How Gachagua's troubles mirror those of Moi's VP Karanja in 1989

When Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua landed in Nanyuki for KDF Day celebrations on October 14, 2022, in a military chopper. [DPCS]

The onslaught on Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua in Parliament this week by MPs from his own party paints a picture of a well-choreographed script that could lead to an attempt to kick him out of office.

The attacks also bring back memories of the tribulations suffered by Kenya’s fifth vice president Josephat Karanja, the scholar turned diplomat, who was forced to resign following an onslaught spearheaded by his own homeboys.

The move by the National Assembly House Business Committee to allow the discussion of the conduct of the Deputy President rekindles the events leading to Karanja’s resignation in 1989.

Karanja, who joined politics from academia and ultimately became Vice President, was a marked man whose days as the second-in-command were numbered. The perfect moment to cut him to size came in January 1989 when President Daniel arap Moi was in France.

As the acting President, Karanja called top security officials for a briefing and asked for updates. His critics were not amused and accused him of overplaying his hand.

Kuria Kanyingi, from Kiambu, fired the first salvo by accusing Karanja of behaving like a small god and “forcing leaders to kneel before him”.

Later, Embakasi MP David Mwenje tabled a vote of no confidence in the Vice President on April 26, 1989. Isolated and bewildered, Karanja listened as he was torn to pieces on the floor of the House.

When he tried to defend himself, Mwenje thundered: “We do not want trouble. We do not want chaos. Our loyalty to the President is direct, right from our houses, from our constituencies to the President.”

On Wednesday, National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah, who like Kanyingi hails from Kiambu, used over ten minutes to disparage Gachagua, questioning the sincerity of the man who often refers to himself as the “truthful man”. This gave the Opposition members fodder to attack him.

Nyando MP Jared Okello sought a statement from Ichung’wah on whether all was well in the government after photos of Gachagua boarding a commercial airline surfaced.

Ichung’wah and other Kenya Kwanza MPs accused Gachagua of bringing his office into disrepute while their Azimio counterparts joined the fray, urging them to introduce an impeachment motion against the DP.

Ichung’wah criticised Gachagua for towing his luggage at JKIA on his way to boarding his flight.

“He had with him not less than 19 bodyguards, 14 of whom he was to travel with on that aircraft. Therefore, he had no problems with people carrying his bags,” he said.

Ichungwah, who has turned to be Gachagua’s harshest critic, accused him of lying about his reasons for arriving late at a function attended by President William Ruto in Nakuru last weekend.

“The President was magnanimous enough to receive his deputy. There was a slight challenge with the weather, I can confirm, around Mt Longonot but we maneuvered through within five minutes. As to why a person serving in the office of a Deputy President would choose to tell what is not true, I cannot explain,” he said.

Nyeri Town MP Dancun Mathenge, who claimed that he spoke on behalf of all six MPs from Gachagua’s home county, accused the DP of blackmail and intimidation of other leaders.

“You cannot disrespect us and expect us to maintain the respect that we have accorded you for the last two years. Respect is earned. It is not demanded. It is not coerced,” he said.

South Mugirango MP Sylvanus Osoro criticised Gachagua over his campaign for a one man, one shilling, one vote revenue sharing formula and his “shareholders” and “traitor’s” remarks, saying they were a recipe for chaos.

“This is shocking. If we go by that formula that he was proposing, then he should also propose that a certain section of people or a region should then not pay taxes,” he said.

Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi observed that there were signs of dysfunction in the Kenya Kwanza government, referring to the circumstances under which VP Karanja was hounded out of office 35 years ago.

“From where we sit as Azimio members, we see a situation where the marriage is not working. And if the marriage is not working, the logical thing to do is to separate,” Wandayi said.

Okello said he wanted to know whether there was a way that the House could help Gachagua and how they could deal with him if he was only pulling PR stunts.

“If there is a real problem that the Deputy President is facing that we can help him solve, then this is the right platform. But if he is playing victim, then we want to know and call him to order,” he said.

Political analysts believe there could be a well-choreographed scheme to introduce an impeachment motion against Gachagua.

Articles 144 and 145 of the Constitution provide grounds of the removal of the Deputy President from office. They include physical or mental incapacity, gross violation of the Constitution, gross misconduct and where there are serious reasons to believe the Deputy President has committed a crime under national or international law.

Charles Njoroge said the decision by the National Assembly to spend one hour to discuss Gachagua was a well-planned strategy and reflected a wider scheme to cut him down to size.

“The Cabinet is issuing hard hitting statements against Gachagua. Mt Kenya region MPs are also against him. Wednesday’s proceedings in Parliament is a narrative that points at something which could be in the offing,” Njoroge noted.

But political analyst Herman Manyora argues that the idea of an impeachment “could easily boomerang on President Ruto”. 

Manyora said an impeachment against Gachagua would be interpreted as a betrayal of the Mt Kenya region.

“An impeachment attempt against Gachagua would immediately unite the mountain against President Ruto, and catapult him (Gachagua) to the top of Mt Kenya,” he said.

According to Manyora, there is a brewing rebellion in the region against the government because of what it sees as punitive taxes targeting them “and coincidentally Gachagua has changed into a quieter, more appeasing leader focused on the Mt Kenya region’s agenda”.

An impeachment attempt, he argues, would be seen a scheme to remove the person who is championing the region’s interests and replace him with someone who would be easier to manage.

Manyora says the scheme would make Gachagua a kingmaker in 2027 elections, and an attractive ally for presidential candidates running against Ruto, “especially if Gachagua is wise enough to postpone his presidential ambitions until 2032”.