Plot against Mudavadi is baton for self-harm in Kenya Kwanza

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

It is common in Kenya for political unknows to make it into the media by attacking higher-placed personalities.

On May 10, first-time Mbeere North MP Geoffrey Kiringa Ruku laid it into Prime Cabinet Secretary and Cabinet Secretary for Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Musalia Mudavadi for “performing poorly” in his docket.

For effect, he sensationally declared that Mudavadi’s is a cameo role in the Kenya Kwanza Government. That he exists as the face of Kenya sanitiser for government.

He said this on TV: “If I were to rate Musalia Mudavadi on what he is doing, in this government, I would give him very low marks… the only thing he is helping in this government is… just the face of the nation.”

He added: “We have not seen the effort of the Prime Cabinet Secretary coming out strongly in helping the President to run the government properly.”

But Mudavadi is more than a flower girl in Kenya Kwanza government. When then-candidate William Ruto had been rendered a pariah, Mudavadi’s “earthquake” move gave Ruto the much-needed cleansing.

But given Ruku’s raucous charges, you need not wonder whether some of us just exist in Kenya but have no interest in knowing what is going on. Mudavadi’s devotion to ensuring the Kenya Kwanza government works and delivers can’t be second-guessed, even by ardent critics. He’s famously quoted as saying “I don’t deal in brick and mortar, but ensure that it happens”, in relation to his portfolio. He should know what he is saying.

Mudavadi is the most experienced and mercurial cabinet member of the current government. He has brought a stately mien to government business and especially the Foreign Affairs docket. Kenya is the talk of the world.

Unfortunately, his momentum to clean up the public service was halted when agencies for the work – the Government Delivery Services (GDS), the State Corporations Advisory Committee (SCAC) and the Inspectorate of State Corporations (ISC) - were hived off his office by the Executive Order No.2 of 2024. 

Pundits argue that Mudavadi’s grief begins with the Executive Order which severely cannibalised the OPCS coordination powers in what appeared an exchange for the Foreign Affairs docket. And therein lies the itch; the OPCS was downgraded from the Executive Office of the President to a ministerial docket. More so, the only visible mandate of the Office is Chair of the Principal Secretaries’ Committees and a vague “overseeing National Government operations”.

More sense is the State Department of Coordination of the Implementation of the National Government’s legislative agenda. There is an argument that, practically, Mudavadi is just the Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary. However, insidious plots against him are self-destruction akin to removing the jewel from the Kenya Kwanza government crown.

Of what value then, is a whittled OPCS devoid of government control powers, to any would-be interloper?

Ruku’s courage to quip that Mudavadi, the second-ranking partner after President William Ruto, in the Kenya Kwanza Alliance ruling coalition should’ve been on the list, could’ve passed as the whining of an attention seeker, had it not been for what transpired next and the reading by analysts.  

The next day, in what appeared a choreographed media offensive against Mudavadi, a nondescript picture appeared on the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Administration of National Government Kithure Kindiki’s X handle. In it, Kindiki is in the chair while Mudavadi sits on his right. Analysts quickly read fuddled protocol in an inter-ministerial meeting on money laundering and counter-terrorism.

Though the photo presented a muddled image of government protocol when a junior chair their superior, many watchers threw mud at Kindiki for “insubordination”. Others, however, were infuriated that too often, Mudavadi kowtows to juniors in the Executive. But the more discerning critics saw a pattern emerging in which Mudavadi is treated as an equal by cabinet secretaries. It is no accident, they argue, that Ruku, Muturi, Kindiki and Mithika Linturi, all come from Mt Kenya East of the political divide.

Is there a plot to topple Mudavadi from his patch as the PCS? It depends on which lenses one uses. A putsch from Mt Kenya East would seem unsound given that Mudavadi gets on quite well with Muturi and Kindiki.

The two need Mudavadi in the asinine battles with Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. Recall that round two of Kindiki’s rivalry with the DP for the running-mate slot in 2022, which Kindiki missed with a whisker, could be imminent. But political power knows no friend other than interests.

-The writer is a political analyst