Rigathi Gachagua and Kithure Kindiki
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Gachagua vs Kindiki: Return of the raging 2022 running mate rivalry

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Then Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua (left) with Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki in Kanjuiri, Nyandarua County, on April 03, 2022.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The ‘one man one shilling one vote’ debate has revived the 2022 running mate duel between then-Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua (now Deputy President) and Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki (now Interior Cabinet Secretary).

While Mr Gachagua supports the formula, Prof Kindiki has said he cannot be party to “a scheme or declaration that seeks to divide and at the same time discriminate against some parts of the country.” 

The recent exchanges have exposed the deep divisions between the two senior Mt Kenya leaders, who were the top candidates in Dr William Ruto’s intense search for a running mate for the August 2022 election that culminated in Mr Gachagua’s selection. 

Prof Kindiki’s position is that “proponents of the mantra neither understand its implications for Kenya’s future, nor do they fathom its long-term impact on the parts of Kenya they purport would benefit from it.”

In a quick rejoinder, Mr Gachagua has hit back saying “those opposed will not bother us since even when we were fighting the colonial invasion, we still had tukunia, ngati, komerera and kunda ngutume” — all words being from the Gikuyu language and meaning good for nothing traitors and which President William Ruto noted in a recent meeting.

While attending the Akorino faith annual conference in Nakuru County last weekend, Dr Ruto said the derogatory terms are a major source of conflict between Mr Gachagua and some Mt Kenya leaders, urging him to “go slow on these new vocabulary that you are treating us to.”

University don Macharia Munene says “the fight in this government mostly is not even about ideals and policies, seems like long carried grudges erupting one by one.”

He adds that some of the eruptions are taking their toll on the government’s image and damaging the reputation of the Deputy President’s office. 

So far, Prof Kindiki and other senior Kenya Kwanza leaders have joined the President in a chorus of condemnation against MrGachagua’s push for more resources to Mt Kenya in what is shaping up to be an impending falling-out in the ruling coalition that could shape the 2027 election agenda.

Rigathi Gachagua and Kithure Kindiki

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua (left) confers with Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki in Nyeri town on April 14, 2023.


Photo credit: File | DPCS

The Deputy President has, for his part, stuck to his guns as he defended Mt Kenya unity calls and push to get more resources. 

The tussle for Dr Ruto’s running mate, as described by former Kiambu governor William Kabogo who was present, ended up with Prof Kindiki getting far more votes than Mr Gachagua.

Dr Ruto went ahead to pick the Mathira MP. While applauding Prof Kindiki, he justified the choice by saying Mr Gachagua was a strong character and represented many of Dr Ruto’s visions, among other reasons.

In the end, Dr Ruto said the decision was solely his, something that did not resonate with Prof Kindiki and his supporters. 

The issue has since returned as part of the ‘one man one vote one shilling’ debate, with some politicians opposed to Mr Gachagua pointing out it was a “mistake” to pick him as a running mate.

The 2022 decision by Dr Ruto to pick Mr Gachagua threatened to split the presidential ticket he was trying to build in the midst of a storm of the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta settling on opposition chief Raila Odinga as his preferred successor. 

“We were in a tight fix yes, when Prof Kindiki was not picked he responded by declaring disinterest in politics, even releasing a public statement that he was taking a sabbatical leave from electoral politics. It was a dangerous statement since at stake were Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Embu counties that belong to Mt Kenya East showing signs of going to Mr Odinga’s camp,” says Kikuyu Council of Elders patron Kung’u Muigai.

Had Mt Kenya East rebelled against the Ruto presidential bid, Mr Odinga would comfortably be the sitting president.

Mr Muigai says, “Kindiki had to literally be followed to be convinced that all was not lost and should Dr Ruto win, then he would be handed an overload of state power.”

After Prof Kindiki softened and accepted to participate in the Ruto-Gachagua campaigns, Mr Muigai says “the Mt Kenya East wing swung back with him into the campaigns and was critical in the eventual narrow win that Ruto posted against Mr Odinga and the eventual appointment to the powerful Interior CS.”

Dr Ruto was declared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chair Wafula Chebukati as president elect on August 15, 2022, by garnering 50.49 of the validly cast votes and Mr Odinga coming in second with 48.85 per cent.

According to government insiders, who spoke in confidence to avoid publicly discussing senior officials in public, there is no love lost between Mr Gachagua and Prof Kindiki. 

Rigathi Gachagua and Kithure Kindiki

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua with Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki at a past leaders' meeting in Nyeri on April 14, 2023.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

There have also been reports that they have been tussling over the choice of security people to serve in the Mt Kenya region.

A senior security officer, who spoke in confidence, told the Saturday Nation that “by close of 2023, there prevailed a major security backlog as many transferred in and out of the region could not move as the two tussled…some of us had to stay at home without reporting to new duty stations waiting for the stalemate to be resolved.”

The two have not been seen to accompany each other to Mt Kenya functions and Prof Kindiki has strongly come out as a man whose allegiance is to the President and no one else.

Mt Kenya political analyst Prof Ngugi Njoroge says, “What we are witnessing in the relationship between Mr Gachagua and Prof Kindiki is that of incompatibility and not resource and positions sharing formula.”

He adds, “In the whole of Dr Ruto presidential campaigns, Prof Kindiki was there as key politicians, including their candidate, was promising ‘one man, one vote, one shilling’ formula and never did he oppose.”

However, Mr Njoroge notes that Prof Kindiki has never supported the formula “and this can be out of the fact that should it apply, then his Tharaka Nithi County will stand to lose since it has low population”.

According to the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census (KPHC) results, Tharaka Nithi County has 393,177 people, the lowest in Mt Kenya, followed by Laikipia that has 518, 560, Kirinyaga with 610, 411, Embu with 680, 599 and Nyeri with 759, 163.

The only major gainers in the region should the Gachagua version apply is Kiambu County that has 2, 417, 735 people, followed by Meru with 1,545,714 people and Murang’a with 1,056,640 .

It is this data that Prof Kindiki says do not favour Mt Kenya’s agitation for population-based resource allocation as well as projections into the future, where research has deduced that the traditionally dominant ethnic groups might be overtaken by those deemed to be minority today.