Rigathi Gachagua.
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Rigathi Gachagua’s four sink-or-swim options for Mt Kenya ahead of 2027

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Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua’s discontent and restlessness in the Mt Kenya region have ignited a flurry of activities as political actors start exploring options ahead of the 2027 General Election.

A defiant Deputy President loudly pushing for consolidation of the Mountain, President William Ruto’s dalliance with opposition chief Raila Odinga, as well as forging closer ties with ANC leader, Musalia Mudavadi, are some of the things being seen in Mt Kenya as a signal that things will never be the same in the ruling UDA’s house.

Mt Kenya region gave President Ruto 87 percent of votes in the 2022 General Election that largely propelled him to State House. But now, almost three years to the next presidential poll, the region is primed for a rebellion.

Mr Gachagua and his allies have been complaining that there are plans to undermine and isolate the DP. But Mr Gachagua’s critics say his unity push is divisive and detrimental to Mt Kenya. The points of rupture in the Mountain continue to oscillate around Mr Gachagua, former president Uhuru Kenyatta and the camp that swears allegiance to the President.

Behind the scenes, efforts are being made to bring the groups together. And, so far, the DP has failed to marshal the support of elected leaders.

Face rejection

Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga, Naivasha MP Jane Kihara, Maragua MP Mary wa Maua, Juja MP George Koimburi, Embakasi Central MP Benjamin Gathiru “Mejjadonk”, Embakasi North MP James Gakuya, former Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu and Laikipia politician Cate Waruguru have been steadfast in supporting Mr Gachagua.

The Uhuru Kenyatta camp is led by Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni, Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua, former Laikipia governor Muriithi Ndiritu, Kirinyaga Jubilee chairman Muriithi Kang’ara and former presidential aspirant, Peter Kenneth. A majority of senior elected leaders and government officials remain in the President’s camp. They are National Assembly Leader of Majority Kimani Ichung’wah, Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri, Public Service Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria and Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki.

Mr Kiunjuri has since dismissed those plotting against the President while still in government “to simply ship out, wait to compete in 2027 and face rejection since the region is solidly behind the President".

Mr Ichung'wah has also dismissed those he terms as Gachagua loyalists of “trying to close ranks with troublemakers to promote a tribal narrative that seeks to hold President Ruto and the government at ransom for their selfish gain”.

He warned those entertaining the thought of using tribe and self-interests to woo voters during the 2027 election that they will be defeated.

Kikuyu Council of Elders Chairman Wachira Kiago has urged Mt Kenya communities to remain united and focus on development.

“If there is a time when our unity is paramount, it is now. The happenings on the political front pose a threat to the region that is known for its critical voice on the Kenyan political scene. Let us be watchful, lest we be caught flat-footed,” Mr Kiago told Sunday Nation. “As elders, we have pre-empted what lies ahead. We are urging our leaders to unite and rally the region behind them. We’ve been exploring a fall-back plan and we have since reached out to Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka for talks on mutual interest,” he added.

Mr Kiago said they are working to bring together the camps of Mr Gachagua and Mr Kenyatta “so that we can start negotiating for our space in the political duels ahead”.

Mr Kenyatta’s allies have said that there are plans to try and convince him to work with the community and chart an alternative political path for the region ahead of 2027.

“I am privy to those efforts. There have been several meetings between some of the former president’s allies and those in the Kenya Kwanza Alliance from Mt Kenya region. The future of the region is being discussed. There is a risk of being left on our own in an obvious scheme that is being orchestrated to isolate us,” former Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi said.

He said that four options have been placed on the table.

“One, go it alone and contest the presidency, two; unite and demand a written memorandum of understanding with President Ruto, three, seek a new presidential aspirant while retaining the Deputy President’s slot or wait for 2027 and craft a new political identity for ourselves,” he said.

Mr Ngugi said the meetings have had representation from the political class and elders, adding that, “we are expecting to expand as we move on”.

Mr Gachagua has hinted that in the near future he will give direction on what route to take.

“I am neither too wise nor too foolish. They can belittle and dismiss me. I have many people telling me to listen to the ground first, and give directions on the route to take,” he said.

The Kenyatta wing has made it crystal clear that its core agenda is to ensure President Ruto vacates State House during the 2027 elections. The group said that it will pursue all options, including working with disgruntled UDA members.

“We are open to all partnerships including with Mr Gachagua. All those who have realised the Ruto rule is a tragedy are welcomed. We remain open for all possibilities that can make us get him (Ruto) out of State House through the ballot in 2027 vote,” Mr Kioni said. He added: “The only option that we cannot embrace is supporting Dr Ruto or waiting for 2032— those are suicidal options”. Political analyst Prof Ngugi Njoroge told Sunday Nation that the four options sound practical and realistic given that we cannot run away from the fact that Kenya’s succession politics start immediately a new government is sworn in after every five years.

He said the option of Mt Kenya going it alone and contesting the presidency is risky and tricky.

Written pact

He said that it is risky in that the bid will not succeed without teaming up with other regions but, even worse, it can lead to a rerun that will deny Kenyans an outright winner, since for a candidate to emerge victorious he or she must garner 50 plus one percent of the votes.

Prof Njoroge said the option of demanding a written pact with President Ruto can only be left for those who believe in Dr Ruto’s rule.

“This will cause us more divisions since there are those among us who have totally refused to embrace him,” he said. The don said that in case Mr Gachagua’s camp picks the option of retaining the DP’s position and shopping for a new presidential candidate that remains the greatest threat to President Ruto’s tenure in State House.

Presidential aspirant

“If Mr Gachagua unites with Mr Kenyatta and they jointly shop for an alternative presidential aspirant, this will be a shocker for the Ruto administration. I’m also looking at a possibility where Mr Kenyatta manages to convince Mr Odinga to play ball and they jointly pursue this cause,” he said.

Prof Njoroge added: “If Mt Kenya region shopped for a presidential aspirant from Nyanza, Western region or Ukambani, then this would pose a historical threat of making President Ruto the first one-term president”.

Kikuyu Council of Elders patron Mr Kung’u Muigai said they are doing all they can to heal the wounds caused during the 2022 elections.

“We defied our own, Mr Kenyatta, who fronted opposition chief Raila Odinga as his preferred successor while the majority of us supported Dr Ruto,” he said.

Mr Muigai said elders are happy that Mr Gachagua has publicly apologised to the Kenyatta family for the demeaning comments made against them.

“In our community, he who publicly says sorry is instantly branded a peacemaker. What we are now working on is to bring Mr Kenyatta on board. We hope he can exercise magnanimity and accept to reunite with his community for common benefits,” said Mr Muigai.