Win for Gachagua as call for three deputy party leaders rejected

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, President William Ruto and UDA Party Secretary-General Cleophas Malala at the party's headquarters where they met before the grassroots elections. [PCS] 

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has strengthened his grip on the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) Party after the National Executive Committee (NEC) amended the party constitution to create a single post of deputy party leader instead of three.

A section of the party members has been pushing for the creation of three deputy party leader’s positions.

The change approved by UDA party boss President William Ruto is a big win for Gachagua.

The provision in the party’s constitution had earlier caused jitters, especially among Gachagua lieutenants who felt the intention was to weaken his influence.

The three positions would include Deputy Party leader in charge of policy and strategy, Deputy Party leader for operations, and Deputy Party leader in charge of programs.

However, in a Friday NEC meeting chaired by President Ruto, the party agreed to approve changes where the creation of a single office of deputy party leader with two assistant deputy party leaders was made.

“We have had a National Executive Committee meeting led and chaired by our party leader President Ruto and we have agreed and changed our party constitution,” said Secretary General Cleophas Malala.

Malala noted that in the future, any deputy president from the party would automatically become the deputy party leader.

“The national governing structure of UDA has changed, we will have one party leader, our President William Ruto, a deputy party leader who is our Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and we have created two assistant deputy party leaders who will assist Gachagua as deputy party leader.” 

Malala said the NEC agreed that the ongoing UDA grassroots elections will go on as earlier planned in the five counties and in the polling stations that failed to have an election.

“We have also agreed that come June, phase two of our party primaries we will purchase 10,000 voting gadgets for electronic polls,” he said.

He warned that candidates who disrupted the first party primaries will face disciplinary action.

Leaders from the Mt Kenya region have termed NEC’s decision as an assurance that the position was reserved for the region which delivered a key chunk of Ruto’s votes in 2022 and one which would be crucial for his re-election.

Nyeri Town MP Duncan Mathenge welcomed the decision, noting that it would strengthen Gachagua’s position and influence in the party.

“Gachagua is the Deputy Party Leader of UDA, that is the position and that can only be changed at the NDC. People have the right to associate, and express themselves but the decision as to whether there is need for three deputy party leaders will be made by the party structures,” he said.

He said the push to have an expanded party structure was being fronted by a section of Western Kenya MPs to accommodate leaders from the region. He added that the expansion of positions had merely been a proposal that was neither discussed nor approved during the party’s last NDC.

“The key thing that is happening in UDA is a desire to form a unitary party and a formidable UDA going to 2027, the footpath to this may result in the formation of a different party or other parties folding to ensure a strong UDA,” said Mathenge.

Gachagua’s allies had been jittery because of an alleged ploy by affiliate parties to weaken the Deputy President’s role and influence.

They argued that by Gachagua being the Deputy President and Mt Kenya’s highest-ranking politician, the position was unreservedly his.

About the ongoing grassroots elections,  Malala announced that the committee had noted the innovative and unprecedented technology voting system that the UDA had deployed in the exercise and had approved its reinforcement and improvement for use in future party nominations.

The grassroots elections are crucial because those who are elected will have a final say on the election of national party officials, including the secretary general and assistant deputy party leaders.

A successful completion of the party elections will also set the stage for the possible folding up of the sister Kenya Kwanza parties comprising Ford Kenya led by Speaker of the National Assembly Moses Wetang’ula and Amani National Congress of Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi.  

The NEC meeting changes came as a blow to Mudavadi who had hinted at folding his party and joining UDA with a view of becoming a second deputy party leader.

But Mudavadi has faced opposition from his party led by Secretary General, Emuhaya lawmaker Omboko Milemba, and chairman Kelvin Lunami who have rejected any attempts to fold the party.