Intrigues behind Mwende Mueke's replacement as EAC secretary general

Caroline Mwende Mueke had been nominated for the East African Community Secretary General job. [Courtesy]

It is now emerging that politics is behind the replacement of Caroline Mwende Mueke as East African Community (EAC) Secretary General.

The position was left vacant following the nomination of Peter Mathuki, as Kenya's ambassador to Russia.

Mueke, who is the sister to State Department for Livestock Development Principal Secretary Jonathan Mueke, will now be replaced by Veronica Mueni Nduva.

Nduva is the Principal Secretary in the Department of Performance and Delivery Management in the Ministry of Public Service.

While Mueke was nominated by President William Ruto during International Women’s Day last month, the process to swear her in was supposed to start on Tuesday.

However, the plans were aborted after the President through EAC Affairs Cabinet Secretary Peninah Malonza nominated Nduva.

Mueke, CS Malonzo and Nduva hail from the Ukambani region.

Malonza, in a letter dated April 15, 2024, to Deng Alor Kuol, South Sudan's minister for EAC affairs and the current chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers, gave no reasons for President Ruto's decision to nominate another candidate.

"Further to our letter of March 15 informing you of a presidential action nominating Ms Mwende for appointment as the new Secretary General by the Summit under the EAC Treaty, we are writing to inform you that the President of Kenya has amended the nomination of Ms Mwende for the position of EAC Secretary General," said the CS in the letter.

Following Mueke's nomination, South Sudan's minister for EAC affairs had called for an extraordinary summit that was scheduled to take place on Monday.

"I hereby notify you that President Salva Kiir has requested the Heads of State to hold an extra-ordinary Summit virtually on April 15, 2024, to be preceded by the EAC Council of Ministers session virtually on the same day to consider the appointment of Ms Caroline Mwende Mueke as the Secretary General of the East African Community," the letter dated March 28, reads. 

But her replacement letter was written a day before the Council of Ministers was to meet to ratify Mueke’s name.

The Heads of State were set to meet on Thursday to approve Kenya’s nominee to pave the way for her swearing-in ceremony 24 hours after the approval.

The Standard has learned that Mueke was never given the reasons for her replacement and was gearing up for her swearing-in ceremony when she heard about the government’s sudden move.

Despite her excellent academic qualifications, the political class claimed she was replaced due to lack of experience while others cited political affiliation and geopolitics as the main reason for her replacement.

Makueni Senator Dan Maanzo said Nduva is more qualified to hold the EAC position "as it is more sensitive and she is someone who can handle serious politics."

Maanzo revealed that he was apprehensive when Mueke was nominated but after her replacement, he was confident that Nduva will discharge her duties due to ‘her vast experience.'

“To be sincere, Nduva is more qualified than Mueke and I believe she first needs to be appointed Principal Secretary before appointment for the EAC position. This is not an office you send someone who is direct from school,” he told The Standard on phone.

Another source said: "The political intrigues degenerated into party affiliation and the fact that she is Mueke’s sister and that the position needed to be distributed to another area within the Akamba community and this was the idea behind her replacement."

However, Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua blamed the CS for playing 'petty and village politics' over Mueke's replacement saying she was not only qualified but competent for the job.

"I don't doubt Nduva's competence and I believe she will get the job done but if I was to be asked Mueke is properly qualified and experienced for the job, not many from our region would hold a candle against her. I wish appointments in this country are made based on meritocracy and not little petty village politics," claimed Wambua.

Mueke told The Standard that she was honoured to have received the initial nomination and thanked the President.

“I extend my congratulations to PS Nduva, on my part I will continue serving the community in my current capacity at the United Nations,” she said.

Mueke pursued a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations at United States International University and a Master’s in Public Administration and Policy from New York University and is currently a PhD candidate in Public Administration at the University of South Africa.

She has 25 years of experience as an international development and policy expert having worked in various sectors such as development planning, peacebuilding, project management and policy advisory and management in South Sudan, South Africa, Georgia, the Republic of North Macedonia, the United States of America and Kenya.

Mueke currently works as a senior political affairs officer and special adviser to the deputy special representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

She has been instrumental in developing strategies for the UN’s support to the implementation of the current peace agreement on the resolution of the conflict in the country, which was signed in 2018.

Mueke has also served in advisory, policy and management roles and contexts at country, regional and global levels such as being a special advisor to the assistant SG and director for UNDP Africa, based in New York, from 2012-2015.

From 2007-2012, she worked for the UN Development Group in Johannesburg, South Africa, as a regional coordination advisor and head of the inter-agency secretariat where she was responsible for providing UN technical assistance in 22 countries in the Eastern and Southern Africa region.

From 2000-2007, she worked for UNDP’s Crisis Prevention Bureau in New York, as a Program Specialist responsible for Eastern Europe and Southern African countries.