DP Gachagua, wife sulk over Sh400m, dig holes in boat Ruto is steering

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua with wife Pastor Dorcas Rigathi during a church service at PEFA Church Kiamariga, Nyeri County on July 7, 2024. [DPSC, Standard]

He walks alone, constantly attracting new warfronts. 

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua is not letting up, and from his words and actions, he can stay the warpath for as long as it takes to achieve his goals.

His most pressing one seems to be dominating politics in his native Mt Kenya region, a task that has been easier said than done.

From home, where he often camps, the self-proclaimed "truthful man" fires at foes unrelenting.

The scrapping of a Sh400 million allocation to fight illicit brew rubbed the DP and his wife the wrong way.

On Sunday, the deputy president was once again hitting at his own administration, criticising officials openly. He took his fight to the Kithure Kindiki-led Interior Ministry, which he accuses of frustrating his fight against illicit alcohol in Mt Kenya to settle political scores.

Kindiki was Gachagua's fiercest challenger to be President William Ruto's running mate in the 2022 presidential election. Both men deny being rivals although their words have often betrayed them, among observers.

As he fired a warning shot to officials in the said ministry, Gachagua cautioned his boss that he risked losing favour in Mt Kenya.

"Mr President, if you allow overzealous officers at Harambee House with a political scheme to interfere with this war against illicit brew, those officers will set you up against the people," said the DP at a Church service in Nyeri.

President Ruto has enough challenges of his own. A nationwide youth revolt is causing him headaches. The most immediate dilemma is shedding his Cabinet officials deemed "corrupt and incompetent", according to Generation Z and Millennials protesters.

It is no easy task, Ruto admitted to the youth during an X Space meeting last Friday. He could use allies. At the height of the youth revolt, it had seemed like his deputy, with whom they have been estranged in recent months, would fight in his corner.

Staring at a potentially bloody breach of State House, Gachagua pleaded with the youths to call off their demonstrations, stating the president had heeded their call. Days earlier, he had flanked the Head of State at the same venue as concessions on the controversial Finance Bill, 2024, were announced.

And it seemed like the two, who could not see eye to eye, had decided to put their differences aside. Gachagua's remarks on Sunday all but indicated that the President, desperate for support, cannot count on his principal assistant to be there when he needs him most.

Ruto finds himself in a spot occupied by former President Uhuru Kenyatta, who also had to fight fires sparked by his then-deputy as he contended with other wars.

"I can see Gen Zs here. Are you 'occupying'? Occupy permanently," Second Lady Dorcas Rigathi said during the Sunday service. Although she did not explain the context of her remarks, they did not give hope for a ceasefire or help in quelling the revolt

Moments earlier, Mrs Rigathi had joined her husband in castigating those they accused of derailing the war on alcohol.

"How can it be that somebody somewhere decides to take us back where we have come from? No, this thing (illicit alcohol) must stop," she had said, further reacting to Ruto's recent slashing of her office's budget, a move forced on the President by Gen Zs and Millennials.

"The country has said that they don't want the second lady's office to have a (publicly-funded) budget, which is okay. But I will not stop working for the boy-child... because I started even before I was in the (second lady's) office," she said, urging youths to raise funds in support of fighting drug and alcohol abuse.

"The Gen Zs are not Gachagua's problem although he is in the government. His problems are different from the president's," observed, Macharia Munene a professor of diplomatic history at the United States International University.

Gachagua has been at war with other actors. He is not sitting pretty within Kenya Kwanza, constantly facing accusations of playing tribal politics by pushing to 'unite' the region and a population-based revenue-sharing formula. The DP has denied claims that he is a tribalist, pointing at similar unity efforts across other regions.

The DP has fallen out with his successor, Mathira Member of Parliament Eric Wamumbi, who he castigated for allegedly sabotaging the war on outlawed brew. 

"It is true, there is a Rift between the Deputy president and I. The rift is not about the closed bars in Karatina town which have left the town dead for four months. It is about something bigger than that, he should say the truth, and nothing but the truth," Wamumbi shot back at Gachagua.

The DP's rivalry with Public Service Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria is not as hidden. The two have no love lost and go at each other publicly.

"The President of the Federal Republic of Mathira spent a bruising day on a whistle stop tour of his country with stops in Hiriga, Kabiruini, Ngorano and Kiamariga States. The President pledged to strengthen the bilateral relations between the Federal Republic of Mathira and the neighbouring Republic of Kenya," Kuria chided his boss on X on Sunday.

Gachagua is borrowing a leaf from his boss, also attacking security officials. He recently blamed National Intelligence Service Director-General Noordin Haji for misadvising the president on anti-tax protests. The DP claimed that the NIS chief planned to frame him for a spate of violence witnessed during the protests that have left more than 30 people dead.

His utterances sparked strong reactions from lawmakers and professionals from Muslim-dominated regions, who defended the NIS boss.

"Gachagua is in a corner and he is deploying survival tactics. He has had problems convincing anyone that he deserves to be a leader of Mt Kenya, let alone the country," stated Prof Munene.

But Embakasi Central MP Benjamin Gathuru, an ally of the DP, does not believe Gachagua is "cornered", suggesting those against him are "led by their stomachs".

"The voters are with him. Just give those leaders a few months and you will see all of them singing and dancing to his tune and pretending to be more of his defenders. It happened to the current president and it will happen again, but voters are more enlightened," said Gathiru.