Deputy President Ruto preaches harmony in restive Jubilee region
Eric Wainaina, Anthony Mwangi and Seth Mwanikin
Deputy President William Ruto used the funeral of Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua’s mother in Nyeri on Tuesday to demonstrate that he has a political grip in the Central region, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s backyard.
And at least 50 MPs and other leaders allied to Tanga Tanga, one of the factions in the ruling Jubilee Party, descended on Hiriga village with a two-pronged agenda: propagate the DP’s political message and bash their Kieleweke rivals, who support the President and Handshake between him and opposition leader Raila Odinga.
But they were clear on one thing: not to show disrespect to the President.
In a lone attempt to put his best foot forward for the Kieleweke team, Kieni MP Kanini Kega, who said he had come with Uhuru’s condolence message and Sh500,000 donation to the family, earned him an instant reprimand from Ruto.
The DP told him to “stick to his lane” and let him do the job as the only elected principal assistant of the President.
Yesterday, Rigathi confirmed the behind scenes political choreography that preceded the funeral, saying the leaders had held a meeting to craft a strong message in favour of Ruto. He said the huge attendance of the funeral by Tanga Tanga-allied leaders was not just of out respect for him, but deliberate.
“The mass attendance by the leaders was out of my respect. But we also wanted to show that we are united and keen to start the year with a bang,” Rigathi, a staunch supporter of the DP, told the People Daily.
It was to Ruto allies, a significant statement to those opposed to the DP’s 2022 State House bid, that the man enjoys support in the region in the 2022 succession race.
According to the MP, who once served as a personal assistant to Uhuru during his time as Kanu chairman, has in the past fallen short of accusing his party leader of plotting to betray Ruto in his 2022 presidential bid.
The DP, who has been campaigning to inherit President’s Mount Kenya constituency, has in the recent past rallied his troops to keep hold of the region after it appeared to wane after the March 9, 2018 Handshake.
This has created divisions among local leaders, with those allied to the President accusing the DP of disrespecting his boss by tagging along leaders who have been “abusing” the President, notably Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu) and Alice Wahome (Kandara).
According to Rigathi, prior to the funeral, the Ruto allies met to plan their speeches.
“Before the funeral started all the leaders present caucused and agreed that we should not make remarks that disrespected the President,” Rigathi said, adding that he was the one who convened the meeting.
According to sources, some leaders were concerned that Kuria, Nyoro and Wahome, who have in the recent past made statements that have angered the President’s allies, would make disrespectful remarks.
“We wouldn’t have wanted a situation where the likes of Kuria, Wahome and Ndindi would have made the kind of remarks which they have been making in rallies recently,” said an MP who attended the meeting but who declined to be quoted for fear of antagonising his colleagues.
In June, while speaking at a prayer meeting in Kasarani, a furious Uhuru, who has been unhappy because Mount Kenya leaders had failed to speak in one voice, promised to deal with the rebels who have been fighting him and his agenda.
“They (rebels) should not think that they intimidate me, I will remove them from where they normally go, just wait and see,” he said in threats which targeted the DP’s allies.
Kiambaa MP Paul Koinange, a close ally of the President, who has maintained that the Head of State was in full control of the Mount Kenya region, yesterday described what happened at the Nyeri funeral as “very unfortunate”, saying everything was choreographed to try and paint the President in bad light.
“What happened was not good. The plan (during the burial) was to discredit the President.
And that is what has been happening, but what we (pro-President leaders) have decided is that we shall not be engaging in unnecessary and petty squabbles with the other team but we shall concentrate on matters development because we have a lot of work to be done,” said the MP, who is the chairman of the National Assembly Committee on Security.
Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen used the funeral to tell Uhuru to “put his house in order before addressing other issues”.
The Elgeyo Marakwet senator, who has claimed the fight against corruption was targeted to humiliate the DP, blamed the infighting in Jubilee on the President, claiming he had neglected his role as party leader.
“The investment in Uhuru and Jubilee is huge and we will not separate. Uhuru cannot run away from us.
The problem with Jubilee is like that of a family where after 20 years of marriage the man gets married to another woman who starts lecturing them how bad the wife and kids are.
That is not possible. A true husband must respect the first wife and children. Uhuru Kenyatta you are our father,” said the senator.
Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika, a Tanga Tanga member, defended Alice Wahome over claims that she was disrespectful to the President.
“She spoke the truth; we must speak the truth to power if we are to move forward together,” she said.in the era of Zinjanthropus… and we’re warning politicians in these areas that they will not be spared,” he pronounced and told politicians the provincial administration was aware of what they are doing.