Weekend Mail

Fear Factor: The untold story of bully billionaire Rigathi Gachagua!

President William Ruto and his Deputy President were discovered by ‘Deep State’ while in college and assigned ‘special duties’

Partners-in-Crime: President William Ruto headed the Christian Union at the University of Nairobi where Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, was the late President Daniel arap Moi’s ‘eyes’ besides being chair of the Free Travelling Theatre group.

By Kamau Ngotho

Special Correspondent

 Billionaire Rigathi Gachagua, Kenya’s Deputy President and President William Ruto share a history and common destiny: Both were first spotted and recruited by the ‘Deep State’ while still students at the University of Nairobi around 1985.  Gachagua was studying political science and literature, Ruto was taking botany and zoology.

Classmates knew him as Geoffrey Gachagua-the student spy who would later accompany President Daniel arap Moi on foreign strips-before graduating! He became Rigathi Gachagua upon conversion on the road to “hustlers” Damascus.

At the university, Gachagua chaired the Free Travelling Theatre while across the fence at the Chiromo Campus, was Ruto who chaired the Christian Union. Then Vice Chancellor, Prof Philip Mbithi, took note of the two boys. Their lives would never be the same again.

Ruto and Gachagua were recruited by Deep State. After university, Ruto joined Youth for Kanu ‘92 while Gachagua was appointed ‘special’ District Officer (DO)

Riggy G: The Deputy President was once an actor, leading the University of Nairobi’s Free Travelling Theatre group and the reason he appears crude like a village pumpkin in political rallies but totally polished and knowledgeable in TV debates and interviews.

 At the time, agitation for political reform in Kenya was getting to fever pitch with public universities as hotbeds for dissent. In a counter move, the Deep State came up with a scheme to organize university students into regional and ethnic blocs to sabotage SONU, the pro-reform and militant umbrella students’ body at the University of Nairobi.

While Ruto chaired the Uasin Gishu university students association, Gachagua led the Nyeri University students faction besides leading the Free Travelling Theatre group.

Through “hustling” they instantly became darlings of the Deep State. That is how Ruto secured his first job with a mysterious outfit known as Youth for Kanu ‘92 (YK’ 92). On his part, Gachagua never went job searching as he landed a job as a ‘special’ District Officer (DO).

It was Prof Philip Mbithi who identified and recommended Rigathi Gachagua as a ‘special’ DO

School of Hard Knocks: Wafula Buke, the political dissident and Rigathi Gachagua’s college mate recalls forgetting his wallet at Simmers, the defunct pub along Kenyatta Avenue, Nairobi. Upon finding the wallet, a gift from a friend who had visited Norway, the then loaded Gachagua told Buke: ”Your wallet fell from your pocket. It is here. Since the wallet has no money, and you also have no money, leave it to me!”

  ‘Special’ DOs was a squad within the provincial administration directly reporting to then Permanent Secretary for Internal Security, a burly bully called Hezekiah Oyugi. He was the most feared – and dangerous – civil servant ever to have served independent Kenya government.

When speaking to him on telephone, junior officers, while far away, would salute and remain upstanding. He was a tin god.

Upon his death, Oyugi’s ‘special’ DOs were inherited by Prof Philip Mbithi who had been yanked from the university and appointed head of  Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet  After all, it was Prof Mbithi, who had identified and recommended Gachagua as Oyugi’s ‘special’ DOs.

One of the assignments for a ‘special’ DO was to oversee the of dropping scary leaflets on the eve of elections

President’s Sidekick: The late President Daniel arap Moi and his ‘Special District Officer’, Rigathi Gachagua whose assignments included misleading when not scuttling opposition parties during hotly contested presidential elections. Gachagua’s past experience has come in handy while handling those opposed to the Kenya Kwanza administration.

  Come the first multi-party presidential election in 1992, a youthful Ruto abandoned his Masters’ degree to work in the shadowy YK’92. Gachagua, on the other hand, was among 20 DOs recalled from the field for “special duties” at Prof Mbithi’s Harambee House office.

The “special assignment” for Gachagua and his group was to plot on how to scuttle the opposition in the hotly contested presidential election.

 One of the plots by the Mbithi Team was to secretly mobilize huge crowds to turn up at the JKIA airport to welcome opposition leader, the late Kenneth Matiba who had been recuperating in a London hospital. The idea was to convince Matiba that he had the numbers to go it alone in the presidential race. Effectively, that split the formidable Ford opposition down the middle making it easy for the then ruling party Kanu to steal the election.

“Bring that thing I fire it at them myself”, cocky DO Rigathi Gachagua barked at the reluctant police officer

The Hatchet Man: The role of the ‘special’ DOs, like Rigathi Gachagua, was to spy and do laundry jobs for Internal Security PS, Hezekiah Oyugi (above). In the tail end of his career, a Scotland Yard sleuth John Troon would name Oyugi as one of the two key suspects in the murder of Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Robert Ouko. The Good Book says those who live by the sword, die by the sword: Oyugi suddenly died of a disease unknown in medical science. President Moi neither sent condolence messages nor attended his funeral.

Another of the dirty tricks by Prof Mbithi strategists was on the eve of the voting day when leaflets were dropped in the strongholds of Matiba and future third President, Mwai Kibaki, claiming that, for the sake of Mount Kenya unity, one had pulled out of the race in favour of the other. In Matiba’s Murang’a stronghold the leaflets lied he had pulled out in support of Kibaki, while in Kibaki stronghold of Nyeri, leaflets said the opposite.

From Harambee House, Gachagua was posted as DO in Kiambu, first in Kiambaa and later in Limuru division. His specific brief was to frustrate the political opposition. I remember one Sunday afternoon when he almost grabbed a teargas canister from a police officer who was hesitant to throw it at opposition MPs. “Bring that thing I fire it at them myself”, the cocky DO barked at the reluctant officer.

It is at that juncture that Gachagua befriended then Kiambu Kanu supremo the late Kuria Kanyingi. The latter was one of the notorious ruling party honchos who had been given a blank check to terrorize the Opposition in their backyards.

In that mission, Kanyingi could never have found a better accomplice than Gachagua. Indeed their chemistry was so good, Gachagua was more like Kanyingi’s private assistant running his personal errands, and not a government employee paid by tax payers.  Eventually they would badly fall out over business deals gone sour.

Rigathi Gachagua went underground to re-emerge as personal assistant to Uhuru Kenyatta

Games people play: Prof Philip Mbithi recruited Rigathi Gachagua as a ‘student spy’ while the Vice Chancellor of the University of Nairobi. He went bonkers after Moi dropped him as Head of Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet. The retired Professor of rural sociology is now a self-styled prophet. Rigathi, his side kick, was transferred to North Eastern Kenya, but managed to convince the President of a more habitable posting. That was how Rigathi ended up as DO in Kiambu and Limuru.

For some time, Gachagua went underground to re-emerge as personal assistant to Uhuru Kenyatta when he was Minister for Local Government and the Kanu  presidential candidate in the 2002 elections. I remember him making arrangement for a colleague and I to interview candidate Uhuru at his then Jogoo House ministerial office. As he saw us off at the lifts, he asked in whispers whether Uhuru has given us something “small”. He looked disappointed when we answered in the contrary. Anyway, we had gone to interview the candidate not to do public relations for him so we didn’t expect or ask to be paid.

It has never been clear why Uhuru Kenyatta and Gachagua parted company so soon after 2002 elections. Could it be that Uhuru didn’t subscribe to “hustling business” the kind Gachagua was used to do with the Kuria Kanyingi’s of this world? Or is it because Uhuru isn’t known for dishing out something “small” hustler style?

Whatever it is, there is no much love lost between Uhuru and Gachagua who is slowly fashioning himself as the kingpin of Mount Kenya politics. region. Does any one see a future President in Rigathi Gachagua?


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