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Why Uhuru won't be at swearing-in fete of president Ramaphosa

By Roselyne Obala | May 24th 2019
President Uhuru Kenyatta.

President Uhuru Kenyatta will not be among leaders attending the inauguration of South African president-elect Cyril Ramaphosa tomorrow.

In 2017, President Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga attended Mr Ramaphosa's inauguration following the ouster of Jacob Zuma over graft allegations.

In the same year, Uhuru, Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe and secretary general Raphael Tuju also visited the county to benchmark on the successes of the African National Congress (ANC).

This is the genesis of Jubilee having a minister without portfolio – a position given to Tuju – to follow up on implementation of the party’s manifesto. It is modelled on ANC's structure. 

Last year, Uhuru and Raila were the only Kenyan leaders who attended the swearing-in ceremony of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Felix Tshisekedi.

Earlier reports had indicated that the President would travel with a delegation to South Africa, but State House spokesperson Kanze Dena yesterday confirmed Uhuru would not after all attend Ramaphosa's inauguration.

“The President is not attending the event. There were no prior plans to attend the State function,” Ms Dena told The Standard when contacted on phone.

The South African parliament on Wednesday elected Ramaphosa, who has the majority in the House.

Constrained budget

According to South African media, due to constrained budget, the heads of state and government invited include those from Southern African Development Community and those chairing continental regional economic blocs. 

Dena said the President, presently, does not chair any regional economic bloc after he served as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development chair for a while.

“The President is not chairing any continental economic bloc for now,” she stated.

Among the dignitaries invited are Egypt's president and chair of the African Union Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Fakhi. Also invited is the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres.

The restricted invite list is attributed to austerity measures since the SA government is planning to spend less money on the event than it did on Zuma's inauguration.

"We all know there is economic difficulty in this country. The budget that we are going to spend on this inauguration is less than what was spent in the previous inauguration," Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, minister in the presidency, is quoted as saying in the local press.

"We had to ensure we don't spend as much as we did in the last inauguration… taking into account inflation," she said.

Dlamini-Zuma said the previous inauguration, where former president Jacob Zuma was sworn in for his second term, cost in excess of R240 million.

The Standard, however, learnt that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had already submitted its list, only to be cancelled at the last minute.

“There are some Jubilee party officials who will however be in attendance,” said a senior official in government.

Deputy President William Ruto's planned 10-day trip to the US and Canada was cancelled by State House on the premise that Uhuru and his deputy cannot be away at the same time.

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