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Why Cabinet reshu­ffle will follow Waiguru exit

COUNTIES
By Moses Njagih | November 23rd 2015

The resignation of Anne Waiguru as Devolution Cabinet Secretary has raised speculation that major changes in the Cabinet are looming.

Her resignation, when she was not under investigation, piles the pressure on her colleagues who are still under investigation. It also offers President Uhuru Kenyatta a chance to pick a team that has no baggage from graft probes.

But what makes a Cabinet reshuffle imminent is a constitutional provision stipulating that the Cabinet consists of the President, Deputy President, Attorney General, not fewer than 14 and not more than 22 Cabinet secretaries. With Ms Waiguru out and five other Cabinet secretaries having stepped aside after they were implicated in corruption, there are 13 Cabinet secretaries in office after the recent appointment of Eugene Wamalwa.

However, the Constitution is silent on the fate of the suspended Cabinet secretaries. President Kenyatta's dilemma is compounded by the fact that he does not know when they will be cleared and yet they were in charge of key portfolios like Energy, Lands, Labour and Transport. Currently, these are handled by other Cabinet secretaries in an acting capacity who also have their dockets to think about.

LSK Council Member and former President of East Africa Law Society James Mwamu, says there is a legitimate constitutional question on the shortfall in Cabinet. "He can argue that the other CSs have only stepped aside and are still part of his Cabinet," he says. But he adds that when the framers of the Constitution put the number at 14, it meant that this was the minimum needed for Government to function properly. "The reason for the CS is so that the President gets technical advice from people he has entrusted with running ministries so as to allow him him to make decisions. If he lacks the minimum required, then what is the basis of the decisions he makes?" he posed. Already the Opposition believes the Cabinet is not properly constituted.

"Article 152 of the Constitution states that the Cabinet consists of not fewer than 14 and not more than 22 Cabinet secretaries. We now have 13 out of 19 CSs in office. In technical terms, there is no properly constituted Cabinet," said Orange Democratic Movement Chairman John Mbadi.

CORD leader Raila Odinga said: "It is a very bad picture for ministers to be out of office for over eight months. When are we going to have a properly constituted Cabinet?"

And it emerged that a meeting on Friday between the President and close confidants may have been among the series of events that led to Waiguru's announcement the following day. That Uhuru's Senior Advisor for Constitutional and Legal Affairs Abdikadir Mohamed was beside Waiguru as she made the announcement during a news conference, is a pointer that State House was privy to the development.

Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi said: "With nearly a third of the Cabinet secretaries out of office, Government operations will be impaired. President Kenyatta should now as a matter of urgency think of properly and fully constituting his government."

But the apparent legal implications of the current constitution of the Cabinet raises questions about whether Waiguru's resignation was a calculated political move. Also by Waiguru quitting altogether, some argue, it denies URP a chance to demand the reinstatement of suspended Cabinet secretaries.

"The URP wing was saying that if you are not sacking Waiguru then reinstate our CSs. Now that equation has been complicated by her exit. Ruto should now be content that his friends will not get back into the Cabinet. Waiguru's exit is dangerous for the other six," said Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale.

But Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter, who has unrelentingly pressed for the sacking of Waiguru, maintained that the reinstatement of Davis Chirchir (Energy) and Felix Koskei (Agriculture) should not be tied to Waiguru's resignation.  A source in State House confidentially spoke of the "very high possibility" of a Government shake-up, not only targeting Cabinet secretaries, but also extending to other senior positions.

"Already, there was talk of an impending re-organisation. People are now not working as they wait to see what decision the President might take. There is a ery high possibility of a reshuffle, most likely after the Pope leaves town," the senior government official said. ODM Secretary General Ababu Namwamba said there is a serious crisis in Government.

Additional reporting by Jacob Ngetich

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