President is determined to demolish rebel faction in Jubilee
During a rally at Nairobi’s Kariobangi estate on May 30, 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta made the now famous “tanga tanga” comment in reference to his deputy William Ruto.
“Huyu kijana anaitwa Ruto kila wikendi anatangatanga kila pahali. Atakuwa anapitia hizi machochoro akiona kuna kitu inaenda kona kona mumwambie. Si namna hiyo? (This young man called Ruto moves around during weekends. He will be passing through these back alleys and when things are not going well, tell him).
In Kiswahili, “kutangatanga” means roaming or loitering, and although derogatory, Ruto who had accompanied the President, laughed away the jibe.
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But to political observers, this was a loaded comment that betrayed a strained relationship, coming nearly three months after the President’s “handshake” with ODM leader Raila Odinga which rocked the ruling Jubilee.
But as he left Kariobangi, little did he know that he had coined a term that in time would be used to refer to a faction of Jubilee leaders loyal to Ruto.
Those loyal to the President came to be known as “Kieleweke” (let it be understood), whose motto is that the President owes no one a political debt.
Whereas the President’s “tangatanga” comment was clearly rhetorical, Ruto doubled his countrywide tours much to the chagrin of his boss.
The project inspection tours and church harambees were mainly concentrated in the President’s Mt Kenya backyard, Coast and Western regions. Accompanying him were Jubilee and Opposition MPs loyal to him.
In March, during a tour of projects in Nyandarau county, Uhuru made public his displeasure about his deputy’s activities.
“Those I used to send to represent me and ensure that development projects are on the right track started behaving like hyenas and doing their own things to enrich themselves,” he said.
“Let no one cheat you; from today, I’m not sending anyone to help me. I’ll do it on my own,” the President said, adding that he did not have a preferred choice in the 2022 presidential race.
A few days later, the DP appeared to be answering back his boss when he spoke during a visit to Kisii county.
“I will continue launching water, road, and education and electricity projects,” said the DP. “I will continue coming here because I earn a salary as Deputy President and that is the work of a DP.”
Frustrated by what he recently told a local newspaper were what he sees as deliberate attempts by the Tanga Tanga group to undermine his agenda, the President recently engineered changes in Jubilee that saw the DP’s allies kicked out of leadership positions in the Senate.
Threatened with disciplinary action which could lead to being dropped from the Senate, six Nominated Jubilee senators who were allied to the DP switched their allegiance to Uhuru.
In addition, a number of vocal Tanga Tanga members have found themselves in court over a myriad of issues, the latest being Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua whose bank accounts were recently frozen by a court on request of the Assets Recovery Agency which is investigating allegations of corruption by the vocal MP.
“I have been pleading with people the whole of 2019: ‘Please, let us focus on the (Big Four) agenda, the time for politics will come’… Well, I don’t have that much time to go…I can’t continue pleading,” he told the newspaper last week.
Yesterday, more Tanga Tanga heads rolled with the removal of Minority Whip Benjamin Washiali and Deputy Whip Cecily Mbarire from their seats. Ruto allies are also expected to be ejected from key National Assembly committees.
As a result of a combination of these factors, the noise from the Tanga Tanga brigade has gone a notch lower in recent weeks.
But does this mean the beginning of the end of the group, two years after the President inadvertently gave them their name?
Only time will tell.