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Drama, style and mystery that surround hiring and firing in government

By John Oywa | January 7th 2018
Cracking the whip: The manner of hiring and firing among the Presidents have followed an interesting pattern, with each wielding his own peculiar style [Courtesy]

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Friday partial Cabinet announcement has once again exposed the drama, style and mystery that surround appointments and sackings of State officers in successive regimes since independence.

Each of the past Presidents -- from Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, through Daniel arap Moi to Mwai Kibaki and now Uhuru -- the manner of hiring and firing have followed an interesting pattern, with each wielding his own peculiar style.

It was during President Moi’s regime that Kenyans took an interesting look at the manner in which State officers were hired or replaced.

A shrewd political schemer, President Moi always caught the nation by surprise. He never called press conferences to announce changes in his Cabinet. They were made over the state radio and television.

Moi made the reshuffles when Kenyans least expected them. Those best tipped to get appointments never got them. Most Cabinet changes were announced during the KBC 1 O’clock news.

President Moi was full of surprises. He fired those who thought they were closest to him without any warning. A former Cabinet Minister, the late William Odongo Omamo once told this writer how he was sacked over the radio as he drove to Nairobi from his Bondo home.

“We had just passed Kericho and we heard on KBC’s 1 O’clock bulletin that the President had made a reshuffle. I was among those dropped,” said Dr Omamo.

“I was shocked since I thought I was one of the best performing ministers. As was the rule with government vehicles, my driver told me he was to pack the State car at the nearest police station since I was no-longer a minister.”

A story is also told of a one time powerful Secretary to the Cabinet who helped prepare a list of ministers to be sacked, only for him to hear his name on radio alongside those dismissed.

As he dutifully worked on the list, he had no idea that the President was also sending him home.

Tom Mboya, a Maseno University political scientist, says he knows a minister who tried to reach State House on phone after being sacked, but in vain.

“After being sacked, the State House orderlies made sure you never have access to the President,” says Mboya.

President Kibaki’s regime had little drama except in 2005 when he surprisingly sacked the entire Cabinet after Kenyans rejected his bid for a new constitution.

When he reconstituted the Cabinet one week later, ministers and assistant ministers who had opposed the new laws were left out. 

Those appointed to replace them like the late Ndhiwa MP Orwa Ojode declined the appointments.

After the 2007-08 post-election violence that led to the formation of a coalition government, President Kibaki lost the freewill to reshuffle the Cabinet as he had  to consult Raila, who had been appointed  Prime Minister. In 2010, he reshuffled the Cabinet but only after consulting Raila.

In the Friday changes that left Kenyans asking many questions, President Kenyatta also exhibited his own style in executing the changes.

By reappointing only six Cabinet Secretaries, he left 13 other wallowing in confusion. Some of the names he left out included those perceived to be close to him. He said the complete list of the Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries would be announced later.

In his analysis, Dr Mboya says the Kenyatta and Moi regimes had huge differences with that of Kibaki and Uhuru.

“Moi’s appointments revolved around surprises and loyalty. His appointments were meant to consolidate power. Kibaki instituted some modicum of professionalism,” says Mboya.

He adds: “Unlike, the senior Kenyatta and Moi, Kibaki and Uhuru had to consult  before making appointments or sackings. Kibaki had to consult Raila while Uhuru has to consult his deputy William Ruto.”

He says President Uhuru borrowed some of his leadership styles from Moi. Mboya believes Uhuru was unable to name his full Cabinet at once because he was under siege from interested parties.

President Kenyatta, like Kibaki before him, has provisions of the new constitution to adhere to.

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