Rigathi Gachagua
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Isolating Gachagua: His Mathira MP ‘son’ latest to ditch him

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Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua follows proceedings during the burial of his eldest sister, Leah Wangari Muriuki, at Mirera village in Laikipia County on July 3, 2024.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Lawmaker Eric Wamumbi, the man Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua claims to have helped clinch the Mathira parliamentary seat, is the latest leader in Mt Kenya to bolt out of the DP’s camp, further isolating President William Ruto’s Number Two in ruling coalition Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

So close were they that Mr Gachagua played a central role in the dowry negotiations between the MP and the family of Murang'a Woman Representative Betty Maina late last year.

Mr Gachagua served as Mathira MP between 2017 and 2022. The DP has been working hard to push through his three pet projects in Mt Kenya — regional unity, the fight against alcoholism and the “one-man one-vote one-shilling” formula of sharing revenue — against stiff opposition from his Kenya Kwanza colleagues.

Leaders from the region who are opposed to the DP include National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wa, Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki and his Public Service counterpart Moses Kuria.

Mt Kenya leaders have had a bone to pick with Mr Gachagua for a long time, with their dispute first brought into the public limelight by Murang'a Senator Joe Nyutu, who in February last year proposed Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro to replace Mr Gachagua as Mt Kenya’s political kingpin.

After Mr Gachagua hit back and demanded a public apology from Mr Nyutu, the senator backtracked and apologised.

But a year later, Mr Nyutu was back with a more damning statement, saying: “Gachagua wants us to submit to him like little children, treats us like garbage and should President Ruto make him his running mate in 2027, he will find it difficult to win votes in Mt Kenya region.”

The bickering, said Kikuyu Council of Elders chairman Wachira Kiago, is not healthy for the region and should be stopped.

“We have a crisis in Mt Kenya. We have failed to unite for a common cause. We are not the united House of Mumbi. We are a Tower of Babel,” he told the Nation in an interview.

And it is not a battle the Deputy President is fighting alone, if his allies are to be believed. They say they are in the cross-hairs of Mr Gachagua’s political enemies simply for associating with him.

“Many of us are being profiled because of our association with the DP but we are not worried," said Naivasha MP Jayne Kihara.

“Those working to isolate the DP and stop him from holding the Mountain together are taking their orders from the same people we helped to bring to power in 2022,” she added cryptically.

While senior politicians have avoided attending Mr Gachagua's public functions in the region, Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi made a surprise appearance in Laikipia County last week.

The President did not attend the burial and neither did all other members of the Cabinet aside from Mr Linturi.

But it is last Sunday’s incident in which MP Wamumbi was involved in a public altercation with the DP that has highlighted the seriousness of the political rift in Mt Kenya.

When Dr Ruto picked Mr Gachagua as his running mate ahead of the August 9, 2022 General Election, he in turn picked Mr Wamumbi, who was then the Konyu Ward Representative, and endorsed him for the Mathira seat.

Mr Gachagua would continue to play the role of godfather in Mr Wamumbi's political and social life, acting as his father in his negotiations to marry Ms Maina.

"The parting of ways between Mr Gachagua and Mr Wamumbi is the strongest indication that the DP has a problem. There are three people that you dare not deliberately offend — your mother, your father figure and your uncle,” former Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi said on Monday.

The man who acts as your father in bride price negotiations remains a revered symbol in your life and even when you develop differences, you resolve them in private,” he added.

“Mr Gachagua is the one who has come out to speak ill of his 'son' and the 'son' has hit back, proof that the two are no longer friends,” the politician said.

While Mr Gachagua believes Mr Wamumbi has joined a network he claims is being set up in Mt Kenya to undermine him, the legislator remains defiant.

“Yes, we have a relationship problem with the DP and I will spill the beans in the near future,” he told the Nation. Mr Gachagua has linked Mr Wamumbi to a wider plot “involving a senior official in the Ministry of Interior to sabotage the war against illegal breweries, especially in Mathira where, without the approval of the presidency or Cabinet, 400 bars we had closed were ordered to be reopened”.

Mr Gachagua said there were “traitors” who were being mobilised to undermine his status as Mt Kenya kingpin. 

Mr Ngugi said: “There must be a very big problem in the partnership between Dr Ruto and Mr Gachagua. The rift in the Mt Kenya region is deepening and the divisions are widening.”

Mr Gachagua’s allies claim there is an elaborate scheme to divide Mt Kenya ahead of the 2027 General Election, with five senior politicians from the region at the centre of the plot.