Sharp differences, power struggles rock Kenya Kwanza

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua (second left) with Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua (second left) with Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja (right) and other guests during the Mashujaa Day celebrations at Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi on October 20, 2022.

Photo credit: File | nation Media Group

Simmering power struggles featuring senior figures in President William Ruto’s administration will test the unity of the alliance in the coming days.

The public war of words between Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja has been raging for some time, but the county boss seems to be backing down.

And there have been signs of a power struggle between the DP and Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi that just won’t go away, although in the pecking order it’s not in dispute that Mr Gachagua is the boss.

Apart from the feuding on the national stage, there are other local feuds that are raging at the grassroots, such as the public spat between Water Cabinet Secretary Alice Wahome and Murang’a Woman Rep Betty Maina.

Further muddying the waters is the perennial supremacy battle between the National Assembly and Senate, which plagued the last Parliament and is unfolding in the current one.

In the just-ended retreat in Nanyuki last week, President Ruto asked the leadership of Parliament to develop a framework on how disputes between the two houses are going to be settled out of court.

“We should be able to sort those issues out without necessarily using public resources to battle in court within government agencies. We have agreed with the National Assembly and Senate majority leaders that even the matters that are pending in court, we are going to find a mechanism for an out-of-court settlement so that we can prosecute the real important issues that affect the people of Kenya,” President Ruto said.

However, the Head of State has avoided being drawn into the personal feuds involving his top lieutenants, including the dispute between his deputy and the Nairobi governor. 

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua (left), President Dr William Ruto and Prime Cabinet Secretary nominee Musalia Mudavadi

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua (left), President Dr William Ruto and Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi at State House in Nairobi on September 27, 2022.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

This week, Mr Gachagua and Mr Sakaja separately traded barbs during interviews on Inooro TV.

The DP has accused the governor of pursuing anti-business policies that are hurting residents of Mt Kenya who are in matatu and bar businesses in the city.

In return, Mr Sakaja has said he respects Mr Gachagua as a senior leader in the ruling coalition but maintained there are things they might not agree on.


The governor has insisted Nairobi is a special case that cannot be ruled from the lenses of tribe, revealing that to survive so far, it has taken him consulting President Ruto and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader Raila Odinga.

“There is something called Nairobi reality which is about its cosmopolitan nature and the political party diversity therein,” he told Inooro TV.

He said Mr Odinga and President Ruto were instrumental in the consensus to give Azimio three executive slots in his cabinet. He also revealed that the same cross-party consultations were used to share out other positions, including county assembly committee leadership, insisting that Nairobi is for all and is an international interest.

“There are things that we are supposed to do away from public glare ... and I am concerned that these politics of today are introducing me to tribal dimensions while all along I have never even imagined profiling tribes,” said Mr Sakaja.

On Sunday, while speaking on the same TV station, Mr Gachagua accused Mr Sakaja of targeting bar and matatu owners from Mt Kenya with policies that he branded anti-business.

The DP argued that blocking access to the central business district for some matatus would disadvantage even farmers who ferry their produce to the city at dawn.

William Ruto Deputy Rigathi Gachagua Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi

President William Ruto (centre) with Deputy Rigathi Gachagua (left) and Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi during the senior government officials retreat at Mount Kenya Safari Club in Nanyuki on January 5, 2023. 

Photo credit: James Murimi | Nation Media Group

And on the closure of bars over noise pollution in city estates, Mr Gachagua argued that the proprietors should be allowed time to install soundproofing in their establishments. He said it is the same county government that had licensed the entertainment joints and so it cannot just wake up one day and revoke the licenses.

“Businessmen are not sacks of potatoes to be loaded and unloaded at will, everything must be about consultations. Give them time to soundproof their bars if it is all about noise,” Mr Gachagua said.

The DP has asked matatu operators and other businesspeople in Nairobi to stay put and continue with their businesses, assuring them of government protection.

But Mr Sakaja insists no one is being unfairly targeted. 

“Just the other day, I heard one of these leaders say we are targeting matatus from Murang’a. Which matatu? In fact, the first casualties of this drive are those plying roads to Kisumu, Kakamega, Kisii ... those sides of this country. And they are not complaining,” Mr Sakaja said.

The governor added that he has held talks with 150 matatu Saccos twice and all policy guidelines to be enforced will be industry driven.

Mr Sakaja has vowed to proceed with implementing the order to remove long-distance public service vehicles from the CBD in order to decongest the city.

“Change is difficult, but change is inevitable. We must change our city to be that shining jewel on the African continent,” he said.

About nightclubs in residential estates, Mr Sakaja declared: “We will not have them, period.”

The raging feud has attracted some from the opposition who have come to the defence of the governor, elevating the feud into a cross-party war with ethnic undertones. Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna is among those who have defended the governor.

In a statement on Monday, Mr Sifuna faulted Mr Gachagua for his continued attacks on Mr Sakaja, telling him to keep off affairs of Nairobi County and concentrate on his national duties. 

“The 2010 Constitution, in creating devolved units, made them distinct governments in their own right. They are therefore not subject to direction or control by the national government. The governors do not report to Gachagua. He has no power over county governments and must desist from interfering with their working,” said Mr Sifuna. 

He said the people of Nairobi were yearning for change and order in the city, and the DP must give the governor a chance to deliver to his electorate. 

“Nairobians have stated unequivocally that they want the city to change. Changing the city cannot happen by making it a large kiosk paradise or a big matatu terminus under the guise of ‘kazi ni kazi’. 

‘Tribal blackmail’

“In achieving this change, the Nairobi County government cannot and shall not be beholden to tribal blackmail. We must change how the city is run and one individual or tribe cannot hold all of Nairobi hostage,” charged the senator, who is also the ODM Secretary General.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, his wife Pastor Dorcas Rigathi and Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja after they arrived at Uhuru Gardens for Mashujaa Day celebrations on October 20, 2022. 

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

At the grassroots, the UDA fraternity in Murang’a is feuding. 

Ms Maina on Tuesday attacked Ms Wahome who resigned as Kandara MP to take up the Cabinet appointment.

She said that instead of seeking assistance from Ms Wahome, “it is better to engage Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua who is my good friend and ally who calls me on a daily basis”.

The consistency, boldness and outright display of personalised contempt for the CS is becoming a political puzzle.

Political pundits are questioning how a first-term MP can have the guts to take head-on the CS who had in the last election won a third straight term and is one of the founder members of President Ruto’s UDA party.

Speaking at Yakarengo Primary School in Mathioya Constituency where she led the distribution of relief food, Ms Maina maintained that food security requires the Ministry of Water to upscale irrigation farming “but I will not talk, cannot talk to the current CS”. Ms Maina said Murang’a’s drinking and irrigation water needs are best left to Mr Gachagua to deal with.

She explained that her differences with Ms Wahome arose from the January 5 Kandara by-election where she claimed that the CS was fighting the UDA party.

“While we were on the ground pushing for UDA to retain the seat, she was supporting another party. That is where my differences with her arose. It is not in my interest to engage her on matters of water for irrigation and for domestic use,” she said.

Mr Chege Njuguna (UDA) was declared the winner in the Kandara MP race.

Efforts to have Ms Wahome comment on the current siege by Ms Maina bore no fruit.

Their war has now moved onto social media where their supporters have been trading barbs.

“Ms Maina must know we are aware whose war she is fighting. We know there is someone who has been unable to stamp authority as Mt Kenya kingpin...we know that person is desperate to be recognised as the overall boss in Mt Kenya and they think Ms Wahome is not supporting them,” wrote Susana wa Kandara.

Other supporters of Ms Wahome reminded Ms Maina that she was busy supporting Jubilee and Azimio until the last minute when she jumped ship and joined UDA.

“As she was busy supporting Joseph Wairagu for Murang’a governor and Mr Raila Odinga's presidency, Ms Wahome was busy suffering deep state persecution on behalf of UDA and Dr Ruto. Ms Maina came to our camp only when it was clear Mt Kenya was not willing to follow her Azimio camp,” said Morris Mwarania.