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United against Gachagua: Inside Ruto allies’ coordinated pushback on DP

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Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua at Peace and Mercy Church of Africa, Kaplel Artet ward in Kericho County on June 8, 2024. 

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua is increasingly being isolated as allies of President William Ruto sustain political onslaught against “ethnic mobilisation” in Mt Kenya where he is seeking to position himself as the kingpin.

United Democratic Alliance (UDA) politicians, including Cabinet Secretaries, appear to be reading from the same script, openly telling off Mr Gachagua against whipping ethnic emotions for his political ambitions.

The onslaught against the DP by senior government officials and politicians seems to have escalated following warnings by President Ruto against leaders “trying to take the country back to the politics of ethnicity and personalities”.

But Mr Gachagua appears to be unmoved by what seems to be coordinated attacks. He has dared his critics from Mt Kenya to address the locals, instead of speaking from other regions.

“If you think the talk of unity is not good, do not say so while in the Rift Valley or Western. Come here and tell the people why unity is not good,” Mr Gachagua said on Wednesday.

However, speaking in Kericho on Saturday, the Deputy President struck a conciliatory tone when he called for unity and lowering of political temperatures

Meanwhile, a swipe by National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wa that “you cannot build a kingdom with someone who wants the attention from the village” has stirred a storm.

Some of the politicians, including former Laikipia Woman Representative Catherine Waruguru, jumped into the conversation declaring: “I am a villager” and rallying for a movement that mirrors the birth of the “Tangatanga Movement” of Dr Ruto at the height of his falling-out with then-President Kenyatta.

Mr Kenyatta had derogatorily used the word to refer to his deputy for being in political campaign mode.

There are those who have questioned Mr Gachagua’s capacity to maintain an intense political fight between now and 2027 unlike Dr Ruto – when he was Deputy President – who opted for his own path against President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Mr Ichung’awah hit back yesterday, declaring that leaders from the region would not be blackmailed using the ethnic mobilisation card.

The Kikuyu MP claimed that the same tactic was used against them during Mr Kenyatta’s tenure, “but it failed and Mt Kenya overwhelmingly voted for Dr Ruto”.

“The same tactics from social media to a vernacular radio and TV stations heavy deployment. The same players. The same ethnic mobilisation card. We never bowed to the pressure. We were battle-hardened as they escalated. They eventually deployed it against William Ruto who prevailed to become the President of Kenya against this heavy deployment sanctioned from above,” Mr Ichung’wah said.

“This one is from below him. We are more experienced and will neither succumb to the ethnic card mobilisation, nor the inconsequential deployment of the same failed tactics or even the attempts to bludgeon us to worship an individual. That shall never happen. We are nobody’s slaves.”

Interior Cabinet Secretary, Kithure Kindiki, also took a swipe at the Deputy President over his clamour for more resources to Mt Kenya through the one-man one-shilling mantra.

DP Rigathi Gachagua: I am not a tribalist

According to Prof Kindiki, the framers of the Constitution rejected the principle because of its potential of fuelling sectional interests to the detriment of the nation.

“Instead, a win-win framework was upheld in article 203 of the Constitution by which the principles of equality, equity and affirmative action are balanced to forge a resource allocation outcome that advances national unity, cohesion and a sense of belonging to everyone who calls Kenya their homeland,” Prof Kindiki said.

“Every part of Kenya is entitled to prosperity not alone or at the expense of any other part of Kenya but rather, as part of the whole. The destiny and success of Kenya is inextricably linked to the destiny and success of every part of Kenya.”

At an event in Isiolo yesterday, Roads and Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen told off those pushing the one-man one-vote one-shilling message.

Mr Murkomen said during his time in the Senate, he teamed up with like-minded lawmakers to form a group known as “Team Kenya” that pushed to have a fair resource-sharing formula.

His Defence colleague Aden Duale had earlier joined the growing list of Mr Gachagua’s critics, accusing him of attempting to take the country back to 2007/2008 when communities were mobilised against one another in the run up the General Election.

“We have come a long way, painstakingly freeing our people from shackles of tribal bigotry,” Mr Duale said.

The development where Cabinet Secretaries can openly take on their boss – Mr Gachagua – is a reminder of the situation in President Kenyatta’s administration.

Mt Kenya Deputy President

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja and MPs Didmus Barasa (Kimilili) and William Kamket (Tiaty) joined the onslaught against Mr Gachagua in what is turning into the emergence of two camps in the ruling UDA.

The two lawmakers said Mr Gachagua has reduced his office from national to regional, adding that he only focuses on the affairs of Mt Kenya.

They also accused the DP of speaking the language of the opposition by choosing to oppose government agenda, including President Ruto’s decision to back opposition Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader Raila Odinga for the African Union Commission (AUC) chairmanship.

The government has formally endorsed Mr Odinga’s candidature, but Mr Gachagua has not made any public pronouncement over his position on the matter.

Some of Dr Ruto’s allies say Mr Gachagua is lukewarm about Mr Odinga’s AU Commission candidature.

“We have called Mr Gachagua to order because he is behaving like the Deputy President of Mt Kenya. If he wants to be DP for his region, let him run for Nyeri governor,” Mr Barasa said.

“We are surprised that he has started speaking the language of the likes of Jeremiah Kioni who are in the opposition yet half of the Cabinet is from Mt Kenya.”

The Kimilili MP revisited the standoff that ensued when Dr Ruto convened a meeting to pick his running mate in 2022.

He said a majority of Mt Kenya MPs were against Mr Gachagua being named running mate, preferring Prof Kindiki instead.

“We owe the people of Mt Kenya an apology for persuading the President to veto the vote of a majority of members who were against him,” Mr Barasa said.

Governor Sakaja said leaders like him had been quiet but the situation on the ground has made them speak.

Bring people together

“Leaders in his level need to bring people together, not divide them. It is painful for some of us to start speaking against those who should ideally be mentoring us,” the city county boss said, adding that the ethnic mobilisation must come to an end.

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru last week said Mt Kenya cannot afford to be misled by leaders who want to separate them from the rest of the country.

“There are no fights in Mt Kenya, just fundamental differences of opinion – the politics of the past versus the politics of the future. Some group would want to take us back to places we’ve said not again; the politics of ‘our people’. To them ‘our people’ means particular geographic sections,” she told the Sunday Nation yesterday.

“Another group, which I subscribe to, sees Kenya as one and wants the entire country to develop together. Even from a regional perspective, we know that the people of central Kenya are the greatest beneficiaries of a united all-round prosperous Kenya as about two million of us live and work across the entire nation.”

Mr Kamket accused Mr Gachagua of attempting to blackmail the President.

“If the DP wants to face President Ruto in 2027, let him say so,” the Tiaty MP said in Baringo.

“The President suffered when he was deputy president. We will not allow blackmail.”

But leaders sympathetic to Mr Gachagua warned his critics, especially from Mt Kenya, of political consequences over their stance.

Embakasi Central MP, Benjamin Gathiru “Major Dong”, said some top politicians with 2027 ambitions are scared of Mt Kenya unity.

Ethnic mobilisation

Mr Gathiru told the DP critics from the region to go to the people and listen to what they are saying.

“Mt Kenya speaking in one voice is not ethnic mobilisation. Other regions are speaking with one voice but it becomes a problem when we also do so,” the Embakasi Central MP said, adding that some leaders have abandoned Mt Kenya.

Prof David Monda, a lecturer and political analyst, says Mr Gachagua has to placate a parochial regional ethnic constituency and maintain the honour of his national office by working for every Kenyan.

“Mr Gachagua has opted to remain loyal to his ethnic constituency in the one-man one-vote one-shilling discussion. The problem with this position is that it eliminates him from the rest of Kenya. It makes the President appear bad, having a deputy giving ethnic demands on a national stage,” Prof Monda said.

“History shows that the DP position has been used as a portfolio for the aspiring president to advance his political interests. The jury is still out on whether Mr Gachagua will be on the ticket in 2027. Mr Gachagua is in for trying times not only from the opposition, but from the options the President has in government.”

For Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, the presidency is one.

He adds that those stoking trouble in the ruling alliance would be made to toe the line.

“We are not isolating anybody. The few who have gone rogue for political capital, including senior government officials, will be called to order by President Ruto soon,” Senator Cherargei said.

“Those imagining otherwise as they seek political relevance and align themselves in the succession politics are in for a rude shock. Some noise warrants no attention.”