What next? Fear and anxiety grip top State officers

President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and his deputy William Ruto during a prayer rally organized by Tuombeeni Kenya group at Uhuru park on July 31, 2017 [Beverlyne Musili| Standard]

Shock and confusion gripped Cabinet Secretaries (CSs) as anxiety amongst Principals Secretaries (PSs) mutated into panic after it emerged President Kenyatta could have lost confidence in more than three quarters of his Cabinet.

President Kenyatta’s decision to fire 13 CSs painted an image of pending blood bath for PS’s and parastatal chiefs as he moves to form a government that he hopes will deliver on his legacy aspirations.

Some ministers and their aides have hitherto rejected the idea that an axe had fallen on them. Speaking in unobtrusive tones, they insist there is still a chance for survival because the entire Cabinet is yet to be constituted.

“The President has not sacked me, he only mentioned a few colleagues he hopes to retain in their dockets and appointed a few others. Until the whole process is completed, you can’t say I have been sacked. I could be moved to another docket you know,” said a sitting Cabinet Secretary who was not among the retained six.

On Friday, President Kenyatta nominated three new CSs and retained six.

“I wish to state that I am retaining the following persons in my Cabinet and shall re-assign them accordingly their duties in accordance with Article 152 (5) (A) and these are Henry Rotich (Treasury), Najib Balala (Tourism), James Macharia (Transport), Fred Matiang’i (Interior and education (acting), Charles Keter (Energy) and Joseph Mucheru (ICT),” the President said on Friday.

Yesterday, in what many interpreted as a public relations and emotional management gimmick, State House Spokesperson Manoah Esipisu sent a statement to media houses saying all CSs are still in office until the process of forming a new Cabinet is completed.

Manoah’s statement seemed to suggest that no CS has so far been sacked.

“This is to clarify that the Cabinet Secretaries currently in office remain so, as instructed in a memorandum from the Head of Public Service in December, until otherwise advised,” stated Esipisu in a statement yesterday.

He continued: “In the coming days, the President will complete the task of assembling the team of office, guided by merit, integrity, commitment to service and in terms of the Constitution.”

But in what paints a picture of advisors in darkness, two highly placed sources within State House who refused to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter gave two opposing views, effectively creating the impression that President Kenyatta is keeping his moves tightly guarded.

“Listen, let me tell you. Government does not fire people, it omits their names from the list of the appointees. I am sure you have seen that in the past. So if your colleagues have been formally informed that they have been retained, what is left for the rest who are also sitting in Cabinet?” posed one source.

Make a comeback

This view was however sharply contradicted by another source from within Government who maintained that some of the CSs -- among them Eugene Wamalwa, Amina Mohammed, Mwangi Kiunjuri and Dan Kazungu -- though not mentioned by the President on Friday, had done well and may make a comeback.

“The position is that Cabinet will most likely be expanded. The six CSs the President mentioned yesterday will retain their dockets except for Matiang’i, who moves to Interior. This doesn’t mean that those whose names the President didn’t mention have been sacked. It means that some like Amina, Eugene, Adan Mohammed, Kiunjuri and Kazungu will come back but may not necessarily occupy the same dockets they currently occupy. In other words, only six ministers know their portfolio,” he said

President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto have maintained a tight grip on their preferred appointees, with even their closest aides being kept in the dark.

Indeed, it is understood that some of the high-ranking officials who happened to be at State House moments before the President made the announcement had no idea Cabinet would form part of his statement to the media. They believed it was going to be a statement related to reforms in the education sector.

The President has also shown a major departure from the past where loyalty, regional balance and friendship was rewarded. It is no longer easy to predict the remaining list of appointees.

Similarly, there was other surprise appointment of Rift Valley Regional commissioner Wanyama Musiambo to deputise Joseph Kinyua as Head of Public Service, putting to rest speculations over the position of the latter eyed by Principal Secretaries Joseph Njoroge (Energy), Karanja Kibicho (Interior) and Monica Juma (Foreign Affairs).

Many expected Amina, Kiunjuri, Wamalwa and Kazungu to be retained, some of whom had declared interest in gubernatorial contest in last year’s elections but were advised to keep off by Mr Kenyatta. Kiunjuri and Wamalwa are fairly strong politicians in their respective Laikipia and Bungoma counties and played key roles in Kenyatta’s re-election campaign.

Normal day

Their fate remains unclear so far.

It was indeed a Cabinet announcement of its kind whose content was only known to the President’s secretary, DP Ruto and the President himself.

Like any normal day, the unexpected national address at 3.30pm Kenyan time on Friday by the President started with his pet subject, education and throwing everyone off balance only to transform into a momentous announcement of nine men he has identified to work with to deliver on his Jubilee agenda.

The fate of the 13 CSs who didn’t get a mention by the President is still controversial. Sources however say that while some seem to have performed in the dockets, there exist dirty elements in their files as assessed by security agencies.

It is however argued that the fresh appointments expected next time could include some of the current CSs. In sum, the President has sent everyone on a fishing expedition even as he continues to re-organise and form his Government to spearhead his agenda for the next five years.