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Storm over CAS shortlist full of oldies

 President William Ruto. Some of his allies are disappointed that former governors and state officials were shortlisted for CAS positions. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Pressure is mounting on President William Ruto to overlook election losers and award the youth and marginalised groups jobs as the new Chief Administrative Secretaries.

Some of the president's allies have expressed their disappointment that former governors and state officials applied for the CAS positions and made the shortlist, lamenting over the perennial recycling of politicians.

Among those who made the shortlist of 240 nominees - amended from a list of 224 to include more of Ruto's loyalists - are nine former governors, some who retired after serving two terms and others who have lost in subsequent elections.

The former governors are Evans Kidero (Nairobi), trounced by Gladys Wanga in Homa Bay governorship race last August, James Ongwae (Kisii), Moses Lenolkulal (Samburu), Ali Muktar (Wajir), Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia), John Mruttu (Taita Taveta), Samuel Tunai (Narok), Samuel Ragwa (Tharaka Nithi) and Hussein Dado (Tana River).

Dado was Interior CAS in former President Uhuru Kenyatta's administration, an appointment he secured after losing to Governor Dhadho Godhana in 2017. He is seeking a CAS position after losing a second time to Godhana in last year's election.

Others are former Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala (Kakamega), Fred Outa (Kisumu) and nominated senators Millicent Omanga and Isaac Mwaura, as well as Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, who lost to Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna in the senatorial contest.

The list also includes former Kirinyaga Woman Rep Purity Ngirici, former East African Legislative Assembly legislator Simon Mbugua, who also previously served as Member of Parliament of Kamukunji, and lawmakers Caleb Kositany (Soy), Charles Njagua (Starehe), Catherine Waruguru (Laikipia), Lilian Tomitom (West Pokot) and Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati) among others.

When he created the positions in 2017, Uhuru said his decision had been partly informed by the need to bring the youth on board, and hence his nomination of youth to serve in the role that replaced the assistant minister position of the former constitution. But majority of his appointees were election losers.

Kirinyaga Women Rep Jane Njeri Maina wants Ruto to accord the youth half the slots, arguing that ex-politicians have nothing new to offer. In a letter addressed to the Head of State, Maina laments that the youth have been perennially marginalised and that Ruto has so far ignored them in the appointment of cabinet and principal secretaries.

"Mr President, when you appointed CSs, young people held their breath. When you appointed PSs, young people held their breath. Mr President, young people can no longer breathe. They can no longer breathe under systemic segregation and disengagement in administrative and political processes," Maina wrote.

Choosing CASs will undoubtedly require balancing on the part of Ruto, who has been criticised for sidelining the youth and special groups such as women as required by the Constitution.

"The State shall take measures, including affirmative action programmes, to ensure that the youth access relevant education and training, have opportunities to associate, be represented and participate in political, social, economic and other spheres of life access employment and are protected from harmful cultural practices and exploitation," Article 55 of the Constitution states.

The Head of State has faced criticism for failing the gender test in his appointment of CSs and PSs. With seven out of 22 CSs, Ruto's cabinet fails the two-thirds gender parity test. Among the PSs, women make up a paltry 23 per cent (12 of the 51 positions).

"Mr President, when you signed the youth charter, young people had hope. When you took over the presidency, young people had hope. They had hoped that this was a different government. That it would not only be reflected in delivery but representation in appointive positions," Maina added.

In his youth charter, signed in June last year, Ruto did not expressly promise to hire the youth in his government, instead pledging to end marginalisation and discrimination. Ruto said he would make it easier for the youth, even those with little or no experience, to land government jobs.

And on Spice FM on Wednesday, Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei shared Maina's views, likening the CAS position to a mentorship role.

"Young people should be given an opportunity. These are positions that allow them to learn under Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries. The CAS post should be an avenue of tutelage to induct young people into managing country affairs," he said.

When the first shortlist of 224 nominees was released, some on Twitter were not amused that election losers were eager to have another bite at the government's pie.

"Same monkeys," lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi tweeted.

Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale defended recycling poll losers, stating that competency should determine Ruto's appointments.

"I would like to disabuse - in fact, debunk - the belief on social media that CAS is a tiny little job that should now be given to people as affirmative action... CAS is a serious office because the CAS does what the minister does when the minister is not available... The most competent should be recruited in those positions," the Senate Majority Whip said in an interview on Citizen TV yesterday.

The 240 applicants are set to be interviewed within the first week of March. An initial list of 224, which was later amended, had no nominee shortlisted from Makueni County. Two applicants from Makueni made the shortlist. Busia, which had no nominee from the initial list, still lacks one in the subsequent list.

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