Gachagua's position after Limuru meet and his fading 'shareholding'

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua’s absence from President William Ruto’s functions in recent days has raised questions and created tension in the Kenya Kwanza coalition.

As signs begin to build around a possible gap growing between the two, it is the impact of the fallout between the President and his deputy that political pundits will be keenly following given that the Mt Kenya region, a voting bloc with over six million votes, is already becoming restless.

It is also telling that signs of a cold war between the two are showing at a time when a section of leaders from the region convened the so-called Limuru 111, to chart a new political direction.

The DP has in the past portrayed himself as a loyal servant to the president, sticking his neck out and telling all and sundry to defend government agenda like the Finance Bill 2023 and unpopular levies that followed like the housing tax.

That appears to have changed, but the question is who between the president and his deputy needs the other more, given that Gachagua has decided to go AWOL, either not being invited to Ruto’s functions or defiantly staying away or absent altogether. 

Analysts think President Ruto became uncomfortable with Gachagua’s move to mend fences with former President Uhuru Kenyatta, a man who has chosen to ignore the current President despite efforts by foreign diplomats to create some harmony between the two.

Eyebrows were further raised when the deputy president was reported to have held a meeting with Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula, who has refused to fold his party as requested by President Ruto.

Gachagua has also changed tack, appearing a more subtle leader, willing to listen to others in Mt Kenya as he fights back attempts to whittle his influence by younger leaders like Ndindi Nyoro and Kimani Ichung’wah.

On Friday, the DP was not at the airport to welcome back President Ruto from Rwanda, where he was met by other leaders among them National Assembly Majority leader Kimani Ichung’wah.

It is telling that the first function when Gachagua began missing from Ruto’s activities was the tree planting in Ndindi’s Murang’a backyard.

On that day, Gachagua had been expected to carry out a similar exercise in Bomet County, but he was allegedly denied the use of a Kenya Airforce helicopter.

Earlier, Gachagua had also tried to reach out to Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria to seal the differences that had been growing since last year, when murmurs emerged that Gachagua was fighting the CS.

The Limuru 111 conference has also deeply divided leaders from the region with some claiming Gachagua could have been among those supporting it behind the scenes.

Gachagua had also advised leaders in the region to talk to reach out to him over issues they wanted addressed at the Limuru 111 meeting and other emerging matters.

Kuria however disagreed with Gachagua’s advice, saying neither Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua, Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni or himself needed to reach out to the DP if they were dissatisfied with any development in Mt Kenya that needed to be resolved.

Speaking during a TV interview, Kuria said: “I don’t agree with the deputy president because we were elected by people to solve their issues. If Karua calls me to her house today, I will go there with respect and they don’t have to come to me because we need all of us.”

It is no secret that Gachagua has continued building his own political base in Mt Kenya silently with the support of some MPs from Nyeri County, Embu and other areas.

“Gachagua should be respected as the Deputy President and as the leader of Mt Kenya, because he is the region’s kingpin,” said Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga last year.

Tongues began wagging about the DP’s hidden hand, when Kahiga, Gachagua’s key ally appeared to support the Limuru 111 meeting, saying leaders from Mt Kenya should be free to meet. “When Mt Kenya leaders meet to talk, you will start to hear people complaining but when Luhyas do so, no one complains. We must unite for the region’s growth,” he said.

Gachagua, who until a few months ago appeared happy with the allocation Mt Kenya is getting in terms of resources and development, has now changed tune and joined Karua’s clarion call of one man, one vote one shilling. The DP’s position on the matter has however again divided the region after CS Kuria told him that the region has enough MPs who are in Kenya Kwanza and can therefore implement it.

He however opposed the idea saying: “I will not lie to the people of Mt Kenya about one man one man, one, one shilling because our region has produced the DP, nine CSs, including the AG, Secretary to the Cabinet and Treasury, the Leader of Majority, chair of budget and chair finance committees.”

The DP appears to be playing his dangerous cards from under the table and has been reported saying: “What I become is not my concern because that is in God’s hands. My agenda, for now, is to make my people rich, eradicate reckless alcoholism and unite the mountain”.  

But his supporters continue talking about him being the undisputed kingpin to the discomfort of politicians like CS Kuria. And Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri says the DP is playing dangerous politics at night.

Among State functions that Gachagua has missed include President Yoweri Museveni State visit, when he was received by Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi and seen off by CS Kipchumba Murkomen and Azimio leaders Raila Odinga.

In Embu, Gachagua ignited the one man, one shilling, one vote debate. “On matters of revenue sharing, Rigathi Gachagua is a believer and a proponent of one man, one vote, one shilling. Resources are about people. The more you are the more taxes you pay,” said Gachagua.

Philip Kisia argues that the President and his deputy need each other for the stability needed in UDA and more so because of Gachagua’s Central Kenya voting base.

“Ruto’s support base in that region has taken off, and the people he is depending on will not be an alternative to Gachagua, especially now that Uhuru Kenyatta is firmly on the driving seat,” says Kisia.