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William Ruto's biggest test after judge stops vetting of PSs

President William Ruto. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

A court has stopped vetting of PS nominees until a case filed by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) challenging the list is determined.

Justice Nzioki wa Makau ordered Parliament not to vet the 51 candidates nominated by President William Ruto.

“Pending the hearing of this application inter parties on November 21, 2022, a conservatory order is hereby issued restraining and, or barring the respondents from receiving or if already received the list of nominees, barring the processing, vetting, or in any way, proceeding or processing the nomination for the appointment and or appointing the 1st to 51st interested parties herein as Principal Secretaries,” ruled Justice Nzioka.

LSK argues that the list of PSs does not take into account regional and tribal balance and the two-thirds gender rule.

The society also accuses the president of not involving the youth and persons living with a disability. The Eric Theuri-led LSK noted that 13 nominees come from the Kalenjin community and an equal number come from Central Kenya. The judge heard that the two communities have taken the lion’s share of government without considering 40 other tribes.

At the same time, LSK claims there are only 11 women out of the 51 nominees, which the society argues is against the Two-third Gender rule.

“The composition of the 51 nominated for approval was after disregarding and ignoring other 426 candidates who were qualified and some would have been nominated to meet the constitutional dictate for regional balance, gender and national values and the principles under Article 10 of the constitution,” according to LSK’s case.

“The sidelined communities will suffer a continued miscarriage of justice and alienation in appointments to key government positions in the country,” said LSK lawyers Stephen Musili and Kevin Walumbe.

PS nominee Esther Ngero before the House Committee on Finance and Planning. [Boniface Okendo, Standard] 

At least two cases have been filed to challenge President Ruto’s list of nominees. In the second case, Gikenyi Magayi argued that the list consists of members of two to three ethnic communities and female nominees are less than a third of the total number.

“The said list did not reflect ethnic, cultural, and regional diversity contrary to articles 10,73,75 and 232 of the constitution and hence illegal, null, and void. Haphazard establishment of political reward offices goes against article 201 of the Constitution on prudent use of financial resources,” Dr Magayi argued.

On November 2, Ruto nominated 51 people who would take up the roles of principal secretaries and sent the names to the National Assembly for possible vetting and approval. Ruto has increased the number of State departments to 49 and appointed 51 PS out of which two will go to the Office of the Deputy President. The Uhuru Kenyatta administration had 42 PSs.

Among the nominees are former legislators and as well as Kenya Kwanza loyalists. Some PSs who served in the Jubilee government are also on the list. They are Belio Kipsang who will be returning to the Ministry of Education as Basic Education PS is approved. Harry Kimutai has been retained in the Livestock and Development docket, Charles Hinga remains Urban and Development PS, while Dr Chris Kiptoo has been moved from Environment and Forestry to National Treasury. Julius Korir will be in Cabinet Affairs docket. Peter Tum has made a comeback as a nominee for Medical Services.

Among the politicians nominated to serve as PSs former Laikipia West MP Patrick Mariru (State Department for Defence) and former Langata MP Nixon Korir (Lands and Physical Planning). Phillip Kello Harsama has been nominated to the Crop Development department. Harsama is a member of Ruto’s UDA. He unsuccessfully vied for Marsabit governor. Harsama also served as Director General of the Agriculture Fisheries and Food Authority.

Also in the list are Beatrice Inyangala (Higher Education and Research), who was former Senator Cleophas Malala’s running mate in the Kakamega governor’s race.