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Uhuru and Ruto move to rescue Jubilee legacy

President Uhuru Kenyatta addressing the Press at State House in Nairobi last year. He has now detailed Cabinet Secretaries to hold briefings coordinated from Harambee House [PHOTO: FILE]


NAIROBI, KENYA: There is a change in the communication strategy under the fl ag of the Presidency, taking public pressure away from the country’s chief executive and focusing it on the technocrats running Cabinet portfolios.

This new style of letting cabinet secretaries address burning national issues under the President’s watchful eye symbolises the enhanced role of the Government Spokesman.

That is what President Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto unveiled, albeit silently, eight days to marking one year in office, as the Presidency instructed cabinet secretaries to brief Kenyans directly on the weighty issues confronting the country.

And for the rest of the week many other cabinet Secretaries will be facing the cameras to account for the work they are doing, field questions from the media, and take personal responsibility for the success or failure of the projects running under their portfolios.

It is a strategy woven by the Jubilee leaders, reportedly to confront rising skepticism among Kenyans on the delivery of the Jubilee pre-election promise of a better tomorrow for all. In short it is an ambitious programme to assure Kenyans and restore their confidence as studies show fluctuating levels of public confidence in the administration just about to mark one year in office. 

Clearly, a year into office, Uhuru and Ruto have gone on overdrive to fight public perception that the Jubilee government has not done enough, as well as the harsh verdict by some that it is yet to demonstrate the experience required to address serious challenges such as the bloated and unsustainable public wage bill and big promises that are not cheap to pursue.

As a strategy to influence positive review of their performance, as next Wednesday marks a year since their inauguration and, to stem the declining ratings, the pair detailed their Cabinet Secretaries to hold daily briefings coordinated from The Presidency, at Harambee House for symbolism.

State House explained the briefings, which saw the first four Secretaries mount the podium Monday, are for them “to talk about their work in the past year” and “their priorities for the next year and beyond.”

The briefings are tailored to bolster the State of the Nation address, through which the President sought to give a scorecard of his administration, but which the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) attacked as cosmetic prescriptions to ills bedeviling the nation.

Also, the well-choreographed briefings designed to portray a key tenet of a thriving democracy, transparency and public right to information, no doubt, are engineered to shore up public confidence and stem public backlash.

Recent opinion polls have painted the picture of declining fortunes for the Jubilee government, as the reality of governing sets in, leaders confront an array of challenges and face the difficulty of satisfying all interests.


An Ipsos Kenya survey released on March 14 suggested the level of confidence in the President and his deputy had declined between November 2013 and February 2014.

In November, more than half of Kenyans (53 per cent) had confidence in President Uhuru, but that dropped to 41 per cent in February this year.

Over the same period, the level of confidence in the Deputy President declined from 48 to 38 per cent, the poll showed.

Half of the respondents cited high cost of living and inflation as the most serious problems facing Kenya today as well as unemployment (19 per cent) and corruption (nine per cent).

Crime and insecurity (seven per cent) and poor leadership (five per cent) were also concerns.

The findings dovetail with some of the major challenges facing the Jubilee administration. President Kenyatta has fought a public backlash over the Value Added Tax (VAT) law that removed tax exemptions on a raft of basic commodities.

Critics argue the new VAT law added to the rising cost of living, but in his address to Parliament the President justified it as necessary to mobilise resources for development.

By rolling out the new strategy to showcase achievements, the Jubilee leaders are looking to persuade pessimists who perceive the Government to have veered off-track in meeting election promises.

Monday, Cabinet Secretaries sought to address concerns about food security, land reforms and the poaching menace, allegedly orchestrated by some people in Government (see separate stories).

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the Jubilee government is to demonstrate its commitment to devolution. A conference on the same that opens in Kwale tomorrow has ignited the latest feud after governors accused the Government of scheming to sabotage it. “The President in his speech talked of his support for devolution yet in action, the central government is still stuck with some of these functions such as roads,” said Council of Governors (COG) chairman Isaac Ruto.

The Government is struggling with a spiraling wage bill that officials claim stands at 12 per cent of Gross Domestic Product — much higher than the global best practice that advises wages should not exceed 7 per cent of GDP.

Civil servants’ salaries have almost doubled, from Sh241 billion in 2008-09 to Sh458 billion in 2012-2013. But the Government’s narrative about soaring wage bill has attracted criticism from a top economist who has accused officials of scare mongering. 

Devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary Ann Waiguru and her National Treasury counterpart Henry Rotich are expected to defend the Government’s assessment of the problem in tomorrow’s briefing. Rotich shoulders the burden of balancing the nation’s accounts and providing resources to meet high public expectations, a delicate fete considering the fact that the country is sagging under the weight of debt.

Interior and Co-ordination of National Government Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku and his Defence colleague Raychelle Omamo will today address concerns over insecurity.

The nation is gripped by threat of terrorist attacks and other crimes. The Jubilee government is also dogged by a perception that has in the past eroded confidence in successive governments: paying lip service to the fight against corruption.

President Uhuru has himself admitted corruption is thriving in the Office of the President, and recently transferred accounting officers.

Heads are, however, yet to roll and the nation was stunned when the President’s pet project, laptops for Standard One pupils, was bungled with the procurement review board citing irregular dealings.

During the final briefing on Thursday, Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi will likely face questions over the laptops saga.

Labour, Social Security and Services Cabinet Secretary Kazungu Kambi, too, will be required to restore public confidence in the NSSF, the multi-billion shillings workers’ fund rocked by corruption allegations.

Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia is expected to showcase one of Jubilee’s achievements: free maternity care in public hospitals.


But the gains made in the sector could be rolled back by reports of mass resignations by doctors due to dissatisfaction with the transfer of their salaries to counties.

At Tuesday’s briefing, Transport Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau will address efforts to reform the public transport sector as new rules take effect today.

Mining Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala will address mining rights and Fred Matiang’I (Information, Communications and Technology) will explains the Government’s push for digital migration, over which Attorney General Githu Muigai has said he will appeal a court ruling annulling a contract already awarded, and ordering for a fresh one.

Energy and Petroleum secretary Davis Chirchir will lay out a roadmap for Jubilee to achieve key promises, including making energy affordable and lighting up a majority of households.

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