Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua is spoiling for a supremacy battle in Kenya Kwanza with a push to ring-fence Mt Kenya’s support base.
Gachagua has put on notice elected leaders from the region who directly engage with the powers that be instead of going through him.
Although he did not expressly say who the leaders engage with, his remarks that “those who engage do not put the regional interests first but their stomachs,” was interpreted as a jibe against politicians who bypass him due to their close relationship with President William Ruto.
Keen to assume the mantle of Mount Kenya’s political supremo after former President Uhuru Kenyatta exited power, the DP, who has held a series of night meetings and sponsored others in his absence is leaving nothing to chance in rallying the region behind him.
During the day that President Ruto engaged the UDA leadership to lay strategies for grassroots elections slated for December this year, Gachagua held a night meeting with a section of MPs at his Karen home, Nairobi while another group of legislators (48) met in Thika town.
Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wa, - both allies of the President, were conspicuously missing from the two meetings.
The DP used his engagements with legislators to preach unity in the Mt Kenya region and has branded those perceived to bypass him as traitors.
He has warned Mount Kenya leaders against dividing the community for political expediency and self-gain.
Speaking in Meru yesterday, a day after a night-long meeting with Mt Kenya leaders at his Karen home, Gachagua appealed to leaders to rally behind him, reiterating that their unity is their strength. “I appeal to our leaders to put unity first and to avoid selfish engagements that will not favour this region,” he said.
Gachagua castigated a section of leaders for not showing interest in the Mt Kenya unity bid and branded them traitors, home guards and people who sell the secrets of the community.
He threatened to name leaders who would not support the bid to unite the community. “If I find that any leader from this region is being used to divide us, I will name and shame him or her during the day so that our people may understand who is for the region and who is not,” he said.
“When the time comes, I will lead in naming each one of those dividing the community while looking for selfish interests, being used by the enemies of the community,” he added
Drawing the similarities of the “traitors” to home guards who betrayed the community by working with the colonial oppressors, the DP said he wants all leaders to promote the community’s interests.
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“They (home guards) were sellouts. We must be very careful with those people who are out for selfish gains. They forget about their people and the interests of their region because they want to benefit themselves and their wives,” he said.
Gachagua said a section of Mt Kenya politicians were working to divide the community, but as the most senior political figure from the region, he will not allow the same.
He maintained that the unity of the people in the ‘mountain’ was key to their development and empowerment. “I am a very forthright leader. If I find any leader in this mountain being used to divide this community, I will name them in broad daylight so that the people can also reject them. They know who is for us and who is against us,” he said.
The DP said leaders in the region should understand that there is strength in the unity of the people.
Leaders present were the host Igembe North MP Julius Taitumu, John Paul Mwirigi (Igembe South), Dan Kiili (Igembe Central), Rahim Dawood (Imenti North,) Shadrack Mwiti (Imenti South), John Mutunga (Tigania West), Mpuru Aburi (Tigania East), Moses Kirima (Central Imenti) and Mugambi Rindikiri (Buuri).
Gachagua maintained that the region’s strength in numbers and unity would enhance, “our relevance in Kenyan politics and remain in government for the next 100 years.”
Leaders and political analysts have interpreted Gachagua’s statement as directed to leaders who seem to have undivided allegiance to the President, saying that the move aims to remind them that he is the senior most political leader in the region.
Kirinyaga Woman Representative Njeri Maina said the DP was speaking to the disunity in the region, which was fueled by competition for personal and collective interests and lack of appreciation that Gachagua is the second in command and defacto senior-most leader in the region.
“There are some quotas with the view that they had a pre-existing relationship with the President outside the current political set-up. They are right to feel that way, but they also need to understand and appreciate and respect the present,” she told The Standard.
On the issue of whether Gachagua would succeed in uniting the region, Ms Maina was sceptical.
“Uniting the mountain is a long shot. I’m hopeful but sceptical of the same. But like they say, you’ll never know unless you try. The Deputy President needs to reach out to everyone, friends and foes, if we are to consolidate our bargaining power as a region,” she said.
An MP who sought anonymity said most elected leaders from Mt Kenya have continued perceiving Gachagua as the MP for Mathira, saying he had a hand in that perception.
“I happened to serve in the last Parliament, and the President then Deputy President silently convinced us to shift our allegiance from his boss Uhuru Kenyatta, to him due to persuasion and bringing us closer to him. However, we feel our leader is not doing the same, but he is scattering instead of gathering,” said the legislator.
Money to contribute
He disclosed that Ruto maintained contact with the leaders and could invite them for funds drives and give them money to contribute, something that Gachagua was either not doing or had decided to change tact. “His rallying call is welcome, and we hope he will bring us closer to him through persuasion and consultations,” the MP said.
Political analyst Prof Gitile Naituli noted that Gachagua’s calls for unity and threats to those who engage the President directly are aimed at fighting for his space and taking the community leadership position.
“He is sensing that if untamed, those who engage directly with the President may outshine him in kingship politics, the more reason why he wants them to come back to his fold,” Prof Naituli said.
He argued that since power is not given but taken, Gachagua was on the right track and must rise to represent and agitate for the community’s interests to fit in the shoes of a Mt Kenya kingpin.
“He must seize the moment, grab the opportunity and run with it. Let him approach the President and face him over the community interests, and if things go south, face his constituents and explain to them,” he said. Last week, Gachagua said Mt Kenya leaders will always unite whenever the community’s interests are threatened.