Gachagua brokers truce between Kericho Governor and his deputy

Kericho Governor Erick Mutai and his deputy Fred Kirui

Kericho Governor Erick Mutai (right) and his deputy Fred Kirui. 

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Mr Gachagua confirmed on X (formerly Twitter) that he chaired the consultative meeting with elders and leaders from Kericho County.
  • Mr Kirui had on Monday separately met the Deputy President ahead of the meeting in Karen on Thursday, but it is not clear what was discussed.

After a year of on-and-off political bickering, Kericho Governor Erick Mutai and his Deputy Fred Kirui have reached a truce brokered by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua at his Karen office in Nairobi.

The meeting held on Thursday went late into the night, as the leaders sought to address the root cause of the differences and find a lasting solution to it.

Mr Gachagua confirmed on X (formerly Twitter) that he chaired the consultative meeting with elders and leaders from Kericho County.

"Peace and unity are a prerequisite for any meaningful development to be realised nationally and in the counties," Mr Gachagua wrote. 

"Kericho County is important to the (President William) Ruto administration, and we will not rest until there is harmony for progressive development in the county." 

The meeting was attended by among others - Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot who is also the Kericho Senator, former Roads Cabinet Secretary Franklin Bett and the Kenya Forests Service (KFS) chairman Job Chirchir.

But the pictures that were shared neither showed the two shaking hands to signify a new-found working relationship nor did Mr Gachagua indicate that a solution had been found.

It was not clear if the demands made by Mr Kirui would be met with the newly found political deal as Dr Mutai and Mr Kirui had not responded to inquiries on the way forward by the time of publication.

"It was a no-holds-barred engagement with the Governor and his Deputy asked to come out in the open, so the differences could be ironed out," a source privy to the meeting said.

"In the end, the leaders agreed to work together to the benefit of the people of Kericho county who elected them on a UDA ticket," the source added.

Mr Gachagua was seen as being keen on having the issues that have caused a rift between the two politicians resolved ahead of President William Ruto's tour of the region during the 60th Mashujaa Day Celebrations which will be held at Kericho Green Stadium.

It is claimed that Mr Kirui had on Monday separately met the Deputy President ahead of the meeting in Karen on Thursday, but it is not clear what was discussed.

Mr Gachagua had scheduled the meeting for Tuesday, but it was changed to Thursday because the Governor was separately hosting British High Commissioner to Kenya Neil Wigan, and the Principal Secretary for Interior and National Administration Raymond Omollo, who is chairing the Mashujaa Day celebrations committee and Angolan Ambassador to Kenya Sianga Abilio.

Angolan President Joao Lurenco will be one of the guests in the Mashujaa Day celebrations to be held at the Kericho Green Stadium.

The Thursday meeting in Karen was also pushed from morning to late in the evening as Dr Mutai was hosting members of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) who were on a tour of the region. The Governor flew to Nairobi in the afternoon for the meeting.

Dr Mutai and Mr Kirui teamed up during the UDA party nominations to beat former Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter for the gubernatorial seat.

Initially, all three politicians were gunning for the same position, before a political deal was crafted leading to their (Dr Mutai and Mr Kirui) running as a team to deliver a shock defeat against Mr Keter who was seen as a top gun for the position, with former Governor Prof Paul Chepkwony having served his second and last term in office.

However, soon after being sworn into office, the Governor and his deputy engaged in a spat over an alleged 60-40 power-sharing deal in the running of the county government.

A month ago, Mr Gachagua publicly stated he would invite Dr Mutai and Mr Kirui to Nyeri for a reconciliation session, in what he said was a do-or-die meeting, “while facing Mount Kenya”. But the venue was switched to Nairobi.

Speaking in Londiani on September 8, during the burial of an advocate Vincent Mutai, son to Kipkelion East Member of Parliament Joseph Cherorot, President Ruto expressed his disappointment with the fallout between the two leaders.

"The President and I are disappointed by the infighting in Kericho county. Recently the President (Dr Ruto) almost cancelled the Kericho county hosting of Mashujaa Day, but I prevailed upon him to let it proceed. The matter is that serious" Mr Gachagua said.

"If you do not heed the people's call to unite and work for them, then we will have no option but to crush you politically… I will go to vernacular radio stations (broadcasting in Kalenjin) and put the case before the people. We will push you out," Mr Gachagua said.

In October last year, a unity deal was hammered out by Senator Cheruiyot and members of the clergy led by Reverend Joyce Tonui of the African Gospel Church saw the two leaders reconcile ahead of a prayer rally presided by the President.

But the deal was short-lived as the two leaders resumed their bickering.

On September 11, Dr Mutai and Mr Kirui held a meeting with Kericho Woman Representative Beatrice Kemei, Ainamoi Member of Parliament Benjamin Langat, Speaker of the County Assembly Patrick Mutai and a section of the Members of the County Assembly where they publicly announced that they had patched up their differences and would work together moving forward, to the benefit of the people.

“(It is) an extraordinary moment of reconciliation in Kericho’s political landscape. After a long-standing misunderstanding, our Consultative Forum was a historic step towards healing. This event showcased the unity and resolve within the executive as we come together to bridge divides and pave the way for a more harmonious county” Dr Mutai stated.

“The Deputy Governor (Mr Kirui) will lead in performance contracting for the County Executive Committee (CECs) members and Chief Officers (COs), provide technical support to water and roads departments, besides linking us (executive) to the county assembly and guiding policy implementation as leader of Government Business” Dr Mutai said.

Mr Kirui, on his part, declared that he would work with the Governor to the benefit of the residents of the region.

“We have ironed out the differences which were genuine and we are going to move forward together in heed of the call by Mr Gachagua to unite,” Mr Kirui said after the meeting.

However, two days later, Mr Kirui issued fresh demands, which he said must be met.

“I want the share of the county administration which I bargained for in a signed memorandum with the Governor leading to my stepping down from contesting the top seat and settling for the deputy position ahead of the UDA party primaries,” Mr Kirui said.

County Assembly has recommended the removal from office of - County Secretary Dr Wesley Bor, County Executive (CEC) Member in charge of Finance and Economic Planning Leonard Ngetich and the CEC Health Services Ms Brenda Bii, Chief Officer in the Office of the Governor Mr Alphonce Rotich, Chief Officer Public Service Management Ms Bettsy Chebet Tonui and Chief Officer Finance Mr Gilbert Bii for their alleged role in the misappropriation of the money meant for 77 Londiani accident victims.

Mr Kirui is demanding they step aside as a pre-condition for working with the Governor, while Dr Mutai has referred the matter back to the assembly for the case of the CS and the CECs, and the COs issue has been put before the County Public Service Board (CPSB).

“All those named in the report by the County Assembly should step aside until they are cleared of any wrongdoing. If they are cleared, they can resume duties, but if found guilty, they should be sacked or prosecuted,” Mr Kirui said in his latest rant against his boss.

It remains to be seen whether the deal will last after the Mashujaa Day celebrations.