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Double dynamite: Strange bedfellows in Gachagua, Raila ‘one man, one shilling’ support

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Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Photo credit: John Nyaga | Nation Media Group

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and opposition leader Raila Odinga would under any circumstances make for strange bedfellows. One is the quintessential establishment man and the other, the epitome of protest politics.

Yet, in pulling that move where he boarded a commercial Kenya Airways flight while personally lugging a suitcase as oversized hand luggage, Gachagua stole a piece straight out of Raila’s playbook.

Gachagua’s stunt, faithfully recorded and shared by his official press corp, came on the back of reports that he had in the recent past been denied use of the official military or police aircraft he routinely flies around the country with.

It was a loaded political message from the Deputy President, adding fuel to the fire on the reported rifts between him and President William Ruto. It also came in the midst of a rare meeting of minds with Raila on the politically-sensitive ‘one-man, one-vote, one-shilling’ crusade.

While receiving a report of the Limuru III meeting convened by opposition Mt Kenya political leaders, which advocated the population-based resource allocation formula, Raila acknowledged Gachagua’s conversion to the cause.

Building Bridges Initiative

He recalled that the formula was part of the ill-fated Building Bridges Initiative constitutional reform proposals he championed with then-President Uhuru Kenyatta. The BBI, which was thrown out by the courts in 2022 before going into a referendum, was opposed by key figures in government led by then Deputy President William Ruto and his rebellious win of the Jubilee government which included Gachagua.

The Deputy President recently caused a storm within the governing Kenya Kwanza coalition by voicing support for the one-man, one-vote, one-shilling formula, which proposes that budgetary allocations to counties or constituencies be based principally on population rather than land mass or other factors.

If adopted, the formula would see highly-populated regions, such as Gachagua’s Mt Kenya, benefit at the expense of large but sparsely populated regions such as the North Eastern, Northern Rift Valley, Upper Eastern and parts of the Coast.

The proposal, not surprisingly, drew flak from Kenya Kwanza MPs from those regions, who accused the Deputy President is playing ethnic politics. Gachagua, who made a career of bashing Uhuru during the election campaigns and also after assuming office, has lately tried to mend fences with the former president as part of his strategy to fill the leadership vacuum in Mt Kenya.

He has publicly apologised to Uhuru and his mother, former First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta, for the insults he previously hurled their way.

Uhuru has not responded to Gachagua’s overtures, but must be watching with keen interest development in the Mt Kenya region where his exit left a massive void various groups are trying to fill. One the one hand there is Gachagua and his Mt Kenya bloc in Kenya Kwanza, then there is the Azimio coalition opposition grouping led by former Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua, who was Raila’s running-mate at the last elections.

Presidential candidate

The group was behind the Limuru III conference that not only pushed the ‘one-man, one-vote, one-shilling’ formula, but also pledged to field a presidential candidate in the 2027 General Election and voiced support for Uhuru’s continued leadership of the Mt Kenya community.

In also sending feelers to Uhuru and by joining the ‘one-man, one-vote, one-shilling’ formula, the DP is not only bucking the Kenya Kwanza party line, but also signalling common ground with the opposition amidst indications that he is not sitting pretty in the Ruto government.


Opposition leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua at KICC during day two of the Africa Climate Summit on Tuesday, September 5, 2023.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Internally, a growing crop of Mt Kenya politicians from the ruling coalition are openly challenging Gachagua’s presumed leadership of their bloc. Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro is increasingly being mentioned as Ruto’s favoured choice for running mate in 2027. Those hitting out at Gachagua include Kirinyaga Governor Ann Waiguru, Cabinet Secretary for Public Service Moses Kuria and Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri.

Gachagua’s sending out feelers to Uhuru under the guise of a quest for Mt Kenya is a direct response to the pressures he is facing in Ruto’s UDA party and the Kenya Kwanza coalition, where clear control of a populous voting bloc would greatly strengthen his hand. However, it is apparent that rather than attracting the regional opposition voices towards Kenya Kwanza, it seems that it is the DP who is gravitating towards rebellion.

The airport stunt was just one in a series of moves where the DP seems intent on playing the victim card, much like Ruto did when he was besieged Deputy President under Uhuru. Some of his supporters, led by vocal Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga have voiced open discontent over the way the DP is being treated, and even threatened to mobilise for rejection of the government’s 2024-2025 budget proposals in Parliament.

The restive Mt Kenya region is clearly a big headache for Ruto on his path to the 2027 elections, and is now apparent that Gachagua is not the person to calm troubled waters. If he does openly rebel as part of his quest for Mt Kenya leadership, Gachagua will unwittingly or not enter a constellation where Raila holds major sway.

Though there is no evidence that he has reached out to the opposition chief, as he has with Uhuru, the signals he is sending indicate he might be seriously considering political options outside Kenya Kwanza.

Whether it is the ‘one-man, one-vote, one-shilling’ crusade, the bid to seize Mt Kenya leadership, or even the threats by is allies to oppose the budget, Gachagua is clearly at cross-purposes within his own party and government. The big question is what he does next as formally crossing over to opposition ranks is hardly an option for the moment.

Powerful statement

Gachagua would, however, make a powerful statement that would send panic across Kenya Kwanza were he to openly reach out to Raila, another figure who, like Uhuru, built a career on relentlessly bashing.

When Ruto and Raila struck a ceasefire to jointly launch the National Dialogue process that stilled the 2022 post-election protests, Gachagua was adamant that he would fiercely oppose any ‘handshake’ that led to a political alliance.

He even vowed to blockade State House to avert any possibility of Raila getting an audience with Ruto, but now, ironically, finds himself in a situation where he must borrow political survival tactics from the veteran opposition leader.