Rigathi Gachagua
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Gachagua litmus test in UDA polls as Ruto calls crisis NEC meeting

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Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua joins a dance during a fundraiser for women and youth economic empowerment at Maralal Stadium, Samburu County on June 7, 2024.

Photo credit: DPCS

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua faces a litmus test in the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) elections – especially in Mt Kenya and Nairobi – where he is seen to have preferred line-ups.

The outcome could expose his soft political underbelly and influence in the ruling party amid his push to create a constituency away from President William Ruto.

In Nairobi, a total of 340 UDA delegates will elect 20 party officials on Monday in an election Mr Gachagua has declared support for Embakasi North MP James Gakuya for the county chairmanship against Governor Johnson Sakaja.

Because of the rows, Dr Ruto called a National Executive Council meeting on Saturday over the mode of elections in Nairobi after talks convened by UDA National Elections Board Chairman Anthony Mwaura on Thursday failed to resolve the stalemate. 

Mr Gakuya wants the party to deploy ballot papers while Mr Sakaja has insisted on the elections being conducted digitally.

The governor, who is banking on his networks, has expressed confidence carrying the day. His side claimed victory in constituency level elections last week. 

During a delegates meeting at Bomas of Kenya, Governor Sakaja said Mr Gakuya “is a project of a senior party official”.

In an interview with the Saturday Nation, Mr Mwaura said the NEC would make the final decision on which voting method to be used in Nairobi.

“My meeting with the candidates was about the method to be deployed. Some want ballot papers instead of digital elections as has been the case,” he said.

“I don’t know where the fears are coming from. Our digital elections have been credible.”

According to the party, county-level elections are to be held in Nairobi, Homa Bay and Busia counties.

“The National Elections Board of the UDA hereby issues an official notice to eligible delegates in Nairobi, Homa Bay and Busia regarding county-level grassroots elections scheduled for June 10, 2024,” the board said.

In the constituency elections, official results by the board show that MP John Kiarie and Mr Gakuya won chairmanship of Dagoretti South and Embakasi North, respectively. 

The two are believed to be in Mr Gachagua’s camp. The others who won the chairmanship are Mr Fredrick Njogu Njoroge (Dagoretti North), Mr Francis Mwai (Embakasi Central), Mr Benson Amutavy (Embakasi East), Mr Peter Dishon (Embakasi South), Ms Diana Katile (Embakasi West), Mr Paul Irungu (Kamukunji) and Mr Antony Mburu Jasho (Kasarani).

Mr John Makare (Kibra), Ms Virginia Waitherero (Lang’ata), Mr Kenneth Macharia (Makadara), Ms Florence Wambui (Mathare), Mr Patrick Ngaruiya (Roysambu), Ms Alice Njoki (Ruaraka) and Mr James Kamau (Westlands) were also elected chairpersons in their constituencies.

The Saturday Nation has established that before the UDA National Steering Committee meeting on elections chaired by President Ruto, the team had postponed the poll agenda.

The election is reportedly causing the jitters in the Mountain as ambitious politicians seek to position themselves in places that unsettle the DP and his allies.

The DP could clash with Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro. The two are positioning themselves as the region’s political kingpin.

“If Mr Gakuya loses to Governor Sakaja, there will be a domino effect across Mt Kenya. This does not sit well with Mr Gachagua,” a UDA official said. 

“If the governor beats Mr Gakuya, then Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wah, Mr Nyoro, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and others will pull the same in their areas. That will surely weaken the DP.”

Mt Kenya UDA elections kick off on June 22 where Nyandarua and Tharaka Nithi counties elect officials. Kiambu, Embu, Meru and Murang’a follow suit on August 10.

On August 24, Nyeri, Kirinyaga and Laikipia will close the Mt Kenya UDA elections.

“We must belong together and speak in one voice in the Mountain with I as your father figure. Buffaloes do not remain together because of love but to fend off common threats,” Mr Gachagua constantly uses the analogy. 

Even so, opposing ambitions have intensified counter-campaigns. 

When hosting UDA officials at his Karen residence on April 24, Mr Gachagua promised credible elections, saying it is the only way to ascertain the strength of the ruling alliance.

“Mt Kenya UDA camps involved in the cut-throat competition for the region’s political soul and with an eye on how the grassroots’ elections will shape 2027 and 2032 contests are perceived to be Gachagua, Nyoro,Jubilee and other fringe parties,” Prof Ngugi Njoroge, a pundit, said. 

“The call by politicians that Mr Gachagua be replaced as President Ruto’s running mate by Mr Nyoro 2027 was no idle talk. It will be a factor in the UDA elections”.

He added that the outcome of the grassroots vote would inform the national delegates list that will be involved in making decisions about 2027 and 2032.

So intense is the jostling for control that Murang’a Senator Joe Nyutu, who leads the Nyoro agenda, said the elections are food for thought.

“We are still looking out for tell-tale signs that can lead us to form an opinion. This is a major exercise that will give a bearing on 2027 and 2032,” the lawmaker told the Saturday Nation

“There are fears and there is optimism. Politics is a game. It is about ambitions, and that is where interests clash.”

Mr Nyutu said what the ground yearns for is inclusivity, fairness and sensitivity “so that we do not compromise the stability of Dr Ruto’s presidency that majority of us agree deserves a second term”.

Former Gatanga MP and Jubilee party member, Nduati Ngugi, said the UDA elections should not be taken to mean endorsing the party as the choice in Mt Kenya.

“History has taught us the dangers of putting our political eggs in one basket,” Mr Ngugi said. 

He added that the UDA elections are likely to lead to fallouts in the region.

“The problem is that the escape route into Jubilee Party might also not be safer if the wing that is led by former Kieni MP Kanini Kega and Nominated MP Sabina Chege gets control,” he said. 

“Mt Kenya cannot be persuaded to kill multi-party democracy by being herded into a monolithic formation.”