Rigathi Gachagua
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Grand confusion in Kenya's political landscape

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Deputy President Rigathi Gachaua addresses worshippers at Nakuru Athletics Club on June 16, 2024, during the consecration of ACK Nakuru Diocese Bishop Antony Mambo.

Photo credit: Boniface Mwangi | Nation Media Group

Confusion has hit the country’s political scene as President William Ruto’s administration faces growing defiance from within and without.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua is leading the defiance from within, while opposition leader Raila Odinga continues to blow hot and cold.

Mr Gachagua has been on a tour of his Mt Kenya region in what observers see as an attempt to galvanise support to boost his bargaining power. On Saturday, June 15, the DP told off President Ruto’s close allies whom he accused of trying to undermine him.

“The problem is that some people who are friends with the President want to be my boss. Even his assistants and bloggers want to order me around,” he charged. Adding that he was being fought for trying to unite his Mt Kenya backyard.

President Ruto has warned against tribal mobilisation, saying “... let us not contribute in divisive politics. Don’t take us back. We’ve heard of komerera, gakunia (collaborators), terms which we do not understand,” the President said last week.

DP Rigathi Gachagua: I am not a tribalist

His allies including Council of Governors Chairperson Anne Waiguru, Cabinet secretaries Kithure Kindiki (Interior), Aden Duale (Defence) and Kipchumba Murkomen (Transport), have also told off the DP against his Mt Kenya unity drive.

But it is President Ruto’s backing of Mr Odinga for the chairmanship of the African Union Commission (AUC) that seems to be the latest thorn in the DP’s flesh. On Saturday, he questioned why Mt Kenya people should not embrace former President Uhuru Kenyatta whose only mistake was to front Mr Odinga in the 2022 election, yet President Ruto had also embraced the opposition chief.

Political analysts argue that even though the President has offered Mr Odinga access to visiting heads of state and government, their relationship transcends the AUC bid, thus causing jitters in government.

“It is part of the arithmetic of President Ruto's re-election plans,” said political analyst Javans Bigambo. “Raila will no doubt show gratitude by supporting Ruto's re-election and if this arrangement works, then Ruto would only need half support from Central, to escape the Mt Kenya blackmail.”

Political deals

He added: “Any political deals come attached with strings of suspicion and fears. That’s what could be contributing to DP Rigathi’s lack of peace of mind; fear of future surprises.”

Prof Gitile Naituli of Multi-Media University said: “There is a great Raila factor in the squabbling in government pitting President Ruto’s allies and his deputy. Gachagua feels that Raila is making inroads into the Kenya Kwanza administration, a government he did not support.”

He added that the only way Mr Gachagua can unsettle President Ruto is by marshalling “his troops in Parliament to oppose the Finance Bill 2024”.

The current confusion in government has certain similarities with the Uhuru administration. While addressing an audience at Chatham House in the United Kingdom in the run-up to the 2022 election, Dr Ruto, then DP, said that President Kenyatta was a squatter in the opposition party and was running a “mongrel of a government”.

Raila, Mudavadi presser on status of Kenya's candidacy for AU Chairmanship

Mr Odinga’s current quest for the AUC post seems to have slowed down his opposition to the government and has continued to avoid press conferences convened by his Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition.

Serve the continent

“I need the endorsement of the government of Kenya for that Africa position,” Mr Odinga said during a recent presser with Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi. “The Kenyan government did not ask me. I made the decision myself that I want to serve the continent.”

But the ODM leader has waded into the controversy surrounding the push for one man, one vote, one shilling revenue-sharing formula, backing the proposal being pushed by Mr Gachagua and thus contradicting the government’s position.

Insisting that he is embracing the debate with an open mind, Mr Odinga argued that the country should have the conversation.

But his deputy Hassan Joho said this was not the right way to go.

“ODM is a democratic party where each member is allowed to speak his mind. For as long as we are not whipped formally on this revenue sharing formula ... my position against it remains clear,” Mr Joho told the Nation.

Mr Odinga has also made his position clear on the Finance Bill, 2024, declaring that it goes against the hopes of Kenyans who expected the government to lessen the tax burden.

Mwangi Kiunjuri says he won't be intimidated into supporting DP Gachagua as Mt Kenya kingpin

Despite Mr Odinga’s ambivalence, his allies have stepped up their onslaught against government officials. On Saturday during the burial of Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda’s mother, ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna challenged ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo and Internal Security Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo to be national leaders and not to dwell in their backyards.

He went on: “This government has become so bad to an extent even Rigathi Gachagua now starts to look good and is even advising leaders against disrespecting the people. How can this happen?”