President William Ruto
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Facing Mount Kenya: President Ruto visit seeks to calm restive region

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President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua at Lake Naivasha Resort on February 21, 2024.

Photo credit: Boniface Mwangi | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto heads to the restive Mt Kenya region today, at a time when the twin protests by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and former President Uhuru Kenyatta are threatening to ferment a rebellion against his Kenya Kwanza government.

The visit also comes at a time when Mr Gachagua and opposition leaders in the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition from the region are leading a campaign for the one-man-one-vote- one-shilling revenue sharing formula, a call that does not augur well with the President who feels it is divisive. Dr Ruto will be attending a farmers’ event in Meru today, June 13.

The place of miraa and muguka — plants that are of economic value to Mt Kenya East counties of Meru, Embu and Tharaka Nithi — also remains shaky, after Coast leaders threatened to ban the plant in the region.

DP Rigathi Gachagua: I am not a tribalist

Some MPs from the region have also threatened to oppose new punitive taxation measures contained in the Finance Bill, 2024, that is currently before the National Assembly. The President is keen to have the tax Bill passed.

But amid the growing political tensions in the region, President Ruto on Tuesday chaired a Cabinet meeting which considered and approved a debt waiver for coffee farmers.

The meeting, also attended by DP Gachagua, sanctioned the write-off of historical debts totalling to Sh6.8 billion owed by coffee farmers nationwide, a move that will immensely benefit Mt Kenya.

President Ruto has also moved to end the dispute around Mr Kenyatta’s retirement benefits.

On Tuesday, Dr Ruto constituted a team led by the Head of Public Service Felix Koskei to immediately address all the issues raised by his predecessor, including his budget, the location of his office and attendant staff establishment.

Prior to Mr Kenyatta’s protests, Mr Gachagua had accused some leaders close to the President of working to undermine him.

On Sunday, the DP publicly expressed the challenges he has been facing on transport, following weeks of claims that he has been denied military aircraft.

Transport challenges

“Your Excellency, I want to apologise for coming late. I’m not someone who lacks discipline, I was a uniformed officer.

“I had challenges with my transport arrangements and was stuck between Longonot and Naivasha for about two hours,” said the DP who had arrived at the presidential function in Nakuru aboard a private helicopter.

On Tuesday, Mr Gachagua took a Kenya Airways commercial flight to attend a function in Mombasa.

But the DP’s frustrations would later be detailed by his confidant, Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga, who openly castigated the Ruto administration for mistreating Mr Gachagua.

And last month, the DP publicly linked some of the President’s allies to his tribulations.

“Some few politicians who are around the President want to meddle with Mt Kenya politics to fight me. Mt Kenya politics is complicated and what we hate is betrayal.

“As Mt Kenya, we have never interfered with Rift Valley politics and we deserve respect,” the DP said in Uasin Gishu, the President’s backyard.

But as the tension between the President and his deputy escalated, on Monday, retired President Kenyatta threw a spanner in the works, after he detailed his frustrations in the hands of his successor’s administration.

In a classic case of reversed roles, Mr Kenyatta — who was accused of mistreating and plotting to block Dr Ruto, then his deputy, from ascending to power — openly bewailed how he has been frustrated by State House.

Through his spokesperson Kanze Dena-Mararo, Mr Kenyatta accused President Ruto of refusing to pay for his office and denying him his Sh1.1 billion budget for two consecutive financial years.

Kanze Dena speaks on Uhuru Kenyatta's retirement benefits

Analysts see the protests by Mr Kenyatta and Mr Gachagua as having the potential to whip up emotions against the Ruto administration in the region.

Ahead of the President’s visit, Mr Kahiga claimed the “Gachagua-Uhuru attacks” were aimed at undermining the Mountain.

“If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it is definitely a duck. Why aren’t Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka, complaining about their pension?

“While it may be due to genuine reasons, it smacks of discrimination of the highest order,” Mr Kahiga told Nation.


He pointed out that whereas the retired president “may have wronged the powers that be, he deserves his legally provided pension and facilitation for his office.”

“On the denial of aircraft for Mr Gachagua, many attempted explanations have been made, but why is it so hard to give the explanations to him? If you add one and one, the answer is never three but two,” the Nyeri governor charged.

Embakasi Central MP Benjamin Gathiru said whatever is happening to Mr Gachagua and Mr Kenyatta should not happen to any leader of their status.

“The worst part is that this is supported by some Mt Kenya leaders,” lamented the MP.

Political analyst Martin Oloo argues that whatever is happening to the DP and the former president is “the making of a rebellion and politics of hatred”.

“The more Mount Kenya feels mistreated, the more it will foment rebellion in Kenya Kwanza. If the Deputy President is being humiliated and the former President from the Mountain is being disrespected, it can call for protection from their kindred. ‘We are preparing ourselves for tough political atmosphere’,” said Mr Oloo.

For political commentator Mark Bichachi, the mountain is already revolting based on their statements in Limuru Three.

“The current treatment of the former president and the current DP are only creating more sympathy for them and apathy against Kenya Kwanza. Remember the mountain has already expressed sympathy for Kenya Kwanza. The same script may easily apply here,” he says.

Mr Herman Manyora, another analyst, also argues that by denying Mr Kenyatta his legitimate retirement benefits and showing DP Gachagua open mistreatment, “Ruto’s government is inviting serious hostility from an increasingly restive, but united Mt Kenya region.”

“The consequences to Ruto might be catastrophic,” Mr Manyora adds.

According to Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni, the Ruto presidency was a disaster since it has banned debate on the one-man-one-vote-one shilling as the principle of representation and resource sharing.

Bad man

At the same time, Former Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu is leading another pack that is accusing the President of going against Mt Kenya’s wish of keeping ODM leader Raila Odinga away from power.

Dr Ruto has backed Mr Odinga’s bid for the chairmanship of the African Union Commission (AUC) in next year’s poll.

Mr Waititu claims that Mt Kenya rebelled against Mr Kenyatta, not because he was a bad man, but because he was proposing that the region vote for Mr Odinga in the 2022 polls.

But National Assembly Majority leader Kimani Ichung’wah dismissed the claims as tribal and being perpetuated by politicians “who want to hold the President and country captive”.

“The President as the symbol of national unity and in whose hands national stability and prosperity is constitutionally bestowed upon cannot afford to debate regional politics in such personalized parameters,” said Mr Ichung’wah.

Minimum returns

Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua told Nation that the Ruto administration had lied to farmers that it would increase their market gains by enforcing guaranteed minimum returns on cash crops as well as in the dairy sector. “But for two years, the government is only proposing taxes on domestic animals, cash crops and also delaying coffee payments,” she stated.

Kikuyu Council of Elders Chairman Mr Wachira Kiago accused some of the President’s allies of attempting to censor Mt Kenya leaders.

“The President should order his men to cease the irritating and unsolicited advice whenever they hear that we are meeting as a community,” he said.

Taxation is another issue the President has been accused of hurting Mt Kenya.

“The Ruto administration is coming out as one whose intention is to kill all enterprises. We are trying to advise him that he should not overtax us but rather widen the tax net…But he is on the rampage hurting all sectors with additional taxes. The kind of taxes he is proposing will certainly kill savings, divestments and earnings hence aggravating cycle of poverty,” said former presidential aspirant Peter Kenneth.