A top aide of President Uhuru Kenyatta has resigned, exposing behind-the-scenes intrigues within the Jubilee government.
Nancy Gitau, the head of President Kenyatta’s political advisory unit and a key adviser on governance, tendered her resignation to the Head of State on Monday. The Standard has established that in her resignation letter delivered to the President’s desk last Monday, she plans to quit next month. Mrs Gitau confirmed her resignation Thursday when contacted by The Standard.
“I will quit the Government beginning August this year. I wrote to his Excellency the President earlier in the week about this matter. I am leaving the Government a happy woman. I have accomplished a lot since February 2007,” she said.
Gitau is among a team of eight listed in the Presidency’s website as members of the Executive Office of the Presidency. She is named as Senior Political Adviser to the President.
Others in the team are Joseph Kinyua, the President’s Chief of Staff, Jomo Gecaga (President’s Private Secretary), Lawrence Lenayapa (State House Comptroller), George Kariuki (Deputy State House Comptroller), Manoah Esipisu (State House Spokesman), Abdikadir Mohamed (Senior Adviser, Constitutional and Legal Affairs) and Nzioka Waita, Secretary of Delivery, the Presidential Delivery Unit.
The resignation is a culmination of a sustained tug-of-war within the Jubilee administration and could well be the beginning of an episode that could give the public a rare peek into the behind-the-scenes power struggle.
Gitau has been at the centre of vicious infighting pitting camps allied to the President’s The National Alliance (TNA) party against the United Republican Party (URP) of his deputy William Ruto.
Because of her power and influence, Gitau has also earned herself enemies within TNA, leaving her exposed. There are incidents where even senior officers at State House on several occasions tried to block her from accessing the President at his State House office.
Similarly, the relations between her and forces around the DP had at one point deteriorated to the extent that some key players within Government felt the stability of the coalition was under threat.
As a result of the rising tensions, Gitau was moved from State House to Harambee House in the City Centre. She soon thereafter resorted to working from her private office as it increasingly became clear she was unwanted and even some of her close allies dumped her.
Sources told The Standard that relations between Gitau and certain players in Government had become so edgy that she felt her stay, even with the support of the President, was no longer tenable. As a consequence, there has emerged, subtly though, two main camps within the Jubilee administration: the pro-Gitau camp and anti-Gitau one.
Gitau has recently taken a back seat as crucial political decisions - like the merger of Jubilee allied parties - were being made and executed largely without her input. Sources say Gitau and some TNA MPs had been opposed to the party’s dissolution.
But speaking to The Standard, Gitau downplayed suggestions that these intrigues were central to her decision to quit Government.
Instead, she attributed her exit to the desire to follow her passion. “I am leaving Government to follow my passion. My strong desire is to work on public economic empowerment and poverty alleviation. It is to work in the non-governmental sector as a consultant,” she said.
At the height of the anti-Gitau campaign, URP-allied MPs had openly demanded her sacking in connection with the case against Ruto at the International Criminal Court.
In The Hague courtroom in June 2014, Ruto’s lawyer, Shyamala Alagendra, claimed that Gitau and then Interior Permanent Secretary Mutea Iringo had recruited ICC witnesses to fix the DP.
It was alleged that the two funded the witness protection programme, and co-ordinated recruitment of witnesses to provide evidence to the Waki Commission to implicate Ruto and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). That arose during cross-examination of ICC witness P-0613.
The allegations have, however, never been proven but Iringo, who - like Gitau - was inherited from President MWai Kibaki’s administration, has since been sacked.
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria would later confess that he was part of the network that put together a machinery to fix Ruto. The ICC case against Ruto has since been terminated.
Asked about her relationship with President Kenyatta and Ruto, Gitau said: “His Excellency the President and I have a very good relationship. He trusts me. We have a professional relationship. I’ve worked closely with him since 2009. He wants the best for all Kenyans. I enjoyed working with him and for him. He treated me very well. But time has come for me to move on.” She would, however, not make a comment about her relationship with the DP.
Besides Iringo, other key figures inherited from President Kibaki’s Government and who have since left the Jubilee Government are former spy chief Michael Gichangi and former head of public service Francis Kimemia. Gitau’s clout in Government had earned her friends and foes in equal measure.
At a press conference held at Parliament Buildings, ODM Chairman John Mbadi had described her perceived influence. “Nancy was behind-the-scenes manager of Uhuru’s presidential campaign in 2012-2013. Being a politically-aligned servant beholden to Uhuru, she was untouchable. At various times of her employment in Government, she has been viewed as Uhuru’s political agent”.
She leaves Government at a time when President Kenyatta is preparing ground for what promises to be a grueling re-election campaign.
A number of issues in her political advisory docket are also pending. Among them the full amalgamation of Jubilee affiliate parties into one, widening the coalition’s support base through forays into Opposition areas and defining the agenda for the 2017 re-election campaign.
Before joining Government, Gitau worked at USaid for many years. At the time of leaving, she headed the democracy and governance unit.
Those who worked with her say she helped identify and nurtured all the current crop of civil society leaders who joined the Narc Government of 2002. He was recruited into the Government by former head of strategy at Kibaki’s office, Stanley Murage.