DP Gachagua, Karua and the growing unhappiness in Mount Kenya

Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua and DP Rigathi Gachagua. [File, Standard]

An air of desperation is spurring three political forces that have arisen from the increasing perception that things, particularly in the Mountain, are going wrong.

These are the Martha Karua connected Limuru III movement, Rigathi Gachagua’s undercurrents, and the old-order GEMA remnants.

The remnants, linked to Mount Kenya Foundation or top church offices, imagine themselves to be the unofficial custodians of the Mountain’s interests and operate behind the scenes trying to reignite previous influence. They reminisce, lament, and wonder about what could or should be.

Neither Karua nor the deputy president (DP), the two rivals in the August 2022 elections, is subtle in their desire to lead the Mountain. Ms Karua, trying to lead a movement, gained experience in political warfare by challenging Daniel arap Moi in the 1980s. Mr Gachagua, Moi’s pupil in handling government critics, is currently trying to handle challengers to his leadership.

On becoming DP, Gachagua made his craving for the muthegi (Gikuyu leadership staff) clear but his blunders kept pushing it away. He lacked a sense of occasion proportionality and made offensive utterances. His claim that he spoke truth to wazungu was illogical given that his audience was mostly African heads of state and government. In declaring President Ruto ‘king’ in Kenya and himself ‘king’ of the Mountain, he distanced himself from those he sought to lead. The country was then spiralling downwards.

His insistence that people accept him because he holds high office in Dr Ruto’s government started paying out. Other than a mostly Nyeri-based Rware team that sees him as a potential president, his biggest success was in roping in elected UDA politicians to protect him from intra-UDA challenges and to promote him outside UDA confines.

Led by Embakasi MP Jimmy Gakuya, recruits assert that questioning Gachagua amounts to dividing people. They created Thingira Committee and Kanu Gema Update as Gachagua’s socio-media publicity organs.

The claim targeted those within and then outside UDA. Those inside include Ruto point men rivalling Gachagua; Kimani Ichung'wah as a shepherd in Parliament and Ndindi Nyoro as a defender of tax increases.

Githunguri MP Gathoni wa Muchomba refuses to bend to the DP wave. Several other MPs, refraining from boarding Gachagua’s leadership train, keep their political distances. This rejection bothered Gachagua enough and he tried to change tactics to sound empathetic to the people.

Gachagua tried winning people outside UDA. He grumbled about debt forgiveness for cash crop farmers and called for 'one man, one vote, one shilling'. He also pleaded with critics to follow him but his method was counterproductive. It appeared like a publicity stunt or what Karua calls ‘market’ invites. By projecting critics as unreasonable, the pleas aimed at pressuring the reluctant to accept his leadership.

Lacking tact, sincerity, or seriousness, the pressure did not work and instead, critics organised alternative political rallying centres. They sought to exploit Ruto’s weaknesses which include perceived surrendering of the running of the country to the World Bank and the IMF.

This surrender creates poverty and makes people desperate as taxes rise and services decline. Those in UDA appear mute on such grievances. Subsequently, DP’s struggle to convince people to accept his leadership has repeatedly hit political bricks.

The bricks became harder with Karua, a modern-day Muthoni Nyanjiru, and Jeremiah Kioni organising Limuru III movement. With time, Limuru has acquired a cultural-political meaning to refer to critical decision-making. The purpose of the 1966 Limuru I, for instance, was to jettison Oginga Odinga from the ruling party Kanu. Limuru II in 2012 was to anoint and launch Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidential bid.

Limuru III is different, scares Gachagua and Ichung'wah, and renders both irrelevant to a force derived from prevailing disappointment and unhappiness in the Mountain. Not there to anoint anyone, the movement provides a venting forum.