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Rebirth of 'Kieleweke' and 'Tanga Tanga factions in Ruto government

Politics
 President Ruto and Deputy Rigathi Gachagua at State House Nairobi June 13, 2023. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Signs of growing factions within the ruling Kenya Kwanza coalition are a true testament that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

The unfolding political events in the Mt Kenya region reveal the emergence of two factions akin to the Kieleweke and Tanga Tanga movements that characterised former  President Uhuru Kenyatta’s political affairs soon after winning his second term.

The Kieleweke faction supported President Kenyatta and argued against early campaigns and discussions about succession politics, while the Tanga Tanga faction supported then Deputy President William Ruto, criticising the Uhuru goverment for undermining, isolating, and humiliating his second in command. This emerged soon after Uhuru had a handshake with opposition leader Raila Odinga.

The Tanga Tanga faction whipped up sympathy for Ruto around the Mt Kenya region and Rift Valley, claiming he had been isolated because of his humble background, and that is how the campaign morphed into class politics of hustlers versus dynasties, pitting Ruto as the face of the poor. Uhuru and Raila were depicted as the dynasties who could not understand what an ordinary Kenyan goes through in daily life.

In one of the many interviews Ruto vowed that he would never allow his deputy to be humiliated by junior staff and that he had committed in writing that “there are responsibilities my deputy will carry. I want to promise you that my Deputy President will be a very busy person,” Ruto said.

But barely two years down the line, the battle lines have begun to be drawn between the two factions within the Mt Kenya region, one rooting for Gachagua’s replacement as Ruto’s running mate in 2027, while the other has launched a defense of Gachagua. The DP’s loyalists have vowed to deal with any politician who undermines Gachagua. While all this happens, the President has been quiet.

Ruto’s lieutenants, who are largely speaking from church fundraisers and include MPs Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu) and Mwangi Kiunjuri (Laikipia), are taking the lead role in anti-Gachagua messaging, with Kirinyaga Governor Ann Waiguru joining the battalion by launching a broadside against Gachagua through her X platform while in the US, where she is accompanying the President.

“While we respect the office of the Deputy President, and indeed any other office of leadership, a progressive democracy does not allow us as occupiers of public leadership offices to personalise them to the extent that it becomes taboo for anyone else to nurture and express ambition to occupy them. We hold these offices in trust, not as owners,” she wrote and tagged the president, the deputy president, prime cabinet secretary Musalia Mudavadi, women governors, and the two leaders of the two Parliaments.

Gachagua’s loyalists, led by Embakasi North MP James Gakuya and Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga, want the President to declare his stand over the continuing ‘disrespect’ by youthful MPs who have been telling masses in fundraisers that they speak for him.

Yesterday, Kahiga responded to Waiguru, claiming she, just like other leaders fighting the Deputy President, “have been lied to that they can be picked to replace Gachagua”.

“If they want us to open the debate, we should also hear them talk about the Presidency in 2027 because the two positions are elected on a single ballot,” said Kahiga.

According to Kahiga, the President too has undermined his deputy. He enumerated occasions where he felt Ruto took a swipe at his deputy.

“When Ruto was in Nyanza, he termed the ‘shareholding remarks’ as primitive. I responded to him and told him to come and repeat the same remarks while in the Mt Kenya region... It had reached a point that I suggested the termination of our marriage with this government,” said Kahiga.

In an interview with Inooro FM recently, Kahiga said despite Gachagua’s booby traps at State House to prevent Raila from accessing State House, he was nonetheless brought into the picture, and that has culminated in Gachagua “being denied a chopper to ferry him to plant trees on May 10”.

“There are massive layoffs to our people who were found serving in government, and I personally prevailed upon the president to ensure that for any member of our community laid off, a replacement should be from a member of the Agikuyu community. We went into this marriage based on trust, but the other group is not keeping its part of the bargain,” the governor said.

Kahiga said all the votes that the Mt Kenya region gave to the Kenya Kwanza administration were as a result of Gachagua’s efforts and sacrifices. He said Gachagua was the representative of the votes in Ruto’s administration.

On Sunday, in a church service in Nyeri, Gachagua mobilised more than 20 MPs in a show of political might, and yesterday, during the burial of Julius Kano Ndumbi, former Principal of Kianyaga High School, the second in command had several MPs who pledged loyalty to him.

“Most of the MPs plotting against Gachagua were not there when Gachagua and Ruto were going through hell; they were busy establishing their party (The Service Party) and others were busy in Jubilee, but now that the antelope has been hunted, they are creating a wedge between Ruto and Gachagua,” Maragua MP Mary Wamaua said in a veiled attack against Waiguru and Kiunjuri.

On her part, Kirinyaga Women Representative Njeri Maina said: “We should all support the Deputy President because he is the only person who can bring resources to our region. There are Judases on the mountain, and we shall deal with them.”

Gachagua, who has been asking the Mt Kenya region not to allow itself to be divided, yesterday, repeated the calls: “You will be dispersed like monkey’s pee.”

“People are being organised to divide us, but our people are wise; when you see collaborators and traitors, you should note them. Despite my silence, I’m guided by the quote ‘deep waters are usually silent’; we may look daft, but we are wise,” he said.

He repeated the same message in Mwea as he crisscrossed other towns in Kirinyaga on his way back from the funeral.

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