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Uhuru dilemma as half Cabinet set to quit to vie for political positions



 President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses the nation from State House, Nairobi shortly after chairing an extraordinary Cabinet meeting. [Courtesy]

President Uhuru Kenyatta is facing a dilemma as half the Cabinet is about to resign as the ministers seek to chart their political destiny.

In the next three weeks, the President - who is serving the last year of his tenure - must decide whether to pick a new team to replace those who will quit or work with half the Cabinet. He also has to decide whether to order those eyeing elective seats to vacate office or wait until his tenure ends.

His deputy, William Ruto, elected with him on a Jubilee ticket, is in the race to succeed him at State House.

Cabinet Secretaries and other public officials eyeing elective seats have 22 days to leave office ahead of the August 9 General Election.

CSs Charles Keter (Devolution), John Munyes (Mining and Petroleum), Simon Chelugui (Labour), Peter Munya (Agriculture) and Sicily Kariuki (Water and Sanitation) are believed to be nursing political ambitions. If they confirm that they are taking the plunge, they will be expected to leave office by the second week of February.

Ms Kariuki has remained cagey about her bid for Nyandarua governorship. She will face off with Governor Francis Kimemia if she decides to take the plunge into the murky waters of politics.

“I am still working as a Cabinet Secretary in the Water docket. If Nyandarua residents want me to be the governor, I will make it public. I’m now busy delivering on my duties,” she said.

Yesterday, Defence CS Eugene Wamalwa attended the opening of Democratic Alliance Party of Kenya (DAP) offices in Nairobi while Chelugui who is eying Baringo governor seat, said he will launch his bid soon.

CSs Ukur Yatani (Treasury) and Raphael Tuju are non-committal, saying they cannot just leave their posts yet before getting the nod from the President.

“I will cross the bridge when I get there. It will be disrespectful of me to declare my interest and have the President learn of my political intentions through the media. We will announce our intentions when time is ripe,” Tuju said.

In an earlier interview, Yatani however hinted at being at crossroads on whether to quit or not.

“I occupy a very senior position in the national government, whose services will be extremely important between now and until a new government is ushered in. I cannot abandon my President, the gentleman who has trusted me. I would not want to give him the burden of looking around for somebody he is going to trust,” he said.

Tens of Principal Secretaries and Chief Administrative Secretaries have trained their eyes on the five elective seats up for grabs.

Uhuru’s dilemma is being replicated among the governors across the 47 counties who are debating whether to fill the positions of the hundreds of senior and junior officers in their administration interested in elective seats.

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati has insisted that the law requiring public servants seeking elective positions to resign six months to the polls, must be adhered to.

The IEBC chairman maintains that only those who comply with the provision will be cleared to run for office.

Yesterday, Keter said he will vie for a political seat in his home county of Kericho and gave an indication of going for the governorship.

On Monday, the CS publicly declared his support for Deputy President William Ruto and UDA during a rally in Kericho.

“I have walked with the Deputy President since 2006 when he first attempted to vie for the presidency. I declare that I will stick with him until he becomes the fifth President of Kenya,” he said.

“I am listening to my people on which seat to go for, I will make up my mind soon,” said Keter who was plucked by President Kenyatta from his senatorial position to head the Energy Ministry in 2015 until last year when he was shuffled to the Devolution docket.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said he will not go for an elective seat in the August elections. “I am focused on saving the lives of fellow Kenyans that I have not had time to think about anything else,” said Kagwe.

Lands CS Farida Karoney said she was not running for any seat. A high ranking public official seeking governorship who spoke on condition of anonymity said he is waiting for the ruling by the Court of Appeal slated for January 24 to decide whether to quit or not.

“Before the deadline lapses and based on the ruling by the Court of Appeal, I will choose the right time to announce my resignation if need be,” he said.

Yesterday, political commentator Dismas Mokua said Uhuru does not have a choice but to pick new CSs for the remaining period.

“Given that this is a critical moment for Uhuru as he seeks to solidify his legacy, loading the remaining CSs with more work will easily lead to paralysis, he will be forced to replace the exiting team immediately,” said Mokua.

In government operations, he explained that some dockets like the National Treasury must have a CS who will be there full time and therefore the need to replace Yatani immediately if he exits. “Whether the new team will get to deliver in the short notice is a subject of debate, but Uhuru will have to look for competent people who will take a short time to get the groove in government,” said Mokua.

In an earlier ruling by Lady Justice Monica Mbaru of the Employment and Labour Relations Court, civil servants had been handed a temporary lifeline after the High Court suspended a directive by IEBC requiring those seeking elective seats to resign by February 9.

Yesterday, Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya led the way by stepping down to contest for Trans Nzoia governorship.

Labour CAS Patrick Ntutu is seeking to succeed Narok Governor Samuel Tuinai who is serving his last term.

Industrialisation CAS Lawrence Karanja is eyeing Nakuru Senate seat.

Foreign Affairs CAS Ababu Namwamba has indicated that he will contest for an elective seat. Petroleum and Mining  CAS John Mosonik, has declared interest in the Bomet governorship.

Water and Irrigation PS Joseph Irungu Wairagu has already hit the ground running to campaign for the Murang’a governorship.

Sports, Culture and Heritage CAS Zack Kinuthia is eyeing Kigumo parliamentary seat.

State House Director of Political Affairs Machel Waikenda is going for the Kiambu senatorial seat on Moses Kuria’s Chama Cha Kazi.

“My last working day at State House is February 1 after which I will go full time into campaigning,” Waikenda said yesterday.

Others said to be interested in elective politics, but declined to comment, are CSs Peter Munya, National Museums of Kenya Director General Mzalendo Kibunjia and Chuka University Vice-Chancellor Prof Erastus Njoka.

Prof Njoka and Kibunjia are said to be interested in Tharaka Nithi governorship while Munya has said in the past he would at the appropriate time announce whether he will take on Governor Kiraitu Murungi in Meru.

Other PSs eyeing elective seats are Prof Hamadi Boga (State Department for Crop Development and Agricultural Research) and his counterpart at the State Department for Wildlife Prof Fred Segor.

Kenya ambassador to Namibia Benjamin Langat has declared interest in the Kericho governorship.

Other envoys eyeing elective seats are Mohammed Shidiye (Botswana), Kiema Kilonzo (Uganda) and Julius Bitok (Pakistan).

Bittok, who has declared interest in Uasin Gishu governorship, said he will resign on February 9 to campaign.

Shidiye is expected to contest the Lagdera parliamentary seat, Kiema is eyeing the Kitui governorship while Bitok will be going for the Uasin Gishu governorship.

Tourism CAS Joseph Boinet said he will resign on February 9 to contest for Elgeyo Marakwet governorship.

Lake Basin Development Authority chairman Odoyo Owidi has set his eyes on Kasipul parliamentary seat current held by Ong’ondo Were.

In Kisumu, East Africa Community CAS Ken Obura is seeking to unseat Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o.

Former Police Spokesman Charles Owino who was redeployed to act as the deputy head of the Kenya National Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons in the police service has also trained his eyes on the Siaya governorship. Transport CAS Christopher Obure has declared interest in Kisii governorship.

Kenya Electricity Transmission Company Limited CEO Fernandes Barasa is eyeing Kakamega governorship.

Chairperson of the Privatisation Commission Dr Paul Otuoma has indicated that he will vie for Busia governorship.

Kenya Ports Authority top engineer Lung’anzi Chai Mangale is eyeing Kwale governorship.

Devolution CAS Gideon Munga’ro and his Interior counterpart Hussein Dado have declared interest for the Kilifi and Tana River governor seats respectively.

Mr George Mwandembo, a senior officer at the National Social Security Fund, is eyeing Taita Taveta governorship. 

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