Uhuru’s order on Matiang’i divides leaders and experts

Deputy President William Ruto (left) and Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i. [Beverlyne Musili/Standard]
Opinion is divided on whether President Uhuru Kenyatta clipped powers of his deputy William Ruto when he handed more responsibilities to Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i.

In his new role Dr Matiang’i will chair a key committee on implementation of development programmes, whose membership includes CSs, the AG and Head of Public Service.

A Government insider told The Standard the mandate essentially elevated Matiang’i to the position of “prime minister or chief minister.”

Yesterday, Constitution experts, politicians and analysts could not agree on what Uhuru Executive Order on Tuesday is meant to Ruto’s position in Government.

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Nzamba Kitonga, who chaired the Committee of Experts that wrote the 2010 Constitution, said roles of the DP were protected by the law and nobody could take them away.

In the previous Constitution, Mr Kitonga said, the duties of the vice president were amorphous. We sought to define them and tied the DP to the presidency, he said.

“None of the DP’s functions or duties has been taken away. When we were drafting the Constitution, we felt we needed to give the DP a more definitive role, and we did,” said Kitonga.

Atsango Chesoni, who deputised Kitonga, said they had in mind that the DP would be a person capable of stepping into the president’s shoes should anything happen.

Ms Chesoni said the DP was the principal assistant to the President and a partner to the Head of State.

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The law states that the DP shall be the principal assistant to the President and shall deputise in the execution of presidential functions. The DP shall also perform functions conferred by the Constitution and any other duties assigned by the President.

But political analysts Javas Bigambo and Martin Oloo said even though the DP was the principal assistant and adviser to the President, Tuesday’s Executive Order contained a deep political message.

Mr Bigambo said the deal between Uhuru and his political nemesis turned friend, Raila Odinga, politically relegated the DP to back waters.

“The DP’s powers are protected by the Constitution, but politically, his role and influence has been taken by Raila after the March 9 handshake. The executive authority is in favour of Ruto, but political power is with Raila,” said Bigambo.

He added: “Uhuru wanted Ruto to help him clinch presidency in 2013 and 2017, and he did. His (Ruto’s) work is over.”

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Mr Oloo said Uhuru’s decision to give Matiang’i the new position politically relegated Ruto to the periphery of the presidency.

“There is a political message in that decision. The President seems to be removing Ruto from the oversight of Government projects and letting him continue with his (Ruto’s) 2022 campaigns,” said Oloo.

Oloo says Ruto almost ran away with credit over Government projects, as he campaigned for 2022, but that will no longer be the case.

“Politically, Ruto’s mandate has been withdrawn. He must rethink his strategy to remain relevant,” said Oloo.

MPs Joshua Kuttuny (Cherangany), Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira), Nelson Koech (Belgut), Didmus Barasa (Kimilili) and David Sankok (nominated) also differed on whether Matiang’i’s elevation had clipped Ruto’s powers.

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Kuttuny said Uhuru might have taken away some functions from his deputy over what he termed “lack of focus on important things”.

“That is what you get when you concentrate on the wrong things. It seems Ruto has been pursuing an agenda inconsistent with that of the President. That is why he is facing isolation,” said Kuttuny.

But Mr Gachagua had a different opinion, saying Kenyans were reading too much into Uhuru’s decision.

Gachagua said everything the DP had been doing was sanctioned by the President, and elevating Matiang’i did not have any political message.

A Rift Valley MP, a key ally of Ruto, who requested anonymity, said Uhuru’s order was inconsequential. “There is nothing new in the order. The President only realigned his administration,” the lawmaker said.

Undermine him

Other allies of the DP said since the presidency was composed of Uhuru and Ruto, the order did not, in any way, undermine the latter.

“If the President felt there was a missing link in delivery of services, then it’s only fair we allow him to fill that void. Maybe for us in the Legislature it’s an eye opener that there are things the Constitution never factored in and we could look for ways to anchor them in law,” said Mr Koech.

Mr Barasa said no one could take away the DP’s roles. “Nothing stops Ruto from supervising Government programmes and launching projects. He can still counter-check what the committee led by Matiang’i does.”

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DP William RutoInterior CS Matiangidevelopment programmes