At least eight Cabinet secretaries could be on President Uhuru Kenyatta’s radar for either wanting performance or engaging in politics at the expense of service delivery.
Last week, the President made it clear during a Cabinet meeting that the ministers should either work or quit.
Sources said during last Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, the President also told his deputy, William Ruto, that he was concerned about his premature 2022 campaigns that seemed to have sucked in some CSs.
The President was reported to have been angered by a meeting convened by the DP just a day after Uhuru’s Mombasa meeting with Ruto and the Jubilee parliamentary leadership at which he called an end to divisive campaigns undermining his legacy programme.
In attendance at the January 24 meeting – reportedly convened to discuss recent political developments – were Jubilee House leaders who support Ruto’s presidential bid. But it is the presence of CSs Henry Rotich (National Treasury), Adan Mohammed (East African Community) and Simon Chelugui (Water) that apparently unsettled the President.
Sources said it was not surprising that during last Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, the President directed the harshest words to the CSs, with Sports CS Rashid Echesa in particular getting a tongue lashing.
“Echesa was told he is not a Luhya CS. There is no docket for Luhya affairs,” our source quoted the President as telling the CS.
The President would later in the day speak out about his warning to the CSs as he addressed a public meeting in Kajiado on his way to Arusha, Tanzania, for the East African Community Heads of State Summit.
“During today’s Cabinet meeting, I reminded our Cabinet secretaries that there are many young Kenyans who are willing and ready to work if they felt they (CSs) are not up to task. Those who have chosen to keep politicking instead of serving the people should be ready to give way,” the President said.
The meeting at the deputy president’s Karen residence reportedly caused ripples within Jubilee. Those in attendance besides the three CSs were Senate Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki, Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen and Majority Whip Susan Kihika.
National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, Majority Whip Ben Washiali and Deputy Speaker Moses Cheboi (Kuresoi South) and Nandi Governor Stephen Sang also attended.
Sources said at the Cabinet meeting, the President singled out ministers overseeing dockets caught up in corruption scandals and also dared anyone against his Executive Order that handed Interior CS Fred Matiang’i powers to oversee development programmes across the government and chair a committee of all CSs to quit.
“The President is disappointed. Some of his CSs have totally failed. Their ministries are a den of corruption, yet they are busy campaigning instead of working,” said one of Uhuru’s confidants who declined to be named.
“Some have openly opposed Matiang’i’s appointment and vowed not to report to him.”
The President’s public utterances in the recent past suggest that CSs Echesa, Amina Mohamed (Education) and Mwangi Kiunjuri (Agriculture) are also increasingly under focus.
The President has in public given the three a dressing-down, with Mr Kiunjuri being warned over the controversial payment of maize cartels by the National Cereals and Produce Board instead of genuine farmers.
“I promise you and I swear before God, try that again and you’ll see what will happen to you. Sisi hatutaki mchezo tena (We won’t entertain this again),” Uhuru said during the Nairobi International Trade Fair on September 4, 2018.
And as he left the podium, the visibly angry President pointed at the CS, while speaking in Gikuyu and warned him against making further payments to brokers. “Mungiriha ni mukwona (If you pay, I’ll deal with you)!” he charged.
During his recent visit to Kisumu and Siaya counties, Uhuru reportedly admonished Mr Echesa for engaging in politics at the expense of his role.
“Wewe kazi yako ni kungoja wikendi ifike halafu unaenda kwa kila matanga kutusi watu. Hiyo sio kazi ya waziri. Hio ni kazi ya wabunge. Ni kama hujui kazi yako.” (You wait for weekends to attend every funeral insulting your rivals. That is not the work of a CS. That is the work of politicians. You don’t seem to know your job description),” Uhuru reportedly told the CS.
Echesa has also been engaged in a supremacy battle with Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala over the region’s politics, and their fight has degenerated into washing dirty linen in public.
Last year, Mr Malala linked the CS to Photoshopped nude images that were shared on social media to portray the senator as philanderer and irresponsible leader.
Amina found herself on the receiving end after she unilaterally decided to postpone the rollout of the new curriculum, citing inadequate consultations.
This was seen as a direct attack on her predecessor, Dr Matiang’i, with the President’s intervention that saw Amina change her mind three days later to announce that the programme would be rolled as planned.
The President’s focus is also on Labour CS Ukur Yattani, Transport CS James Macharia, Health’s Sicily Kariuki, Energy’s Charles Keter, EAC’s Adan Mohamed and Water’s Simon Chelugui.
Some of the ministers hold dockets crucial to Uhuru’s Big 4 Agenda.
The President’s decision to move the National Transport and Safety Authority from Mr Macharia’s docket to Matiang’i’s is interpreted as dissatisfaction with the operations of the agency under the Transport ministry. At one time, the President was said to have casually dismissed Macharia as the “minister for SGR”, the only docket Macharia was said to be passionate about.
And Adan Mohamed was moved from Industrialisation to EAC after a spate of corruption incidents at the Kenya Bureau of Standards.
Mr Yattani and Ms Kariuki will be in the spotlight again as nurses threaten a nationwide strike this morning. Kariuki was in charge of NYS when she served as Youth and Public Service CS at a time when the NYS II scandal took place.
She has also been fighting allegations of corruption at Afya House and the National Hospital Insurance Fund.
Yattani was recently accused of engaging in clan politics in his Marsabit County.
Last July, Mr Keter became the highest ranking State officer to criticise the war on corruption, accusing investigative agencies of targeting the wrong persons at Kenya Power.
“Sometimes you wish you can be that sacrificial lamb for others to survive; especially the innocent ones. I don’t want to talk about the merits of the case as I know the law will take its course, but at times we have to speak out for the innocent,” Keter said on July 16, 2018, when top Kenya Power bosses were arrested.
The elevation of Matiang’i through Executive Order No 1/20, which formed an implementation committee chaired by the CS, reportedly unsettled some of his colleagues, who felt he was being treated as first among equals. [Geoffrey Mosoku, Roselyne Obala, Moses Nyamori and James Munyeki]