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Rigathi Gachagua now consolidates Mt Kenya to wear the king's crown

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua hands over a reward to the best graduand during the 11th Graduation ceremony of Outspan Medical College in Nyeri. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua is slowly settling onto his newly acquired position of Mt Kenya region's undisputed king if recent political events are anything to go by.

By holding the region's senior-most political position in the Kenya Kwanza government, observers note that Mr Gachagua is finally taking the political mantle from former President Uhuru Kenyatta.

During the recent East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) nominations, Gachagua asserted his authority after it seemed clear that the Mt Kenya leadership was being shortchanged by colleagues in Kenya Kwanza.

A meeting held on Wednesday at Statehouse, summoned by President William Ruto, ended badly for Mt Kenya after it was decided that five out of 13 candidates who had expressed interest to represent Kenya in Eala mainly come from Rift Valley, Ukambani and Western regions.

In a mock election which was sanctioned by the President, former Nominated MP David Sankok, United Republican Party (URP)'s Secretary General Fred Muteti, former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar, former nominated senator Falhada Iman Dekow and former Nandi Women Rep Zipporah Kering were picked as Kenya Kwanza's candidates for Eala.

Mwangi Maina, who vigorously campaigned for the President in Mt Kenya region, and who hails from Gaturi Muranga, and Kubai Iringo, did not sail through.

This forced the leaders from the region to improvise a strategy that could ensure the region has a representative.

"It dawned on us that we were being shortchanged and quickly formed a strategy with Azimio One Kenya Alliance to vote for former Kieni MP Kanini Kega as a compromise candidate. They also voted for Maina Mwangi our preferred candidate. We had the blessings of the Deputy President and our strategy succeeded," revealed Gatanga MP, Edward Muriu.

The move has been welcomed with both hands by both government-allied leaders from the region and also by the opposition

Most leaders who hail from the mountain now agree that Gachagua should take up the leadership mantle and unite the region.

While presiding over the swearing ceremony of county executive members, Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga, an ardent lieutenant of the Deputy President, disclosed that they (those from Mt Kenya but in government) will continue supporting their 2022 political rivals should their counterparts continue "playing dirty political games on us.'

"We were keen and we realized that there are people who wanted to introduce political tyranny and that is why we voted for Kanini," he said.

"It is still early in this marriage but the bad signs are there. We are Mau Mau descendants and no one can smear us with porridge."

While speaking at Chuka Igamba Ngombe Constituency, during the burial of area MP Patrick Munene's daughter Natasha Makena, the Deputy President committed to uniting the divided region. He said politics were over and it was time to unite and mentor leaders regardless of their political affiliation.

"We don't want to be caught in a situation that we were in last year when nobody was mentored to take over the leadership of this region. We are mentoring young leaders and preparing them for leadership," he said.

"That is why we brought Kanini Kega forward and we shall do that to Sabina Chege and others. We want them to join us and bring the mountain together, the politics are over."

The Deputy President was in Nyeri yesterday. He is expected to spend today in Mt Kenya as he consolidates the region whose over 800,000 votes went to Azimio La Umoja's Presidential candidate Raila Odinga.

Leaders from both UDA and Jubilee who spoke to The Sunday Standard welcomed the move saying it is Gachagua who will guide the region on its political direction.

Former Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi said given that former President Kenyatta was tasked with international duties, it was necessary for leaders to align with Gachagua who is the region's senior-most politician.

"We are fully behind Gachagua and we shall support him. Those who lost are looking forward to meeting him for a united region," Mr Ngugi noted.

Former Nyeri town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, while acknowledging that it could not have been easy to front Kega to represent Azimio in Eala without the input of the Deputy President, said leaders who lost held a meeting and resolved to add value in Kenya Kwanza government saying its success was a good thing for all.

"We must seek to add value wherever we can. We will use our experience over the last five years to do this," said the former MP.

Jubilee Party Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni said that based on the political intrigues both in Azimio and Kenya Kwanza, there was a need for the leaders from Mt Kenya region to come together or else "they will be eclipsed by other communities".

"We don't have an alternative, we must shed our personal egos for unity," he said.

Kioni noted that just like how the interests of the region could drown in Kenya Kwanza, it was also the same predicament in Azimio.

He said whenever the region's interests were put on the table, there was the formation of ethnic blocks a move that has forced them to 'see the bigger picture'.

"It is clear that the region has numbers and the numbers matter. We must know how to exploit reality and have our way and with Gachagua having been picked as the Deputy President, he is the best-placed leader to convince us to work as a team," said Kioni.

The sibling rivalry among UDA leaders in Mt Kenya has also seen a section of leaders declaring their support for Gachagua. They are warning their counterparts "who feel so close to the President to understand that the region's negotiator is Gachagua".

Muranga Women Representative Bettie Maina, while saying that the region's marriage in UDA is still intact, noted that there was still sibling rivalry that needed to be handled delicately.

"Gachagua is our bride in Kenya Kwanza. Those who enjoy the ear of the President must understand that," said Maina.

She warned that just because two or three leaders enjoy close ties with the President, they should not be mistaken to be the voice of the mountain.

Wahome Wamatinga, the Nyeri Senator, cautioned leaders not to blow matters out of proportion. He said all the issues surrounding the Eala nomination were trivial.

"While it is indeed true that Gachagua is our kingpin, and those who lost must seek his advice, we should not blow Eala issues out of proportions," he said.

Isaac Thuita, a Nyeri politician, said Gachagua stood to gain in the discussions and that he will command support from the government should there be any underhand plans to upstage him.

Nelson Kamande, a Nyeri resident, said should the region get divided in 2027, Ruto will be forced to work extra hard to bring other communities to his side.

"Gachagua will gain in this discussion. He may be saying contrary to what those supporting him are saying but he could be playing Ruto's card. Behaving how Ruto behaved when he was Uhuru's deputy," said Thuita.

Kamande opined: "Ruto has remained a champion of anti-ethnicity. This is because currently, he does not want a restive Mt Kenya bloc going for his neck."

"Ruto must get scared by the coming together of Jubilee and UDA allied leaders in the region and the declaration of Gachagua as their leader.

He (the President) would have been better placed to spearhead such overtures so that the poll losers have their allegiance to him and not to Gachagua," said Kamande.