William Ruto and Rigathi Gachagua
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Ruto-Gachagua tiff: DP Gachagua in search of new political outfit

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President William Ruto and Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua arrive for a Cabinet meeting at State House, Nairobi. 

Photo credit: PCS

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua is in the process of acquiring a new political party as his split with President William Ruto escalates.

Nation has established that Mr Gachagua is actively engaging officials of The New Democrats (TND) as he scouts for an option away from President Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

And Mr Gachagua’s confidant, Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga, in an exclusive interview with the Nation, declared that should the President continue allowing the attacks against the DP, and possibly try to sideline him, he risks losing the current support he enjoys in Mt Kenya region.

TND Secretary-General David Musembi confirmed that the party has been in talks with people allied to the DP for a possible political deal.

“There have been talks, but there is nothing tangible to speak about at the moment. Maybe something will come out much later,” said Mr Musembi who declined to give names of the DP’s allies who have been engaging with them.

The Registrar of Parties Anne Nderitu told the Nation that the party had made applications to make changes in its list of officials. She, however, could not provide specific details as she was away from the office.

Mr Jimmy Kibaki — the son of former President Mwai Kibaki — who resigned as the party’s deputy party leader early this month told the Nation that he has “heard of rumours” of Mr Gachagua’s interest after he quit the party.

Political deal

Another reliable source said the DP was also reaching out to some political players, including a former top government official in former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration, for a possible political deal.

“He has acquired a political party and recently approached a governor from Western Kenya to be part of his team. He even asked him to plan a meeting with a senior former Cabinet minister so that they can discuss future politics,” said a source within the Presidency.

Mr Gachagua at the weekend accused some allies of President Ruto in his Rift Valley backyard of being used to undermine him.

“Some few politicians who are around the President want to meddle with Mt Kenya politics to fight me. Mt Kenya politics are so 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 over the weekend.

On Tuesday, Mr Kahiga threw a spanner in the works, stating that there is another list of operatives being used to fight the DP.

“It is true battlefronts have been opened against the DP. One is the Gen Z group which believes that it is their time to assert themselves in leadership positions and since they don't have the guts or muscle to take on the Presidency, they opt for the seemingly weaker of the two — the DP,” Mr Kahiga told the Nation during in an exclusive interview.

“These are the operatives with close proximity to Dr Ruto including his media/social media strategists. The others are his friends who have been around him for long, the young MPs from the mountain.”

Female governors

The governor noted that the other group fighting the DP is “the G7” which is being fronted by Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, under the guise of seeking to increase the number of female governors in the next election.

Mr Kahiga said she is using that as a ploy to strategically place herself as a possible replacement of the DP.

While speaking during the launch of the G7 Council Women Governors Caucus Strategy at Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi in March, President Ruto said he would sit down with the DP and agree that should the UDA front a man for a position in the next election, the running mate must be a woman.

This remark is said to have unsettled Mr Gachagua, who foresees “betrayal,” hence the move by his allies to plan for the future.

The President said this will ensure that UDA leads from the front in supporting women, and consequently help in attaining the two-thirds gender rule.

President Ruto being the UDA automatic flag bearer in 2027, should his suggestion suffice, Mr Gachagua would be left on the periphery.

“‘Riggy G’ and myself, when we discuss our future politics later on, we must agree that going forward if a man is a candidate for President in our party a woman must be the running mate and if a woman is a candidate, then a man can be a running mate,” the President said then.

Mr Kahiga did not mince his words during the interview when he said that President Ruto is a wise politician who will not change his running mate, but warned that should that happen, he risks losing the support he enjoys in the region.”

“If he changes his deputy, he owes the mountain an explanation. Otherwise, he risks losing the support he is enjoying,” the governor said.

He said the feeble attempts at fighting Mr Gachagua would ultimately bring the mountain together and keep it solidly behind him the DP.

“Betrayal is sacrilegious for the mountain. Mt Kenya stood with Dr Ruto because former President Uhuru Kenyatta betrayed him,” he said.

The Nation has established that apart from the DP’s claims of being fought by President Ruto’s close associates, and the “women factor” in the 2027 race, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s growing influence in government circles has also upset him.

Mr Odinga seems to have found a footing in the Kenya Kwanza administration, following his endorsement for the chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) by President Ruto.

Since his declaration to go for the top continental post in February next year, only President Ruto and Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, who is also the Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Cabinet Secretary, have openly endorsed his bid, while Mr Gachagua has steered clear the campaigns.

Senior position

Having held the second most senior position in government, analysts say, it may not be tenable for the DP to play third fiddle in an administration he believes he helped establish.

Political analyst Herman Manyora says that Mr Gachagua hails from the vote-rich Mt Kenya region of about 5-6 million and cannot be wished away by the President.

“A man coming with that number of votes, you cannot wish him away. So if they decide to dump him and he stood and the community is annoyed and backs him, he will either be number one or number two, and there will be a run off.

“Therefore, I would advise the President to leave Gachagua and Mt Kenya alone. Let the mountain sleep peacefully, let it sleep and snore,” argues Mr Manyora.

He adds that it’s a lie to say Mt Kenya voted for Dr Ruto without Mr Gachagua’s influence.

“He (Ruto) may have got votes but they could not be enough for him to beat Raila. If he wants to think he got the votes by himself, let him touch Gachagua. Let him continue using his boys to touch Gachagua and go get the votes in 2027. He won’t get them,” Mr Manyora added.

Mathira MP Erick Wamumbi says it is unfair for a few people to pursue the route taken by the former regime where Dr Ruto, while serving as deputy president was humiliated.

“You cannot do the same things and get different results. The results will be the same. So we must understand that we have only one President and one Deputy President,” the MP said.

Asked whether DP Gachagua is ready to play third fiddle in UDA should he lose the running mate ticket in 2027, he said; “We shall cross that bridge when we get there…”

Outspoken politicians like Githunguri MP Gathoni wa Muchomba and former Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu want Mr Gachagua to declare his interest in the top seat.

"In 2027 Mt Kenya must field a presidential candidate. The problems he is facing are linked to a scheme to divide us (Mt Kenya). We should unite behind one of our own and face the schemers at the ballot if they'll not respect our 47 percent contribution to the government," Mr Waititu said.

Ms Wamuchomba said: "The person to get the mantle of kingpin should be the one to run for the presidency in 2027. Our elders should take note of that.”

Mountain politics

Mr Kahiga insisted that mountain politics are very unique and that it is always brought together by threats to its welfare or betrayal of whatever kind.

“Nobody installs leaders for the mountain because unlike other areas, the mountain is fairly independent in both its actions and in its decision-making. Look at the last election; the mountain walked away from its own and chose to be with Dr Ruto despite him being from elsewhere. This is despite frantic efforts by President Uhuru to bring the mountain to his side,” he said.

Mr Kahiga described DP Gachagua as a battle-hardened political soldier, insisting that his ability to withstand relentless attacks shall be proven in the days to come.

 “He is not under any sponsor politically or financially. He is his own man with the mountain behind him. He survived the Kibicho torture and arrests to become DP.

He will survive this too and come out stronger.

“The mountain pledges loyalty to only one leader at a time. Anyone from the Mountain threatening DP is branded a collaborator, a betrayer and a gakunia being used to fight our son.”