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Fire in the mountain: This is our problem with DP Gachagua, MPs say

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From left: Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga, Nyeri Woman Rep Rahab Mukami, Nyeri Town MP Duncan Mathenge, Interior CS Kithure Kindiki, Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wa, Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri, Kiambaa MP John Kawanjiku,  and Muranga Governor Irungu Kang'ata.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Several Mt Kenya MPs have accused Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua of “intimidation and blackmail” as political supremacy battles continue in the populous region.

Some of the MPs told The Weekly Review how Mr Gachagua has been calling and sending them text messages to warn them against associating with individuals opposed to his quest of being the region’s political kingpin. The legislators cited the alleged threats as the reason why they are opposed to his style of “imposing himself on other leaders”.

The alleged intimidation became a subject of discussion on the floor of the National Assembly on Wednesday when Nyeri Town MP Duncan Mathenge said it was a major issue of concern.

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Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro and Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki are widely viewed as Mr Gachagua’s main political rivals in the region.

Prof Kindiki was favoured by a majority of MPs in Mt Kenya during the picking of a running mate in the run-up to the 2022 presidential election.

Suffered intimidation

“I speak on behalf of the six elected MPs from Nyeri County, including the Senator and the Woman Rep. We have really suffered intimidation and blackmail,” Mr Mathenge told the House. “It is imperative that as elected leaders we be allowed the space to execute the mandate the ordinary people in Nyeri gave us when they voted for us. It is not possible that the people of Nyeri voted for us so that we can follow an individual. We want to speak from the floor of this House that respect is two ways. Respect is earned, it is not demanded,” he said.

Speaking to The Weekly Review, Kiambaa MP John Kawanjiku said Mr Gachagua has personally called and texted to warn him against associating with Mr Nyoro. He said that the intimidation has made many leaders from the region move away from the DP, despite being the senior most elected leader from the area.

“He calls and sends messages and threatens you for being seen with his perceived opponents. The moment he sees you with Ndindi, you become his enemy,” said Mr Kawanjiku. “You cannot coerce and demand people to follow you. The intimidation is widespread, especially in Mt Kenya. It is only that others are scared to talk about it publicly. But some of us have made it clear that we will not follow him blindly,” said the MP.

The lawmaker said it would not be in the interest of the region for the leaders to wage a war in government, which he said has the potential of having the region sidelined for the remaining three years before the 2027 polls.

National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah has also talked about the alleged intimidation of elected leaders from the region. Without mentioning names, Mr Ichung’wah said leaders from the region are beyond political blackmail.

“We are beyond blackmail, threats and the intimidation of personality cults and worship. No one coerced Mt Kenya region to vote for Kenya Kwanza, they willingly voted for this administration, with no kingpin and tribal chieftain,” said the Kikuyu MP.

Increasingly isolated

Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri also made similar allegations against the DP, who is becoming increasingly isolated by allies of President William Ruto. “We have evidence on how he has been threatening and demeaning not less than 38 elected leaders in the region, chasing some away from functions and planting oppositions against others on the grounds or forcing them to submit to him,” said Mr Kiunjuri.

“He has been going around pretending to be uniting the mountain, yet he is moving around to demean and defame those he thinks do not support him. We cannot be made to submit to a person like small children, let him continue, but once he pushes us to the wall, we will come out fighting,” he declared.

The Weekly Review contacted Ms Njeri Rugene, head of the Deputy Presidential Communication Service, for a response over the allegations by the MPs. There was, however, no response by the time of going to press as calls and text messages went unanswered. “I am reaching out for a response from the DP’s office on a story we are working on where some Mt Kenya MPs claim they are being blackmailed and intimidated by the DP.”

Mr Gachagua last week dared his critics from the region to come and address the locals, instead of speaking in other regions. “If you think the talks of unity are not good, do not talk in Rift Valley or Western, come here and call for a gathering and tell the people why unity is not good. They should come and speak from here,” Mr Gachagua said.

Mwangi Kiunjuri says he won't be intimidated into supporting DP Gachagua as Mt Kenya kingpin

“I want to advise our leaders with tremendous respect, please our leaders, all politics is local, listen to your people, listen to the ground. Align your thinking and your utterances with the people, that is what I do all the time. I listen to the ground,” he said. The growing claims of intimidation and the widely known supremacy battle between Mr Gachagua and Mr Nyoro played out in the open recently, when the two visited victims of deadly mudslides in Mathioya, Murang’a County.

Mr Nyoro, who was first to arrive at the displaced families’ camp, had in his entourage the Mathioya MP Edwin Mugo, Murang’a Senator Joe Nyutu and Woman Representative Betty Maina.

Shortly after Mr Nyoro and his team had left, DP Gachagua arrived at the camp accompanied by Mukurweini MP John Kaguchia and Nyeri Woman Representative Rahab Mukami. He was received by Murang’a Governor Irungu Kang’ata.

The DP spoke mostly in Kikuyu parables, at one time telling the residents that he had wished to visit them earlier but the local leaders were not available to welcome him.

It is unusual for a leader of the DP’s stature to visit a constituency in the absence of the area MP, particularly when they subscribe to the same political party. The political fault lines are becoming clearer, going by recent public speeches made by senior politicians from the mountain.

Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga has taken a hardline stance in support of the DP, while Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru has declared that anyone was free to express their political opinion and garner for any political seat.

Other central Kenya governors are said to be straddling the middle line. Governor Kang’ata, for example, is said to have close friendship and family ties with MP Nyoro, but at the same time DP Gachagua has been courting him to secure his political backing in the county.

Governor Kimani Wamatangi on the other hand has been seeking the DP’s support to fight off his political battles with Mr Ichung’wah, even as he has been careful not to lose political favour with State House. Macharia Munene – a university professor and political analyst – says that Mr Gachagua is a man in trouble of his own making.

“He has been trying to lead people but there are no people to be led. He appears to be a bully and an impression got to his head that since he is the senior-most elected leader from the region, then everybody should follow,” says Prof Macharia.

He says the open attack by Kenya Kwanza politicians has exposed him as a very vulnerable second-in-command with no constituency of his own.