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Kuria on forgiving Uhuru, working with Ruto and ties with Gachagua

Politics
 Public Service Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria. [File, Standard]

Public Service Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria has said he has one question for former President Uhuru Kenyatta if he were to meet him today or in the future. The answer to that question will determine whether he will forgive the former Head of State.

Kuria said that hours before the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Chairman Wafula Chebukati declared President William Ruto as the winner of the election in 2022, Uhuru’s plans would have likely plunged the country into anarchy.

“If I meet former President Uhuru Kenyatta today, I will ask him one thing for me to forgive him. What were you trying to do at Bomas of Kenya in August 2022, why did you want Kenya to burn?” said Kuria.

In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Standard, the first of a series of interviews with President Ruto’s Cabinet, Kuria said that the options that Uhuru had to thwart Ruto from ascending to the presidency were “evil” and would have either led to bloodshed or thrown the country into the abyss.

Kuria, one of the key CSs said to be close to President Ruto, said he will forgive Uhuru once he had held a conversation about why he had planned to stall Ruto’s ascendancy to power at Bomas when Kenyans had bestowed upon the former president the country’s top leadership two times.

“For someone who had served all his constitutional two terms, you do not understand why he was so hellbent on destroying the same country,” said Kuria. “His answer may soothe me and we can go back to our friendship.” 

Kuria said Kenya Kwanza took over the country and, in their diagnosis, realised if it had been a patient then it was supposed to be in ICU and all President Ruto and his team are doing is trying to resuscitate it, a journey that is going on well.

He said the previous administration had put a lot of plaster over festering wounds as the top leadership plundered it through state capture.

Kuria, who first served as the CS for Investment, Trade and Industry, said the country will be fully recovered by 2026 and that Kenyans will be happy with Ruto’s presidency.

“No ppatient likes the surgeon’s knife. That is where Kenyans are now, and they are justified in making noise about the high cost of living, but just like a healed patient, they will be happy and will not want to remember the operating table and the scalpels,” said Kuria.

On working with President Ruto, Kuria said the Head of State is a workaholic and meticulous and called on anyone working under him to be shrewd.

“The president has stamina, you have to be on your toes to keep up with him. He will call sometimes more than once a day when he wants this or that. He mixes charisma, brilliance, vision and energy, a combination that Kenyans will come to appreciate soon,” said the CS.

When he was transferred to the Public Service ministry, talks abounded that the CS had fallen out with the West and that they had called for his removal from the Trade ministry, from where he had travelled to over 40 countries signing bilateral deals in just 11 months.

Kuria owns up to claims that he fell out with US Ambassador Meg Whitman over his opinion on the war in Sudan, which he had made public.

“As a minister from a neighbouring state, I made comments about Sudan and why the war was an ego trip for some generals. The US ambassador did not like my comments. I have since been vindicated that what is happening there is a genocide that no one is paying attention to. That was the cause of my fall-out with only the US, not the West,” he said.

On Monday, Kenya and the European Union will sign an Economic Partnership Agreement that will guarantee duty-free access for Kenyan farm produce and Kuria says he was instrumental in negotiations with the 27 countries of the EU.

“How would I nenegotiate such a trade agreement if the West had issues with me?” he wondered.

The CS said his move to the Public Service ministry, where the president added the role of performance contracting and delivery of service, was a promotion given that apart from the Head of State, he is the only CS who cuts across all ministries, becoming a key cog in the Kenya Kwanza administration.

“Today, I have little time for myself. I am running up and down to ensure that everyone sticks and delivers on the plan that was our manifesto. The President must have had a lot of confidence in me to promote me to that level,” said Kuria.

The CS has in the past been branded a brilliant State officer within the boardrooms and a tough negotiator with strong organisational skills -- a results-oriented person -- but at the same time termed as a foul-mouthed, not thoughtful politician whenever he is out on political podiums and on his social media pages.

Kuria admits that he has a split personality but notes that it works for him best.

“You see, there are many technocrats who cannot manage the political scene. I can comfortably be both. The technocrat in the boardroom and the politician connecting with the people in Korogocho. I have 30 years experience in the corporate world and several other years in politics. I am good at both,” he said.

On his relationship with Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, Kuria said there is nothing personal between them but what has surfaced are simple differences in opinions.

Last week, the CS on his X account seemed to blame Gachagua for not being honoured by the President, this last Jamhuri Day, indicating that a committee under the DP was in charge of the names of those to be honoured.

“The hounours are the prerogative of the president when the time comes he will do so for me,” he told this writer.

He noted that he had worked well with Gachagua in the past, including campaigning for him when he first made a stab for the Mathira MP seat and had issues with the electorate.

“I helped him and when he came to Parliament, I also helped him when he was a member of the National Assembly committee that I chaired. Our differences are nothing personal,” said Kuria.

Here is the interview in full:

Question: What was the feeling when you heard your name read as being part of Ruto’s Cabinet? 

Answer: I remain grateful to the president for finding me suitable to serve in his Cabinet. I had been with him in the campaigns and we interacted a lot and having been in his think tank campaigns, he must have felt that I had something to help him deliver in his government.

Q: Did you expect it? 

I would be lying if I said I was expecting it. Who knew if we would win and form a government? During the campaigns, we were the ‘opposition’ and President Kenyatta’s government was determined to use the system and all the State machinery to ensure that we were nowhere close to victory. Even when finally the victory was ours, they were still making last-minute efforts to torpedo the will of the people. It is through the support of the majority of Kenyans and the voice of God that we are now here serving Kenyans. 

Q: It has been 14 months since you were sworn into Cabinet, how is it working with President Ruto? 

Working with President Ruto is not easy if you are lazy. The Head of State is a hands-on person who seeks to check on progress in all sectors every time. He wakes up very early and sleeps late, all this time you can expect a call or more when he is trying to clarify something. 

In our Thursday Cabinet meeting, we had 29 issues that we needed to clear off and he insists that the day’s business is cleared before you break out. Immediately after he was elected even before he was sworn in, I remember we had a 14-hour marathon meeting in his home on how we will drive the government. Such long meetings are not unusual for the President. 

He insists that we should not let down Kenyans who trusted us with their votes.

Q: How would you describe Uhuru’s leadership compared with Ruto’s?

Uhuru had the vision but he did not have the execution, will-power and stamina. Ruto combines both vision and the energy to deliver. 

Q: How would you describe your time at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investments? What were some of your achievements?

When I went to MITI, I had no template to work with, nor did I have the handover notes. I began from scratch building policies and executing them. It was a demanding task. But what helped me is the PLAN (our manifesto). It guided me in my tour of duty.

By the time I was leaving the ministry, we had initiated the setting up of industrial parks in 16 counties, including the devolved units that had never had an industry since independence. The only industry Elgeyo Marakwet knew was sawmills, while Tharaka Nithi only a tea processing factory. We managed to have all 47 governors commit Sh250 million of their funds for the industrial parks while the national government would give another Sh250 Million to ensure that each has half a billion for the industrial parks.

Two, I had pushed for the government to have bilateral agreements with foreign countries. I met 13 African presidents and negotiated deals that benefitted and will continue to aid Kenyans in trade.

On the same strength, I negotiated the deal with the 27 European countries for a trade deal that will be signed on Monday.

Q: Now at the Public Service Ministry you are still new, what have you set in place? What will you be seeking to achieve in the remaining three years?

Given the performance at MITI, the President decided to promote me to the current ministry where apart from the Public Service, I prefect the rest of the ministries in terms of delivery and performance contracting. The job in my hands now is more and it only took the confidence of the Head of State to identify me as the person to deliver it. It was a promotion.  

Q: You have repeatedly hit out at DP Gachagua accusing him of fighting you, the latest being your alluding that a committee in his office did not include your name for those honoured by the President, what is your political beef with the DP?

I have nothing personal with the Deputy President. Both of us are the sons of Mount Kenya, we only differ in opinions and some views on health. In terms of the working environment, we work together, he is my boss, I helped campaign for him when he was getting into Parliament when he had issues in Mathira. He served as a member in a committee I chaired in the National Assembly when I was serving my second term. 

We have worked well in the past. 

Q: Some have labelled you as a bully in Cabinet. You started by telling farmers in the North Rift to stop hoarding maize last year when it was clearly in the Agriculture ministry’s docket. Recently, you asked the IG to act on police frustrating matatus over the Xplico insurance saga, which was also seen to fall under both Interior and Transport dockets, are you untamed?

My current ministry does not have boundaries, I oversee government delivery across all ministries and sectors and, therefore, at no time will someone say I have overstepped. We are one government and our biggest bible is our manifesto under the PLAN and therefore we ensure that whatever one does in Cabinet it must fall under it. This is the only government that has stuck with its manifesto. Most governments just use the manifesto for the campaigns and discard it when they have won the polls.

Q: Kenyans have complained of the high cost of living and see the Kenya Kwanza government as having made their lives unbearable. Many now believe that the government has forgotten its hustlers. What is the thinking of the government on this matter? Do you have any assurances to give Kenyans?

No one likes the surgeon’s knife but they get happy when they are healed. Kenya was like a patient who was seriously ailing but had a diagnosis. When we entered, we found that the patient needed to be at the ICU for an operation.

Everything had been fixed fake to portray a glossy picture but this was bad. We stopped the fuel subsidy that the government was paying Sh25 billion per month. To date, we have saved Sh480 million that would have been paid out, this part of the cash we want to use to pay for part of the US$2 billion Eurobond before the end of this month. We have done a lot of other investments and by April next year, we will start getting the fruits. But what I can assure Kenyans is that by the year 2026, Kenyans will be happy with what will have become of their country.

If anyone lied to Kenyans that it was going to be easy to clear the mess Uhuru left, then I am sorry on their behalf. But better days are coming.

I would like to laud National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Prof Njuguna Ndung’u for the work he is doing. With President Ruto at the helm and Prof Ndung’u putting the acts together, we will surely come out as victorious.

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