Kenya Deputy President Gachagua trump card in battling political siege

Saturday May 25 2024
kenya dp

Kenya’s Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. PHOTO | NMG


The curse of the Kenyan vice-presidency or deputy presidency is well documented.

Of the 12 people who have served in that role since independence, all have had a public fallout with the President or faced some form of mistreatment by people close to his boss except Joseph Murumbi, who officially resigned on account of ill-health in 1966, Musalia Mudavadi, who served for three months in 2002, Kijana Wamalwa, who died in office in 2003, and Moody Awori, who succeeded Wamalwa for the remainder of the Mwai Kibaki administration’s first term ending 2008.

Three of the falling out escapees – Murumbi, Wamalwa and Mudavadi – were each in office for no longer than nine months.

Kenya’s 2010 Constitution sought to break the vice-presidency or deputy presidency curse, elevating the role to that of a principal assistant to the President and protecting him or her from being sacked by the boss.

Read: Ruto’s firebrand allies climb down in bid for rapprochement

That didn’t stop the relationship between the country’s first two top leaders elected under the new Constitution in 2013, Uhuru Kenyatta (President) and William Ruto (Deputy President), deteriorating to perhaps the worst levels Kenyans have ever seen.


But even by Kenya’s cantankerous political standards, few would have seen a fallout between President Ruto and his deputy, Rigathi Gachagua, coming 21 months after their election victory.

Referencing his own tribulations as Deputy President, Ruto has in the past talked of his wish to see his Number Two get better treatment.

“Very many deputy presidents are fought. It is an unfortunate situation. Given an opportunity, I would not allow my deputy president to be humiliated the way former deputy presidents have been humiliated and the way I have been humiliated,” he said in a TV interview in April 2021.

After being elected President in August 2022, he appeared to keep his promise, assigning Gachagua some key roles in his first executive order reorganising government.

The DP’s allies were, however, uncomfortable with seemingly powerful roles handed to Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, whom they view as Gachagua’s rival in a future Ruto succession race.

But his current troubles, which have seen him skip presidential functions in recent weeks and threaten a rebellion in government, stem from the unfolding battle for political control of Mount Kenya region.

The region has been without a dominant political figure, popularly known as ‘kingpin’ in Kenya’s political parlance, following the retirement of Kenyatta in 2022, and Gachagua, 59, sees an opportunity to consolidate a formidable support base there to launch his own presidential ambitions.

Read: Intrigues of Ruto's new executive order

But he faces competition from a group of young politicians coalescing around the 38-year-old Kiharu Member of Parliament, Ndindi Nyoro.

The DP’s allies believe there is a hidden hand behind Nyoro’s challenge, with one MP on Wednesday claiming on a TV show that there was a scheme to discredit Gachagua and have him dropped as Ruto’s running mate in the 2027 election.

Gachagua has in recent days retreated to the region, addressing crowds in vernacular and labelling his local opponents ‘traitors’ in their ethnic community.

If the Deputy President picks the familiar Ruto playbook and launches a full-scale rebellion in government, it could be a long three years to the next election for the President.