Ruto’s men: The new power brokers at State House

Rigathi Gachagua, Prof Kithure Kindiki, Davis Chirchir and Farouk Kibe

From left: Deputy President-elect Rigathi Gachagua, Prof Kithure Kindiki, Davis Chirchir and Farouk Kibet. 

Photo credit: Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Dr Ruto’s victory elevates these individuals to the ‘president’s men’ with immense powers at the palace, the State House.
  • Mr Gachagua, a first-time MP who is now set to hold the second highest office in the land, was the face of the rebellion that faced outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta in his Mt Kenya political bastion.
  • Mr Kibet, who has stood by Dr Ruto’s side since his first and successful stab at the Eldoret North MP seat in 1997, has become the powerful man with immense powers and say in the Ruto circles.

The August 9 General Election has bred a new crop of power brokers in President-elect William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza alliance and Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition.

These are individuals who wield immense power in the inner circles of the two and dictate who can and cannot see the king.

In Dr Ruto’s camp, the following are some of the people who will be dictating how things are done in the Kenya Kwanza administration: Deputy President-elect Rigathi Gachagua, Prof Kithure Kindiki, his personal assistant Farouk Kibet and Dr Ruto’s chief of staff Davis Chirchir.

The others are Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi, Ford Kenya leader and Bungoma Senator-elect Moses Wetang’ula, Josphat Nanok, Ndindi Nyoro, Kimani Ichung’wah and United Democratic Alliance (UDA) secretary-general Veronica Maina.

On Mr Odinga’s side, they are Junet Mohammed, Ndiritu Muriithi, Makau Mutua, Sabina Chege, Raphael Tuju, former Kitui governor Charity Ngilu, Cotu boss Francis Atwoli, Jubilee secretary-general Jeremiah Kioni and Kanini Kega, among others.

Dr Ruto’s victory elevates these individuals to the ‘president’s men’ with immense powers at the palace, the State House.

Gachagua – Power in the mountain

Deputy president-elect Rigathi Gachagua

Deputy president Rigathi Gachagua.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Mr Gachagua, a first-time MP who is now set to hold the second highest office in the land, was the face of the rebellion that faced outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta in his Mt Kenya political bastion.

He ran a well-coordinated propaganda campaign against Mr Kenyatta, who supported Mr Odinga’s fifth stab at the country’s top seat in the mountain, working in favour of Dr Ruto.

Under the stewardship of Mr Gachagua, the mountain region rejected President Kenyatta’s backing for Azimio and voted overwhelmingly for Dr Ruto, who garnered 77 per cent of the wider Gikuyu, Embu and Meru votes, against Mr Odinga’s 22 per cent.

Even before he emerged as a top contender in the search for Dr Ruto’s running mate, facing stiff competition from Prof Kindiki, Mr Gachagua led a team of young leaders, including Mr Nyoro and Mr Ichung’wah, in the region to escalate the rebellion against Mr Kenyatta.

The former Mathira MP has been described as courageous and brave and a leader who understands the needs of the region.

He recently revealed how he mobilised Mr Nyoro (Kiharu MP), Kandara's Alice Wahome, Kikuyu's Kimani Ichung'wah, Gatundu South's Moses Kuria and Naivasha's Jayne Kíhara to launch the overthrow of Mr Kenyatta as the commander of Mt Kenya politics.

Farouk Kibet – Ruto’s total man

President-elect William Ruto’s Personal Assistant, Farouk Kibet.

President-elect William Ruto’s Personal Assistant, Farouk Kibet during the burial of the late Marybel Amanikor Kapolon at their home in Ng’enyilel Location, Turbo in Uasin Gishu County on September 22, 2018.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Mr Kibet, who has stood by Dr Ruto’s side since his first and successful stab at the Eldoret North MP seat in 1997, has become the powerful man with immense powers and say in the Ruto circles.

The open secret in political circles is that no one gets to Dr Ruto without going through Mr Kibet.

Not only does he vet those that meet the big man, but he is also the undisputed protocol man in the Ruto circle, with powers to decide who speaks in a rally, for how long, and sometimes, say what.

The political history of Kenya is littered with Farouk-types who mushroom and become powerful insiders within the presidency and snowball to what the late Nicholas Biwott, Moi’s former personal assistant, would call ‘Total Man’.

At the moment, Farouk seems to be an obscure name; he doesn’t feature in TV talk shows and hardly speaks at political rallies.

But he has been part of the Ruto political ecology and a significant insider in the backroom where jostling for power and influence is both served as breakfast and dinner.

Though there are few traces of him in the public space to help us configure his typology, Farouk has of late been exposed to regional politics, too, and was in a delegation that went to meet Uganda’s President Museveni – though the DP was not there.

Kenyans might recall how President Moi used to send Mark Too to Mozambique and DR Congo for political escapades which are well captured in Lonrho tycoon Tiny Rowland’s biographies.

Davis Chirchir – The top tech guy

President-elect William Ruto's chief of staff Davis Chirchir.

President-elect William Ruto's chief of staff Davis Chirchir at Bomas of Kenya on August 11, 2022.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote I Nation Media Group

Mr Chirchir has been the face of technology in Dr Ruto’s camp as he doubles up as the chief of staff and his name came up at the Supreme Court, where Azimio alleged that he supervised a team of individuals who accessed the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) systems.

It was the second time he was accused of hacking. In 2017, the National Super Alliance (Nasa) claimed that Mr Chirchir had hacked into IEBC servers and manipulated the presidential results in favour of President Kenyatta.

Other allegations involved inspecting the printing of election materials at a godown off Mombasa Road.

This time around, Mr Chirchir was at the centre of Dr Ruto’s campaigns, serving as the CEO of the presidential campaign team and working with the likes of Mr Nanok.

Prof Kindiki – Legal face of Kenya Kwanza

Professor Kithure Kindiki.

Professor Kithure Kindiki. He represented President-Elect William Ruto in the presidential election petition.

Photo credit: Pool

Another conspicuous power broker in the making in Dr Ruto’s camp is Prof Kindiki, who has become the face of the legal face of the alliance.

Having defended Dr Ruto at the Netherlands-based International Criminal Court (ICC), the former Tharaka Nithi senator stuck to the UDA boss’ side and was a runner-up in the search for his running mate.

Many leaders in Dr Ruto’s camp have described Prof Kindiki as a polite sober leader who has the ability to unite the Mt Kenya region.

Prof Kindiki is the custodian of all the coalition agreements Dr Ruto has inked with other political parties like ANC, Ford Kenya, Chama Cha Kazi (CCK) and others. This means he will continue to play a crucial role in the camp.

Mudavadi – Chief CS?

ANC Party leader Musalia Mudavadi.

ANC Party leader Musalia Mudavadi during the Kenya Kwanza Alliance manifesto launch at the Kasarani indoor arena on June 30, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Despite failing to deliver 70 per cent votes in the Western region as agreed with Dr Ruto, Mr Mudavadi is set to become the Prime Cabinet Secretary, as the President-elect promised him before the elections.

The ANC boss will be responsible for assisting Dr Ruto and his deputy to coordinate and supervise government ministries and state departments and monitor and evaluating government policies, programmes and projects.

Mr Mudavadi is also expected to coordinate and supervise national government functions and oversee the implementation of policies and programmes, and chair and coordinate the legislative agenda in consultation with the coalition’s leaders in Parliament.

Wetang’ula – The maybe Speaker

Ford Kenya Party leader Moses Wetangula.

Ford Kenya Party leader Moses Wetangula during an interview at his Karen home on January 20, 2022.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Mr Wetang’ula, the Bungoma senator-elect, has emerged as a worthy politician from the Western region, with claims that the August 9 polls were won in Bungoma.

He is now being fronted by Dr Ruto as Speaker of the National Assembly, with the camp boosting its numbers to deliver the seat.

“Apart from coming here to worship with you, I have also come here to beg you to give us your senator, Wetang’ula, to become our next Speaker. We have numbers in Parliament and definitely, Wetang’ula will be our Speaker,” said Dr Ruto at Bungoma Christ the King Church last week.

Since 2013, Bungoma had voted overwhelmingly for Mr Odinga, but this time around, Dr Ruto harvested about two-thirds of the votes. He garnered 252,327 votes against the ODM leader’s 143,044.

"The 2022 election in Kenya was won and lost in Bungoma. You delivered victory to Ruto and a devastating blow to the Azimio people," Mr Wetang'ula said last week.

Nanok – The strategist

Former Turkana County Governor Josphat Nanok.

State House Deputy Chief of Staff Josphat Nanok.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Mr Nanok, once Mr Odinga’s close ally, was the man at the helm of Dr Ruto’s presidential campaign team as director-general.

He coordinated campaign activities and worked with a team of strategists to come up with the coalition’s manifesto and strategies, among other things.

Ms Maina, the UDA general secretary and party chairman Johnson Muthama were the face of the political vehicle that Dr Ruto and Mr Gachagua vied on. They now manage the largest party in the country following the ‘death’ of the Jubilee Party.

Mr Nyoro, a second-term MP who was also touted as a possible running mate for Dr Ruto, was at the UDA boss’ side during almost all campaign rallies.

The Kiharu MP-elect was one of the outspoken lawmakers in Mt Kenya asking locals not to follow President Kenyatta but to rally behind Dr Ruto.

Another young politician from the region who has remained faithful to Dr Ruto is Mr Ichung'wah, the Kikuyu MP-elect.

He was consistent with his message that the mountain should follow Dr Ruto and has positioned himself as a possible majority leader in the National Assembly.

Odinga's team

As in Dr Ruto’s camp, power brokers in Mr Odinga’s team are jostling to win the attention of the king.

Mr Junet Mohamed, the Suna East MP-elect, was the fulcrum of the campaigns, coordinating all the players, some of whom were not from the ODM party but make up Azimio and invariably acting as master of ceremonies at rallies.

Mr Mohamed did not start wielding his powers in Mr Odinga’s circle just before the August 9 General Election, but this goes back to the March 9, 2018 handshake between the ODM boss and President Kenyatta.

Following Mr Odinga’s loss in the elections, many leaders in the Azimio camp have been pointing accusing fingers at Mr Mohamed for sabotaging the Azimio honcho after it emerged that agents were not deployed in certain areas.

Prof Makau Mutua is another influential person in Azimio, injecting academic heft into the crucible as head of the campaign think tank, which designed overall strategy and campaign messaging.

Another person wielding a lot of power in Mr Odinga’s camp is Mr Muriithi, the former Laikipia governor who was chairperson of the Azimio presidential campaign board.

The role of Mr Muriithi’s team was to come up with campaign strategies and a manifesto for execution by the Azimio presidential campaign secretariat.

President Kenyatta’s ‘Mr Fix It’, Mr Tuju, who is also the Azimio executive director, was at the forefront in Mr Odinga’s State House bid.

He was even accused by IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati of trying to persuade the electoral agency to moderate results in favour of Mr Odinga.

President Kenyatta, chairperson of the Azimio Supreme Council, Ms Chege, a member of the Council, and Mr Kioni, the Jubilee director of elections, are some of the leaders who won the trust of both the outgoing President and the former Prime Minister, granting them enormous power in the camp.

The trio were some of the leaders that Mr Kenyatta was grooming in his political backyard to counter similar moves by his estranged deputy, now President-elect.

“It is not just a question of grooming, but we have been very robust and active in the party. We are committed to his course and that of our people,” Kieni MP Kanini Kega said recently.

“We have been consistent and loyal. Basically, we have been given the opportunity to prove ourselves. Beyond reasonable doubt, leaders have seen that we are equal to the task.”

Ms Chege, on her side, had said it was important for President Kenyatta to mentor new leaders as he retires.

“Every visionary leader grooms and mentors new leaders to take the mantle, which would be the greatest gift the President can give to his region,” she said.

See our other coverage of today's events below: