Judge Paul Kihara Kariuki to replace Githu Muigai as AG

President Uhuru Kenyatta with outgoing Attorney General Prof. Githu Muigai after he handed-in his resignation letter to the President at State House, Nairobi. [Photo/Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta has changed his advisers in a shake-up that affected State House the most.

Out goes Attorney General Githu Muigai, the chief legal adviser to the President on issues to do with the Judiciary, reforms, and even the ongoing crackdown on NASA over the swearing-in of Raila Odinga. President Uhuru Kenyatta has nominated Judge Paul Kihara Kariuki to replace him.

Also replaced is Abdikadir Mohamed, the President's adviser on constitutional matters. Mohamed is now the country’s new ambassador to South Korea.

The changes followed the exit of former State House Comptroller Lawrence Lenayapa, now Kenya's ambassador to The Netherlands.

Joining the legal wing of the presidency is Solicitor General Njee Muturi.

Uhuru’s lawyer, Ken Ogeto, becomes solicitor general, replacing Muturi, who has been appointed State House deputy chief of staff.

Prof Muigai's strained relations with Muturi and his impatience on how he was treated and bypassed could have motivated his decision to leave the Government.

The resignation of Muigai did not come as a surprise to many following years of what was seen as power struggle pitting him against Muturi, who was seen as the substantive boss at the State Law Office.

A source close to happenings at State House revealed to The Standard that Muigai, a law scholar of high repute, had expressed his intentions to leave the office long before the run-up to last year's General Election, citing the pressure that came with the office.

The source said constant criticism, including from some powerful quarters within the Jubilee administration over his advice to the President as the chief legal government adviser, had piled pressure on Muigai resulting in his decision to quit office.

"It is not a surprise that he has decided to resign. There is talk in some quarters that he was forced out but those of us in the know had been waiting for this after the General Election. He was just tired of these pressures," said the source.

But questions are being raised as to why Uhuru would dismantle the legal team, with talk that he was getting fed up with constant feuds in the State Law Office.

Sources say while Muigai has been serving in the docket through official channels, it was Muturi who had the ear of the powerful clique around the President and ended up making decisions constitutionally reserved for the AG.

"The Jubilee administration has suffered some embarrassing moments where the courts have declared bills and policy directions taken by the Government as unconstitutional. It is the AG who has had to shoulder the blame when actually some of the decisions were taken without his prior knowledge," said the source.

The former AG is said to be angling for a powerful appointment to a multinational firm, according to those close to him and/or a nomination to a continental court.

"While announcing the changes yesterday with his outgoing legal adviser beside him at State House, the President said: “I have received with regret the resignation of Attorney General Prof Githu Muigai... I thank him for his service for the last six-and-a-half years. I wish Prof Muigai all the very best in the next phase of his professional career."

Before his appointment as AG in 2011, Muigai was a partner in Mohammed Muigai Advocates and has been a UN special rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance.

Demotion or promotion?

On the other hand, although many consider Muturi’s removal from the State Law Office to State House as a demotion, others may see it as a promotion as he will be working directly under the President.

He will deputise, Nzioka Waita, who assumed the role of chief of staff last month after the President scrapped the role of head of civil service.

Before his appointment as solicitor general in 2013, Muturi had not worked in any prominent organisation of the Government outside being a personal assistant of President Uhuru Kenyatta from his time as Kanu chairman.

The nomination of Justice Kihara Kariuki to be the President’s legal adviser also did not come as a surprise, with many in the Judiciary and legal fraternity saying the impending appointment was an open secret within the corridors of justice. The judge is expected to play an integral role in advising the President on matters law and perhaps doing the State bidding on legal issues both locally and internationally. He will also represent the President at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

Among the pending issues is the threat by his predecessor to charge NASA leader Raila Odinga with treason following his January 30 oath as the 'people’s president'.

On his part, Ogeto has played a prominent role as the President’s personal lawyer, having been among those who represented the Head of State at the International Criminal Court over the 2007/08 post-election violence. The case was later dropped.

He also served as one of the chief agents for Jubilee Party alongside former Cabinet secretary Davis Chirchir during the 2013 and 2017 General Election.

Justice Kariuki and Ogeto are now awaiting parliamentary approval before being formally appointed to take up their new positions.

Earlier yesterday, Uhuru nominated former Kenyatta University vice chancellor Olive Mugenda and former Agriculture CS Felix Koskei as representatives of the public to the JSC alongside former National Assembly clerk Patrick Gichohi.

Gichohi takes the place of outgoing PSC chairperson Margaret Kobia, who has been nominated to the Cabinet, while Prof Mugenda replaces Winnie Guchu, who resigned last year to spearhead Uhuru’s re-election campaign. Koskei replaces Kipng’etich arap Korir Bett.

The nomination is a reprieve for Koskei, a close associate of Deputy President William Ruto, who to resigned in March 2015 from the Cabinet over corruption allegations. EACC has since cleared him.