William Ruto
Caption for the landscape image:

Ruto's make or break Parliamentary Group meeting as DP tiff revives regional caucus 

Scroll down to read the article

President William Ruto chairs a past UDA National Steering Committee meeting at UDA Headquarters on April 2, 2024.

Photo credit: PSC

President William Ruto has called for a crisis UDA National Executive Council (NEC) meeting on Saturday in the face of the escalating tiff between him and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua, but a Kenya Kwanza Parliamentary Group (PG) meeting at State House ahead of a crucial vote by legislators on the contested Finance Bill 2024 has been moved by a week.

President Ruto seeks to use the meetings to confront the ugly political wrangling that has rocked his party and threatened a wedge between him and Mr Gachagua. 

At the same time, he seeks to rally the MPs to vote for his new tax measures that seem unpopular among majority of Kenyans.

The battle to control Nairobi in the UDA party elections has become so emotive that it has forced President Ruto to convene an urgent meeting of top officials.

The fight for the county chairmanship is between Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja and Embakasi North MP James Gakuya.

Insiders told the Nation the President is expected to rein in on the escalating public exchanges and supremacy wars pitting UDA members against each other.

The party talks are expected to be held ahead of Monday’s voting where a total of 340 UDA delegates will pick 20 party officials, in an election that the Deputy President is seen as supporting Mr Gakuya for the county chairmanship.

Dr Ruto called for the meeting following a stalemate over the mode of elections to be deployed in the Nairobi elections.

Mr Gakuya wants the party to deploy ballot papers while Mr Sakaja said the elections should be conducted digitally.

A meeting convened by UDA National Elections Board chairman Anthony Mwaura on Thursday evening did not yield any resolution as each side refused to back off from their demands.

UDA has been holding its elections digitally after procuring 10,000 election tablets. MP Gakuya has cried foul over an alleged attempt to rig him out, claims that Mr Sakaja has dismissed.

The Nairobi Governor said his opponent had sensed defeat and was now preparing to reject the outcome.

The latest development in the ruling alliance also comes in the backdrop of a crisis meeting of Rift Valley MPs held on Wednesday to weigh in on the tensions and other pertinent issues affecting the President’s backyard.

The minutes of the meeting obtained by the Nation, indicate a number of issues the MPs want President Ruto’s government to address, which include the conduct of Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries.

Although efforts to get further updates on the meeting proved futile, those who spoke on condition of anonymity were categorical that they should not be sucked into the public spats and ongoing verbal exchanges between President Ruto and his deputy.

“The President alone shall answer his deputy,” reads part of the resolutions of the meeting.

This comes after Dr Ruto gave the MPs a free pass to criss-cross the country, contradicting DP Gachagua who had earlier urged them to stay in their respective constituencies and serve the electorate instead of hooping around in choppers causing taxpayers’ billions of shillings.

Mr Gachagua also talked about seeing darkness ahead and the President’s rebut by asking the church to pray for the country to see light and condemned the prophets of doom.

The legislators’ meeting held at Parliament’s small dining room was chaired by Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot, lifting the lid on the fast deteriorating relations within the ruling party that now requires Dr Ruto’s urgent intervention.

Apart from the Ruto-Gachagua spat, the leaders had 10 other issues touching on resources, relations with the Executive and the kingpin debate.

“We demand respect and attention from our CSs and PSs. Give us enough time to air our requests during presidential visits,” reads the demand.

They resolved: “We need a meeting with the president, and on a regular basis for us to remain solid as a team. Not only when problems arise.”

Chairpersons (of committees) to consider other members in budget allocations. We have a few members in the Budget allocation committees.

The government should take care of our community interest and balance all our constituencies,” said the minutes.

The MPs are reported to have expressed apprehension that Mt Kenya receives more budget perks courtesy of the committee chairs in the house.

This is in light of Mr Gachagua’s push for one man, one vote, one-shilling push, which has put him at loggerhead with Dr Ruto’s close allies.

“We must uphold our unity as a community. Respect is a two-way thing. The kingpin position in our community will be held till 2028,” the meeting resolved.

The meeting also discussed the “deliberate economic empowerment from our boss to individual leaders.”

Although these are the minutes of the meeting, those privy to the meeting revealed that the actions of the DP featured prominently, with some MPs arguing that he is the biggest beneficiary in government with the lion share of members in Cabinet positions.

On the PG that was initially supposed to be held on Monday but has now been moved to June 17, the split in the ruling alliance played out on Thursday night in a high-profile WhatsApp group that includes Dr Ruto, Mr Gachagua, Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries and MPs.

Sources in the group told Nation how a message by National Assembly Majority Whip Silvanus Osoro inviting the MPs for the PG at 7am on June 10 triggered a heated exchange in the group way past midnight.

On Friday, Mr Osoro sent out another message indicating the dates had been moved by a week.

However, the earlier message is said to have started a debate, with some members reportedly saying they will vote for the Finance Bill based on the “instructions” of the President while others said legislators needed to read the Bill and understand its implications before making a decision. 

In the discussions by the members, there was a general feeling that the Bill is unpopular among the people thus the need for MPs to go around and tell their constituents about the economic benefits of people paying taxes.

The wrangles in UDA also played out in the group, as some members especially from Mt Kenya raised concerns over certain leaders, who have been going around in the region calling others traitors.

The situation has been replicated in other groups, where the president and DP are members.

“There are various groups where I have seen attacks, in the last one hour (Friday), people have been attacking the DP and tagging him. This is turning nasty. This civil war is totally out of hand,” said a member of the various groups who sought anonymity.

National Assembly Leader of Majority Kimani Ichung’wah fired a shot, demanded that they be respected and mentored by the senior leaders, without naming names.

When making his contributions on the Statute Law (miscellaneous Amendment) Bill on Thursday, Mr Ichung’wah took a swipe at the DP, in the famous quote “You cannot build a kingdom with someone who wants the attention from the village. We will not build our nation if we still want attention from our villages.”

Mr Gachagua has in the recent past hit back at some UDA MPs from the region, accusing them of working with outsiders to divide the region.

In the midst of all the happenings in the ruling alliance, all eyes are now on President Ruto to call him troops to order and the PG provides the perfect opportunity.

“We are going to discuss a lot,” said Mr Osoro when asked by the Nation about the meeting’s agenda.

Nyaribari Chache MP Zaheer Jhanda told Nation that the meeting will largely discuss the Finance Bill and other emerging issues in the ruling alliance.

“We will be having house-keeping. It has been a while before the President convened such a meeting for us to talk about various issues. You must have also noticed that there has been a lot of infighting in the party. There is need to put our house in order,” said Mr Jhanda.