and form your own government with the people you will convince…,” said Mr Kiunjuri.

Firing political salvos

Nonetheless, DP Gachagua’s faction has also been firing political salvos, warning that they will not sit and watch their leader being humiliated.

Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga, who has come out as the DP’s staunchest defender, last week said they will not sit back and watch Mr Gachagua being undermined.

“We will not allow our son to go through that at all. Kama mbaya, mbaya (let the worst happen), but he will not be taken through that,” said Mr Kahiga.

“He was not given the seat on a silver platter, he fought for it, and he is not a deputy president by default,” he added.

Fomenting the war even further, a section of MPs allied to the DP last week intimated that they have set in motion a scheme to oppose the Finance Bill, 2024 to send a warning to the President.

The DP has also missed several functions held over the past days and which his boss had presided over amid the growing bad blood between the two.

Amid the souring relationship, Mr Gachagua announced his intention to reach out to former President Uhuru Kenyatta in order to mend fences in what he describes as a push to unify the Mt Kenya region.

The DP first set himself up for the political fights he is currently facing with his shareholding remarks in October last year.

He claimed that the Kenya Kwanza regime is a government of shareholders, belonging to the people who voted for it, majorly the central and Rift Valley regions.

Disowned stance

However, his boss disowned the stance, saying it is primitive and backward for anybody to imagine that any region of Kenya cannot get development on account of how they voted.

A vocal critic of Azimio leader Raila Odinga, the DP declared that his sole duty will be to “protect” the President from being “confused or misled” by the opposition chief into a handshake.

The two leaders are currently working closely, with President Ruto declaring support for Mr Odinga’s bid for African Union Commission chairmanship’s position. Mr Gachagua has also been championing the one man, one shilling, one vote, revenue sharing formula, a surprise stand that attracted criticism and praise in equal measure.