Kenya: Gachagua vows to politically unite a divided Mount Kenya region

By Victor Abuso

Posted on Thursday, 24 November 2022 14:24
Kenya's deputy President Rigathi Gachagua waves to supporters as he arrives for his swearing-in ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya September 13, 2022. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

Kenya’s Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has given himself 31 December as a deadline to convince politicians from the vote-rich Mount Kenya region who supported Raila Odinga, leader of the opposition coalition Azimio la Umoja, to come join the ruling coalition, Kenya Kwanza.

Gachagua, who hails from the Mount Kenya region and is also home to former President Uhuru Kenyatta, has accused the former leader of politically dividing the region during the August polls. He also says Kenyatta failed to mentor young leaders – something he vows to change.

Gachagua has also claimed that political and business leaders who supported Raila were intimidated and coerced into joining Azimio but are now free to leave the coalition and join him.

“We will unite our region, Mount Kenya, so that we speak with one voice,” said the deputy president.

His remarks came just days after Members of Parliament from the Jubilee Party, with majority support and leadership from Mount Kenya, threatened to quit Azimio over claims of being sidelined in parliamentary leadership positions.

Gachagua’s call receives positive response

Gachagua’s call continues to receive positive feedback from politicians who had once opposed him in the lead-up to August presidential poll.

Kanini Kega, newly elected East Africa legislature from the Azimio coalition, has come out to support Gachagua’s move to consolidate political unity in the divided region.

Kega says Gachagua is currently the only senior political leader from the region, and so his intentions should be supported.

“We need to rally behind him as a region,” he says.

Ngunjiri Wambugu, another politician from the region who opposed Gachagua in the past election, says Gachagua has shown signs of protecting the political interests of Mount Kenya and therefore should be supported.

“Gachagua is right now the most senior leader from Mount Kenya in government. That puts him ahead of the pack,” he says.

Will Gachagua be new Mount Kenya political kingpin?

With former President Uhuru Kenyatta now retired and focused on his new job as a regional mediator in DRC and Ethiopia, and Raila having failed a fifth time to clinch the presidency, Gachagua is now seen by many as a Mount Kenya regional political kingpin in the making.

Brian Wanyama, a political analyst, says the fact that Gachagua had rallied lawmakers to vote for Azimio candidate Kanini Kega in last week’s election to join the Arusha-based regional Parliament of the East African Legislative Assembly, is a sign that he plans to stamp his authority in the region as its new leader.

“It is obvious, he seems to be a man on a mission, he wants to lead the region,” Wanyama tells The Africa Report.

However, close allies of former President Kenyatta, led by Jeremiah Kioni, the secretary general of the Jubilee Party, which is part of the Azimio coalition, believe the former leader remains the regional political kingpin.

He adds it will not be easy for Gachagua to take over from Kenyatta even if he is the deputy president.

“Kenyatta remains our political leader,” Kioni says.

The political kingpin in Mount Kenya is a respected position believed to influence how people vote during elections, and for the first time, voters from Mount Kenya did not follow their leader.

Former Political Kingpins include:

  • Dedan Kimathi (before independence),
  • First President  Jomo Kenyatta (1963-1978),
  • Opposition leader Kenneth Matiba (1993-1997),
  • Former President Mwai Kibaki (1997-2013)
  • Former President Uhuru Kenyatta (from 2013).

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