Rigathi Gachagua: Chiefs' only duties are ID replacement, tracing lost wives

UDA deputy presidential candidate Rigathi Gachagua addressing a political rally at Kitengela, Kajiado County on July 23, 2022. [Standard]

Rigathi Gachagua of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) has urged the government not to use chiefs in election campaigns.

The UDA deputy presidential candidate said on Saturday, July 23 that President Uhuru Kenyatta was using all the available State machinery, including chiefs, to campaign for Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya presidential candidate Raila Odinga.

Speaking during presidential campaigns at Kitengela, Kajiado County, the Mathira Member of Parliament said chiefs’ key duties include helping Kenyans replace lost identity cards and tracing wives, who’ve fled their matrimonial homes.

“Chiefs should not be used to tell Kenyans who to vote for in elections. Wewe chief, kama unataka kuambia mtu pahali atapiga kura, kwenda ambia bibi yako. Chief kazi yako ni kutengeneza mambo ya mpaka, kuandika barua ya kitambulisho na kama bibi ya mtu ametoroka, mtafutie huyo bibi umrudishie. Si hiyo ndiyo kazi ya chief?

Translation: “If you are a chief, know you have no right to direct anyone on who to vote for in the elections. You can only direct your wife. As a chief, your work entails settling land boundary disputes, stamping letters for Kenyans who have lost their identity cards and ensuring that a man whose wife fled the matrimonial home is reunited with the spouse. Aren’t these the only responsibilities that are assigned to a chief?”

The UDA deputy presidential candidate also asked the government to refrain from using the police service to settle political scores, citing the Thursday incident where a Venezuelan national was arrested at the JKIA with IEBC stickers.

In his address at Kitengela, Gachagua claimed he’s better suited to serve as Kenya’s second deputy president under the new Constitution, claiming his ability manifested during the deputy presidential debate held on Tuesday, July 19.

“The other day, I debated against Martha Karua. Tulimnyorosha, hatukumnyorosha (Didn’t we defeat her?)

“This coming Tuesday (July 26), William Ruto will face off against Raila Odinga of Azimio la Umoja in the presidential debate. I understand that Raila has panicked. Speaking for 90 minutes while standing is not easy. The debate wants someone who is mentally and physically fit. I hear the Azimio team wants Raila to be given a chair during the debate. I’m sure hustler (Ruto) will outshine him completely,” said Gachagua.

In the lead-up to the deputy presidential debate on July 19, a section of social media users, especially on Twitter, feared that Gachagua would say inappropriate things that would cause UDA a loss of votes.

The debate came on the back of utterances by the Mathira Member of Parliament that rubbed a section of Kenyans the wrong way.

For instance, he’d previously said that the blue police uniform was ugly, and should he and Deputy President William Ruto secure victory on August 9, they will “return the ugly blue uniform to members of PCEA Woman’s Guild”.

Chiefs’ functions

Contrary to Gachagua’s Saturday remarks, which might have been said in jest, chiefs and assistant chiefs play an important role in handling basic case management issues at the grassroots.

It’s the basic duty of every chief or assistant chief to maintain order in the area in respect of which he or she is appointed.

The Chiefs’ Act says a chief or assistant chief has the powers to:

•    Prohibit or restrict the consumption or possession of intoxicating liquor by, and the supply of such liquor to, young persons.
•    Prohibit or restrict the holding of drinking bouts.
•    Prohibit or restrict the cultivation of poisonous or noxious, plants, and the manufacture, transfer, sale and possession of noxious drugs or poisons.
•    Prohibit or restrict the carrying of arms.
•    Prohibit any act or conduct which in the opinion of the chief might cause a riot or a disturbance or a breach of the peace.
•    Prevent the pollution of the water in any stream, watercourse or water-hole, and prevent the obstruction of any stream or watercourse.

A chief or assistant chief also has the powers to arrest a suspected criminal and hand him over to the police.

“Any chief or assistant chief may interpose for the purpose of preventing, and shall to the best of his ability prevent, the commission of any offence by any person within the local limits of his jurisdiction,” says Part One, Section Eight, Sub-Section One of the Chiefs’ Act.