Storm in UDA as leaders claim plot to weaken Gachagua

UDA National Women Congress at Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi on October 13, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

A storm is brewing in the ruling UDA party over a proposal to create three deputy party leader’s posts.

Some leaders from the Mt Kenya region have interpreted this as a move to dilute Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua's sat in the party.

The leaders have vowed to oppose such plans, maintaining that "such a proposal was an insult to the Mt Kenya region, which is a major shareholder of the Kenya Kwanza government."

“We will not stand any effort to water down the position of the deputy party leader and we maintain that the party constitution must conform to the constitution of the republic of Kenya. Any plans to twist the region would be met with unequivocal opposition,” said Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga.

“As a teacher, I have learned in psychology that when one is brought up in a violent relationship he ends up being violent, but we hope President William Ruto, who was in a toxic relationship with the former President will not end up in such a situation.”

He said the party has been built through mutual trust "between two communities and we hope it will not be destroyed.”

Nyeri Senator Wahome Wamatinga said the leaders’ fear is that with the creation of several centres of power, there will be duplication of roles and a scramble for power.

“The government structure must be mirrored in the party leadership structure. Imagine a situation where Gachagua, being the senior most political figure in UDA by virtue of being the deputy president, has several other officers who are at his status in the party hierarchy," he said.

He maintained that the role of strengthening the party should seek to surpass generations to come and not seek to settle certain political scores.

However, UDA Secretary of Legal Affairs Edward Muriu said the party constitution has all along had the three slots, adding that only the office bearers have not been named.

The Gatanga MP said each of the deputy party leaders will be in charge of different offices; policy and strategy, operations and programmes.

“There is no contradiction at all. We intend to give Mudavadi and Wetang'ula the two positions even as we continue asking them to fold their parties. The two leaders are already in government. Gachagua is above them in the pecking order so there should be no cause of alarm,” he said.

However, according to the leaders, the narrative that Gachagua should go home with the President after ten years was rife, especially from leaders from the Western region.

“We must stop the 2032 General Election's political alignments and seek to serve our electorate. Whoever represents the people well will be elected and our region which boasts of numbers will be a major player then,” said Wamatinga.

Mukurweini MP John Kaguchia said other than their demands of having one deputy party leader, they were also agitating for the position of Secretary-General.

“We've also agreed as Nyeri County UDA members that the position of the Secretary-General will be occupied by a member from the Mt Kenya region because we're the greatest stakeholders of the UDA Party,” he said.

Political analysts see the rumbling in the ruling party as a result of power play between the Deputy President and the Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, who are keen on consolidating their regions for 2027.

“The clamor to fold Kenya Kwanza affiliate political parties may be an elaborate scheme to accommodate the Kenya Kwanza coalition co-principles in the party and this may disorient Gachagua, who is the senior-most political leader in the coalition other than Ruto,” observes Prof Gitile Naituli.

He, however, urges the Mt Kenya region to tread carefully as there could be a scheme to have other leaders from other regions to push the region to seek for more positions so as to look greedy in bid to justify their move to isolate them in the future.

“Even as they push and agitate for their so-called political rights, they must do so cautiously as that may give others room to portray them in bad light and coalesce other regions against them,” he says.

The noise by the political class comes ahead of next month’s grassroots party elections, which according to a notice by Secretary General Cleophas Malala, will be held at the polling centres, wards, constituencies and county levels.

In the notice, those interested in vying for any position were to submit their applications via the UDA election portal by November 2.

The County Congress will comprise 20 constituency committee members drawn from each constituency as well as the elected leaders including governors, their deputies, senators and Woman Reps.

The Congress will elect 13 officials who will include a chairperson and a deputy chairperson, secretary and deputy secretary, and a treasurer.

The same structure will be replicated at the Constituency Congress, which will comprise 20 members from the Ward Committee and elected Member(s) of the National Assembly of the party.

The Ward Congress will have 20 polling Centre Committee members drawn from each polling centre as well as elected leader(s) of the party in the ward. They will elect 13 officials among themselves plus seven others.

The 20 members will be elected by all party members manually. They will include three members from the religious groups, four representing micro, small, medium and large enterprises and three representatives of professional groups.

Four other members will represent youth, three farmers’ representatives, one special interest group’s representative as well as two other members, one from each gender.