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Uhuru, Ruto battle talk of rift over Cabinet

By Wainaina Ndung'u and Moses Nyamori | Published Wed, January 10th 2018 at 00:00, Updated January 10th 2018 at 12:51 GMT +3
Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi and other area leaders at the home of the late AIPCA Bishop Phillip Kubai at Kilera in Igembe Central, on Monday evening. They conveyed President Uhuru Kenyatta's condolence message to widow Rebecca Kathomi and family. [PHOTO: PHARES MUTEMBEI/STANDARD]

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto on Tuesday dismissed claims of divisions in Government triggered by the delayed Cabinet appointments.

Appearing together for the first time since the President unveiled part of his Cabinet last week, the two downplayed the perceived divisions insisting that all was well in the Jubilee house.

Contrary to public expectation, when the Head of State announced that he had retained six Cabinet secretaries and chosen three new ones, he was not accompanied by his deputy. The incomplete Cabinet, the missing deputy and the uncertainty about the fate of the remaining 13 CSs had fuelled speculation that things were amiss at Jubilee.

Speaking at a funeral service of three Africa Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa (AIPCA) bishops in Meru (Tuesday), Uhuru said he and Ruto were in agreement that the only politics they would entertain was on how to deliver their mandate for the next five years.

The two spoke at Maili Tatu Stadium in Igembe Central during the burial of bishops Philip Kubai (Ntonyiri), Moses M'Nterori (Igembe South) and Stanley Karuru (Igembe Central) who died in a road accident on December 29 at Wamumu on the Embu-Nairobi highway.

The bishops were being driven in one car from a meeting at the AIPCA Thika diocese Cathedral.

Although Uhuru said he felt uncomfortable engaging in politics during a burial ceremony, he assured the country that all was well between him and Mr Ruto.

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"Like William (Ruto) has said the politics that we want is that of development. We are working well but people are trying to create stories but this will not distract us. We want the Church leaders to work together regardless of distractions like I'm working with William," the President said.

Uhuru largely steered clear of politics saying he came from a divide that respected funeral rites, adding that attempts to drive them into irrelevant politicking would now work.

He said he had an excellent working relationship with Ruto and they would continue pursuing a path that guaranteed development to all Kenyans.

Ruto pleaded with all leaders to let the president form his Government without distractions.

After he praised Meru region for supporting Jubilee in the two presidential polls last year without conditions, Ruto said no leader including "myself had any right to supervise the President in making appointments to the Cabinet or in executing his duties".

"We are looking forward to the appointment of qualified focused, committed men and women of integrity to run the Government. We will fully support the team that you will chose," Ruto told Uhuru.

Reports of unease in Government have picked up pace in the recent days after Uhuru appeared alone to present part of his Cabinet.

In a move that sent tongues wagging, Uhuru retained six Cabinet secretaries and presented three new ones without assigning them portfolios.

Uhuru was expected to submit the names to National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, who is currently out of the country in Seychelles, on Monday.

Last evening, National Assembly Clerk Michael Sialai said the speaker was yet to receive the list.

Another official at the speaker's office told The Standard that they have been waiting for the list since Monday.

The possible delay to submit the names is said to have been informed by the fact that submitting the names plus their assigned dockets would in essence indicate sacking of Cabinet secretaries currently holding the positions.

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja told The Standard that “the names will be submitted once the entire Cabinet is constituted".

Disrupt operations

"It is a requirement that the names come with specific dockets,” he added.

Mr Sakaja said submitting the partial list would disrupt Cabinet operations since those holding the dockets would interpret it as their sacking.

Jubilee politicians talked of a delicate balancing act as the President struggles with crafting his new team to deliver on his election promises.

Uhuru is said to be keen appease his political allies and at the same time constitute a team that will deliver on his manifesto.

Sakaja, nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura and his Kericho counterpart Aaron Cheruiyot explained that the delay was caused by the President's endeavour to ensure regional balance.

“The President has a very tough balancing task. Regional balance combined with quest for competency are at the heart of the process,” said Mr Mwaura.

Unlike in the past where the list of Cabinet secretaries was presented in the presence of Ruto at State House, this time round the DP was missing sending the grapevine on overdrive with speculation.

Some political observers have claimed that Ruto's absence was a sign of strained relations with Uhuru. Others claimed that the Cabinet choice had driven a wedge between the two.

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