William Ruto and his Presidential running mate were discovered by ‘Deep State’ while in college and assigned ‘special duties’
By Kamau Ngotho
Billionaire Rigathi Gachagua is Deputy President William Ruto’s leading brain-trust in Mount Kenya. But a little known story is that Gachagua and Ruto have a shared history – and maybe common destiny.
Like Ruto, the MP for Mathira Constituency was first spotted and recruited by the ‘Deep State’ while still a political science and literature student at the University of Nairobi around 1985. Classmates knew him as Geoffrey Gachagua-the student spy who would later accompany President Daniel arap Moi on foreign strips-before graduting! 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)
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 DP William Ruto chaired the Uasin Gishu university students association, Gachagua was leader of 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
‘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
Come the first multi-party presidential election in 1992, a youthful Ruto abandoned his Masters’ degree studies 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
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 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
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 the two now that Gachagua is leader of the anti-Uhuru crusade in Mount Kenya region. He is one of the few MPs ready to take the President head-on and a likely Deputy President if Ruto wins the presidency come August 2022.