Turf war in Mt Kenya over President Ruto succession

Ndindi Nyoro

Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro addresses a crowd during a Kenya Kwanza campaign rally in Karatina town on May 21, 2022.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

After voting overwhelmingly for President William Ruto in the August 9 General Election, the Mt Kenya region is degenerating into implosive succession power plays.

 The politics of control revolves around Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, former President Uhuru Kenyatta, and a new entrant—youthful Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, a close Ruto ally.

While Mr Gachagua and Mr Nyoro’s agenda appear to be about current exercise of power and future political ambitions, Mr Kenyatta's appears embedded in having the edge to protect certain 'in-house' interests.

Mr Gachagua has, so far, attracted steadfast following from Mr Kenyatta's Jubilee Party leaders, led by former Kieni MP Kanini Kega. The DP has also won endorsement by Nyeri County leaders, led by Governor Mutahi Kahiga, Senator Wahome Wamatinga and Mathira MP Eric Wamumbi.

Political ripples

Mr Nyoro, on the other hand, caused political ripples this week when he brought together leaders from Eastern, Central, Rift Valley and Nairobi to Kiharu where they declared him the most ideal successor to Dr Ruto. His is a meteoric rise from a not-so-visible first-term MP to the inner sanctum of power, and being a man whom Dr Ruto consistently expresses soft spot for and on many occasions introduces as “part of our future that we must groom”.

But yesterday, Mr Nyoro downplayed the simmering tensions, saying he remains loyal to President Ruto and Mr Gachagua.

 “Politics has a way of going overboard...What remains is that the President of Kenya is Dr Ruto, deputised by Mr Gachagua. All the others in the government are their subordinates,” he said in an interview on Inooro FM, reiterating that he is not for politics this early as “we have a contract with the people” to fulfil.

But political analyst Ngugi Njoroge said there is a raging power control tussle in the Mt Kenya region. “We have seen Jubilee Party elected leaders desert Mr Kenyatta and opt to work with the government. It cannot escape our minds that in November last year, Mr Gachagua promised to unite Mt Kenya's Azimio and Kenya Kwanza Alliance.”

Prof Njoroge said there has been open and deliberate declarations by the latest Jubilee converts identifying Mr Gachagua as the Mt Kenya kingpin.

Political authority

Recently, Mr Kega said: “As we speak, no other leader holds higher political authority than Mr Gachagua in the Mt Kenya region. He is the reigning leader of the Mountain.”

Similar comments were made by nominated MP Sabina Chege, leaving Mr Kenyatta in a precarious position of losing his grip of Jubilee Party and its footsoldiers.

Former Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu declared that Mt Kenya needs Mr Gachagua “who is best perched to push for area interests without fear or favour”.

 He said on Inooro TV that Mr Gachagua is best placed to understand that “after baking the national cake, it should be served in strict adherence to ratio fairness”.

All not well

 That all was not well in the Mt Kenya region came to the fore in the January 5 Kandara constituency by-election where Dr Ruto's United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party survived a scare from Ford Asili to retain the seat. The by-lection had been caused by the appointment of Ms Alice Wahome, who had won a third term, to serve as Dr Ruto's Water and Sanitation CS.

 On January 6, when Mr Chege Njuguna was declared winner of the by-election against Ford Asili's Njau Mbuchu, the Mt Kenya power plays emerged.

 Murang'a Woman Rep Betty Maina surprised many when he launched a scathing attack on Ms Wahome, dismissing her as “someone behaving like a village plumber instead of a Water CS”.

 Ms Maina was flanked by UDA Secretary General Veronica Maina and Maragua MP Mary wa Maua. Ms Maina claimed Ms Wahome was undermining the party and Mt Kenya leadership under Mr Gachagua by supporting Mr Mbuchu. “Two issues in Ms Maina's daring attack on a CS: Her invoking the name of Mr Gachagua and while flanked by UDA Secretary General in doing so. It is also instructive to note that the secretary general hails from Kigumo in Murang'a County,” Prof Njoroge said.

The wars have worried area elders, with former long-serving administrator Joseph Kaguthi terming it “unfortunate that this early we are seeing sectarian power plays that have nothing to do with service delivery”.

Former Education CAS Zack Kinuthia described it as immoral “for leaders who are not even a financial year old in office to start fighting each other with an eye on 2027 and 2032 elections where they seek to control area masses for selfish ambitions.”