Ruto-Raila vs Gachagua-Uhuru? The making of an open rebellion

What you need to know:

  • Deputy Rigathi Gachagua has stepped up attacks on ongoing talks between the Head of State and his arch-rival intended to resolve the post-election crisis.
  • Mr Gachagua, who has always had a dim view of the ongoing talks, said the Bomas dialogue will not go anywhere and if it did — will lead to a quick response from Mt Kenya.

On a day President William Ruto began a four-day tour of opposition leader Raila Odinga's Nyanza backyard, his deputy Rigathi Gachagua stepped up attacks on ongoing talks between the Head of State and his arch-rival intended to resolve the post-election crisis.

Mr Gachagua has persistently discredited the ongoing dialogue brokered following days of bloody anti-government protests, despite the talks having the blessings of the President and a seal of approval by the two Houses of Parliament.

The Deputy President’s (DP) latest onslaught comes as the representatives of the two camps retreat to compile a report after concluding public hearings to address sticky issues including reconstitution of the electoral commission, measures to address runaway cost of living and audit of last year’s General Election.

Mr Gachagua is waging war against the dialogue that he claims Mr Odinga instigated as part of a scheme to force his way into government, a claim the opposition chief has rejected.

With the attacks, Mr Gachagua has signalled a position that would be eerily familiar to that his boss, Dr Ruto, while serving as DP, took issue against his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta after similar rapprochement with Mr Odinga in 2018.

Rigathi Gachagua
Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

After initially embracing the Uhuru-Odinga truce, Dr Ruto subsequently openly campaigned against the Handshake between the two leaders, mobilising Mt Kenya and Rift Valley bastions by painting Mr Kenyatta, as one who had betrayed their cause by backing Mr Odinga for the presidency.

Dr Ruto won the presidential vote with 63 per cent of his 7.176 million votes from Mt Kenya and the Rift Valley, with the 10 counties in Mt Kenya giving a total of 2.938 million, nearly 40 per cent of the total vote.

Yesterday, Mr Gachagua cautioned the vote-rich Mt Kenya region will rebel should President Ruto shake hands with Mr Odinga, referring to the 2018 truce with Kenyatta that saw the opposition leader’s influence in government grow, eclipsing Dr Ruto- the then deputy president.

For the President, the prospects of such a development would likely evoke memories of his run-ins with his predecessor.

Mr Gachagua, who has always had a dim view of the ongoing talks, said the Bomas dialogue will not go anywhere and if it did — will lead to a quick response from Mt Kenya.

And with Mr Gachagua saying he had extended open arms and was working to reconcile with ex-President Kenyatta — seen as a move to consolidate the Mt Kenya vote — Dr Ruto would find himself in familiar territory, but under different circumstances, with the DP and his former boss seen to be drifting on one side, and he and Mr Odinga pushed to another.

At the height of the anti-Uhuru war, the former president’s farm in Northlands, Kiambu County was raided by goons who made away with goats and sheep, in what the Jubilee leader later described as the height of pettiness of a regime out to punish him and his family, yet he had peacefully handed over power.

Yesterday in his tour of Nyanza, President Ruto assured that his government is inclusive.

William Ruto

President William Ruto shares a light moment with Siaya Governor James Orengo at Urenga in Siaya County on October 6, 2023.

Photo credit: Rushdie Oudia | Nation Media Group

"Let nobody tell you that you are out of this government. You pay taxes and you are Kenyans. This is your government. I will not allow any part of Kenya to be discriminated against in terms of development on the basis of political affiliation," Dr Ruto said in Ugenya, Siaya County.

He went on: "It is primitive and backwards for anybody to imagine that any region of Kenya cannot get development on account of how they voted, that is not right and that is not correct. I want to assure the people of Kenya that we will move together as one nation."

In Nairobi in an interview with Inooro FM, Mr Gachagua said the Bomas talks, co-chaired by National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah and Wiper Democratic Movement leader Kalonzo Musyoka, will not yield anything.

"Anything to do with sharing power with Raila will be an outright rejection in the Mountain. We are in agreement with President Ruto that we will not get him into government,” Mr Gachagua said.

If it gets to a Handshake, the DP said: “I have since given President Ruto a condition that should the talks end in a handshake, Mt Kenya will rebel."

President Ruto during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Kabonyo Fisheries Aquaculture Service and Training Centre of Excellence in Nyando, Kisumu on October 6, 2023. The Head of State is on a four-day tour of the Nyanza region.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

Last Wednesday, Mr Odinga had censured Mr Gachagua over his persistent attacks on the ongoing dialogue, saying he had no plans for accommodation in government and only wanted an avenue for Kenyans to thrash out issues of national concern.

“Mr Gachagua behaves like a president of Mt Kenya region instead of playing the national status the Constitution demands of him, hence making him not only a local shame but also a global one. I have faith in the Bomas talks…I am giving the process a chance…Personally I’m being loyal to the goodwill agreement that we uttered at inception, where we promised that none from our respective wings will sabotage the process through deeds and utterances,” Mr Odinga told KTN News on Wednesday.

On the talks, Mr Gachagua told Inooro FM that while he was comfortable with issues to do with reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), resource allocation, entrenchment of political positions in the Constitution " when it comes to handshake government, I and my people are not there."

President William Ruto, his deputy Rigathi Gachagua and former PM Raila Odinga shake hands at the funeral of Mau Mau veteran Mukami Kimathi on May 13 this year.

Photo credit: File

And while he rallied against the talks, Mr Gachagua said his loyalty and commitment to President Ruto was unequivocal.

"I will remain loyal to President Ruto. I will submit myself to him and we will soldier on these remaining years towards 2027 and God willing come back together to the voters to seek a second term,” he said.

Mr Gachagua defended President Ruto's Cabinet reshuffle that some Mt Kenya politicians have said appeared to target appointees from the region.

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi won big with an elevation to the exclusive nine-member club of the National Security Council—the top security decision making organ chaired by the President, with the DP, Interior, Defence and Attorney Cabinet representatives—after his additional duties to oversee the Foreign and Diaspora Affairs docket.

In the reshuffle, Moses Kuria was replaced by Rebecca Miano at Trade and Investments docket, as he was moved to Public Service; Alice Wahome was moved from Water and Irrigation to Lands docket, swapping with Zachariah Njeru; while Ms Peninah Malonza takes over from Ms Miano, with the Tourism and Wildlife docket now taken over by Dr Alfred Mutua.

On perception Mt Kenya had ‘lost’ in the reshuffle, Mr Gachagua said: "Our people should not feel targeted, should not despair...we are in good stead. We are working for a good hearted and gentlemanly President. There is no alarm at all."

He said the president was only realigning his government to conform to his vision.

"There was no sinister motive, it is his duty to make his government. I am also his appointee and I can assure you that I have not run out of his favour," he said.

He said Mt Kenya is currently prioritising unity of purpose to fend off schemes that might go against its interests.

"As the father of Mt Kenya region I am engaging in a broader drive to bring our troops together. We must unite as a region not necessarily for anything else but survive any scheme," he said.

He cryptically said "even buffaloes do not walk together because they share common love but because of building a forte against danger."

To that end, he said he will seek retired President Kenyatta for unity dialogue so as to ensure Mt Kenya speaks in one voice.

"Uhuru was fronting Mr Raila Odinga for the presidency and he lost. We have now decided to embrace him as our respectable son and statesman despite everything," Mr Gachagua said.

He said Mt Kenya unity bid has been necessitated by the looming political danger to visit if the region disintegrates.