Suspicion in Jubilee marriage halts President Uhuru Kenyatta’s plan to reorganise government

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto

Jubilee leadership faces increased public scrutiny after the much talked about reorganisation of the Cabinet and Civil Service either failed to materialise, or has been set aside as allegations of vicious feuding over lucrative positions take centre stage.

The uncertainty is compounded further by questions about how long Cabinet secretaries who have been holding brief for their suspended colleagues will remain “in acting” positions as investigations about their alleged involvement in economic crimes and abuse of office drag on. The law is silent on what options are available to the President or the suspended public officers.

Insiders say a stand-off between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto is the cause of lack of progress toward the envisaged re-jigging of the government to weed out elements the President says run a “parallel government.” However, there are also questions about whether the President risked breaching the law by replacing suspended ministers and principal secretaries before conclusion of investigations.

While he would not confirm or refute claims that the reorganisation of the government had stalled as a result of long-standing disagreements in Jubilee coalition, Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen – a confidant of the DP – avers the suspension of Cabinet secretaries Charity Ngilu, Davis Chirchir, Felix Koskei, Michael Kamau and Kazungu Kambi has adversely affected service delivery in the ministries of Lands, Energy, Agriculture, Transport and Labour respectively.

“Changes in government are just rumours. What is critical is how some people want to take advantage of perceptions of corruption to even scores. It would have been bad for people who are being investigated to be replaced on mere perception of involvement in corruption without evidence. Some of the allegations were fabricated by people who want to install their friends in strategic positions because of business interests or to grant favours to their political allies,” explains Murkomen.

Although the senator would not talk in specifics, his line of argument alludes to a shrewd businessman from Central Kenya nicknamed “John Walker” in the Jubilee circles and whose name has featured in virtually all the corruption scandals to have befallen the Jubilee administration. “John Walker” name features in mega-money tenders scandals, among them the botched primary schools laptop project and standard gauge railway.

Nearly a fortnight ago, an influential member of the Presidents’ The National Alliance (TNA) party told The Standard on Saturday that there are indeed serious divisions in the governing coalition with the regard to Cabinet and public service appointments. While the president is open to bringing anyone on board, his deputy has been vehemently opposed to tapping into opposition strongholds – mainly Nyanza, Western and Coast – that have repeatedly complained about exclusion from public appointments. Further, the deputy president has also raised questions about why cabinet and principal secretaries allied to his United Republican Party (URP) were targeted for suspension under the guise of fighting corruption in government. These are Mr Koskei, Mr Chirchir and Mr Kambi. Mr Kambi and Charity Ngilu were co-opted into the government courtesy of TNA to assuage the electorate that had backed it and for the sake of having a semblance of the face of Kenya government.

While suspending the CSs, the president appointed Industrialisation CS Adan Mohammed to be acting CS for Agriculture, National Treasury CS Henry Rotich to double up as Energy minister, while Labour would under Raychelle Omamo of Defence as Health CS James Macharia presides of over the Lands docket.

Bargaining power

Senior State officers and Principal Secretaries on suspension are (former) Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia, PS for Defence Mutea Iringo, PS for Transport Nduva Muli, PS for Mining Patrick Omutia, PS for Water James Teko, Chief of Staff in the Office of the Deputy President Marianne Kittany, Investment Secretary Esther Koimett and deputy head of Mission at the Kenya Embassy in South Africa Jane Waikenda.

In a candid admission about widening rifts in Jubilee, the influential TNA member who spoke to The Standard on Saturday about the delay in the swearing-in of Eugene Wamalwa as CS for newly carved out Water and Irrigation docket owned up that the DP is averse to inclusion of individuals who can tilt the balance heavily in TNA’s favour. It is significant to note that Wamalwa finally took the oath of office on Thursday while the DP Ruto was away in Malawi.

“There is a disconnect (in Jubilee government). The president is aware he needs to reach out to opposition strongholds. There is fear among Ruto and his supporters that inclusion of non-Jubilee partners will weaken his bargaining power in government. If Western, Nyanza and Coast can cede ground and work with Jubilee, then the president would not need URP electoral bloc in the Rift Valley to win the 2017 elections,” he said.