The war of words between Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition leader Raila Odinga has sucked in their allies, even as talks between the government and the opposition drag on.
Mr Gachagua has called the talks a waste of time and asked National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah, who is leading the ruling Kenya Kwanza team, to withdraw from the process.
During a funeral in Kericho County on Friday, Mr Gachagua accused Mr Odinga of disrespecting institutions.
The opposition leader in turn said the DP is a threat to the new unity bid, insisting that he is not interested in joining the government.
On Saturday, MPs allied to Mr Odinga condemned Mr Gachagua as those in the DP’s camp accused the opposition boss of attempting to use the talks to sneak into government.
National Assembly Minority Whip, Junet Mohamed, said Mr Gachagua is sabotaging the talks because he is afraid of being politically outshone by Mr Ichung’wah and Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot.
Mr Mohamed said the DP is using old tactics of painting Mr Odinga in bad light in order to remain politically relevant and gain support.
Alego Usonga MP, Samuel Atandi, said Mr Gachagua has no political clout even after becoming deputy president, “falling behind Ichungw’ah and (Kiharu MP) Ndindi Nyoro”.
“The man has a problem. He thinks talking negatively on the bipartisan talks will give him political mileage in Mt Kenya where Ichung’wa and Nyoro are doing better. Gachagua needs to know that Kenya is bigger than his ambition,” Mr Atandi said.
During the funeral on Friday, Mr Gachagua said the talks are not necessary and asked Mr Ichung’wah and Mr Cheruiyot to go and work for their constituents instead.
“I called Senator Cheruiyot and Mr Ichung’wah to find out if they have nothing else to do. I asked them to go back to their constituencies and work for the electorate instead of wasting time on the so-called dialogue,” the DP said.
He issued a similar statement in Machakos last month.
“Nothing will come out of the talks they are sending (Wiper Party leader) Kalonzo Musyoka to. I say this as the Deputy President,” Mr Gachagua said.
The teams in the bipartisan talks issued a statement urging Kenyans to ignore Mr Gachagua after the Machakos remarks.
Embu Governor and deputy leader in the Kenya Kwanza team in the talks, Cecily Mbarire, said Mr Gachagua’s remarks were unfortunate.
“Being a member of the Kenya Kwanza team, I assure you that we are fully committed to these talks. We are here for a purpose and have clear instructions on what to do,” the governor said.
“I urge Kenyans not to take anything they hear outside these talks seriously. There is something we want to achieve through these talks.”
Jubilee Secretary-General, Jeremiah Kioni, said Mr Gachagua does not want the talks to succeed because the political stars of Mr Ichung’wah and Senator Cheruiyot are shining bright.
“He is an isolated man. Even President Ruto is represented by the Prime Cabinet Secretary on assignments outside Kenya,” Mr Kioni said.
He added that the DP thrives on talking negatively about other people instead of focussing on the agenda of the government and it has achievements.
However, Kenya Kwanza-allied MPs supported Mr Gachagua, saying the talks are a waste of time and resources.
Said Mukurweini MP John Kaguchia: “It is Ichungwah’s star that is likely to dim because the people of Mt Kenya do not support the talks.”
Nandi Senator, Samson Cherargei, termed the talks an attempt by Mr Odinga to force a handshake, referring to the political truce between the opposition leader and then-president Uhuru Kenyatta on March 9, 2018.
“He is trying to save face by assuring his supporters that he has not abandoned them in the fight against the government,” Mr Cherargei said.
He added that those thinking the DP is fighting the talks because of political clout “just want to appear in media headlines”.
“The DP is Gachagua whether the talks succeed or not. It’s time those talks come to an end,” Senator Cherargei said.
“We are busy fulfilling our promises. If we allow Raila to keep driving the narrative of the government not working, people might believe him.”
East Africa Legislative Assembly MP, Maina Karobia said dialogue does not mean everybody speaks from the same page.
He told the bipartisan talk team to address the concerns raised by Mr Gachagua.
“The DP is in order to express his views regarding the priorities of the country. The dialogue should not be a meeting of politicians. It should dwell on matters affecting Kenyans,” Mr Karobia said.
The DP has been telling Mr Odinga to leave politics.
On his way to the Devolution Conference in Eldoret last month, Mr Gachagua said Mr Odinga needs to retire from politics “so that the government can give him the monthly stipend received by individuals aged 70 and above”.
“President Ruto gave the greenlight for elderly people to be registered in order to get the stipend every month. I have ordered the Principal Secretary to register Raila in the programme so that he can receive his Sh2,000 and the rest,” he said.