Who’s Talking? Ruto, Rigathi or Malala?

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Who’s Talking? Ruto, Rigathi or Malala?

The kitchen inside President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party has suddenly and uncharacteristically gotten extremely hot, and folks, some pretty close to the head chef – pardon us 😅 – the head of state, are now being told to evacuate immediately if they can’t handle the joto and the moto (or is it the tumbo joto?).

From the time he made his political debut as a Youth for KANU (YK’92) operative during the 1992 general election; to when he, against all odds, defeated Reuben Chesire, President Daniel arap Moi’s cousin, to become Eldoret North MP in 1997; to the time he was in the innermost sanctum of Uhuru Kenyatta’s maiden presidential bid in 2002 (he prides himself in the fact that as they were watching the final election results tallying on TV with President Moi at State House Nairobi, with everyone present hoping Moi would “do something’’ to prevent Mwai Kibaki from electorally whooping the then greenhorn Uhuru – and Moi did nothing 😅 – that it was only he, Moi and Uhuru who remained in the room by the time Uhuru’s loss was being announced, everyone else having sneaked away); to the time he campaigned (succesfully) against the draft constitution in 2005 before joining the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), putting everything on the line to campaign for then defend Raila Odinga’s presidential vote in 2007 (ending up as a suspect at the International Criminal Court charged with crimes against humanity); to the time he fell out with Raila Odinga and left ODM, and once again campaigned (unsuccesfully) against the draft constitution, before first trying taking over the United Democratic Movement (UDM), and when met with resistance, setting up the United Republicans Party (URP); to the time in 2013 when he and Uhuru Kenyatta, both suspects at The Hague, pulled a surprise one by winning the presidency; to especially him securing their second presidential term in 2017 (we all remember the remark about him ‘’almost slapping’’ Uhuru Kenyatta because Kenyatta was dejected and willing to let go after the Supreme Court annulled their presidential election win); to when he upstaged the political establishment and sneaked away with the presidency in 2022 – William Ruto’s one unmistakable trait is that he never leaves anything to chance, and only loses or lets things get out of hand when there’s legitimately nothing more he can do to salvage the situation. Never, ever, for as long as he has been in politics, has he ever left anything to chance. 

It is therefore extremely surprising that barely two years into his presidency, the President’s own political party, the UDA, has started rocking the Kenya Kwanza coalition boat. 

It all started with a bunch of younger politicians from Central Kenya attempting to politically upstage Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, who is, for all intents and purposes, the region’s kingpin courtesy of the political pecking order. Then younger politicians from the President’s own Rift Valley backyard seemed to support their younger brothers from Central Kenya. 

Initially, the Deputy President was nonchalant, treating the whole affair like a passing cloud, possibly knowing – having known that the President doesn’t leave anything to chance and that the President wouldn’t entertain either disorder or disrespect to brew within his own house – that Ruto would call their troops to order, asking them to quit whatever nonsensical endeavour they were on. The President didn’t, and hasn’t cracked the whip yet. The younger politicians from Central Kenya and the Rift Valley possibly took this as their cue to carry on, because the boss wasn’t unhappy with them, or was the boss, as a matter of fact, the actual instigator?

Soon enough, the Deputy President seemed to have come to the realisation that the worst mistake he can make is to sit back and wait for the President to come to his aid. And so Rigathi Gachagua decided to go for the jugular. Haranguing the younger politicians to hold their horses, the Deputy President had suddenly become a victim proper, the complete opposite of the picture he’s always painted, that he is a battle hardened son of the Mau Mau, and that he and the President are inseparable. 

And so suddenly, with the Deputy President looking isolated, every other wannabe kingpin has since jumped on the anti-Gachagua bandwagon, with notable members of the cabinet from the Rift Valley and Central Kenya sending political messages during political rallies or TV talk shows either questioning the Deputy President’s wisdom, or suggesting to him that he needs to grow a thick skin, an insult really, because the man has always prided himself in being a son of the Mau Mau. It has gotten so bad, to a point where Nairobi governor Johnson Sakaja, who has always appeared terrified of the Deputy President, is now chiding Gachagua, calling him a bully and coward who has terrified everyone for almost two years but now can’t take a taste of his own medicine. Sakaja, like the other younger politicians, must know something the rest of us don’t know, because the anti-Rigathi movement has a newly acquired don’t care attitude.

Conversely, supporters of the Deputy President, like Nyeri governor Mutahi Kahiga, have attempted to huff and puff. Then yesterday, Cleophas Malala, the Secretary General of the President’s party, the UDA, issued a hurriedly written communique trying to sanction those disrespecting Gachagua while at the same time purporting to rein in on Gachagua’s lieutenants. The ink used to write the statement had barely dried before Kapsaret MP Oscar Sudi, an anti-Gachagua-ist, contemptuously dismissed Malala. Mutahi Kahiga, a Gachagua-ist, took cue from Sudi and similarly rubbished Malala’s attempts at calling the UDA to order.

And just like that, Kenyans are being treated to a circus.

However, the question on every observer’s mind is, where is President William Ruto in all of this? After being subjected to similar humiliating treatment during his final term as Uhuru Kenyatta’s deputy president, Ruto had sworn that he would never subject, allow anyone to subject, or allow his deputy to be subjected to such. But now, Rigathi Gachagua is being given bitter doses of the William-Ruto-under-Uhuru-Kenyatta treatment, and the President is silent. 

Knowing how hands-on and controlling the President can be when it comes to his own political fate and that of those he cares about politically – he was known to plan his campaign meetings himself into the wee hours of the morning, ensuring all i’s are dotted and t’s crossed – the only logical conclusion one can arrive at is that for the President to let his party fall apart just after taking power, it means it is either he himself who has engineered the anti-Gachagua attacks, or that someone else is coming at the President, the latter being highly unlikely.

And so, when Malala, Sudi, Mutahi and Rigathi speak, who’s really talking?

Is William Ruto playing everyone, or someone, or is William Ruto being played?

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