Kenya’s top most executive organ, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Cabinet, is slowly turning into a tower of Babel -- deeply divided and disjointed.
Insiders have painted a picture of a team speaking in different languages, with some members not seeing eye to eye. Others have publicly proclaimed that they only take instructions from the President only in veiled references to mean they do not recognise Deputy President William Ruto.
Still, others have been caught up in their own altercations over issues of national importance. In a number of cases, the country has witnessed two or more CSs contradicting each other on matters of grave importance. Differences that were being kept behind closed doors of boardrooms are now playing out in the open.
Last month, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i told a public gathering in Kirinyaga that he only recognises President Kenyatta and would not “listen” to any other voice.
“Matiang’i’s statement’s bordered on brazen disrespect. In essence, he was saying that he does not recognise the Deputy President who is part of the presidency and who by law is his boss,” said Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua.
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Just last week, what started as a tweet by an MP degenerated into a nasty back and forth that roped in other lawmakers and Trade Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya taking a jibe at the Deputy President in a tweet that captured the disdain some CSs have on the DP and the faction of Jubilee loyal to him.
Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wah kicked it off by tweeting about the plight of dairy farmers seen pouring their milk down in protest over low prices and tagged Munya and his Devolution counterpart Eugene Wamalwa.
“These farmers will need school fees in January. They depend on their produce for the same. After the floods, there’s likely to be a drought. This produce could save lives then,” Ichung’wah wrote.
Feeling disparaged, Munya fired back. “Let him (Ichung’wah) take his rent seeking missions to (Agriculture CS Mwangi) Kiunjuri. Inspiration from Sugoi (DP Ruto’s home) will not improve dairy industry,” the CS shot back in a tweet which he promptly deleted when Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen asked him to clarify his sentiments and tagged State House.
“It is clear for everyone to see that some CSs have forgotten that they are supposed to be apolitical. Munya’s tweet bordered on insubordination and disrespect, that is why he promptly deleted it,” Belgut MP Nelson Koech said.
This was not the first time Ruto and Munya have been caught in a brawl. In June, the DP complained that Munya and two other CSs had met in a Nairobi hotel to plan how to “finish” him.
The President ordered top security officials to investigate the matter after the DP said the CSs -- who included Joseph Mucheru (ICT) and Sicily Kariuki (Health) -- had met at La Mada Hotel to plot to assassinate him.
Munya, Mucheru and Kariuki were summoned to the DCI headquarters where Munya accused Ruto of being “out to portray us in a bad light so that we look like criminals”.
The matter may have fizzled out, but the division in Cabinet, Saturday Standard has established, has gone from bad to worse.
According to a CS who spoke to Saturday Standard on anonymity, the division is so bad that members now have to lobby for support of their agenda during Cabinet meetings. Every item in Cabinet meetings is put to a vote.
“There are members who hardly greet each other or share pleasantries during the Thursday meetings at State House. There is a deep divide, the Cabinet is no longer the one team it should be,” said the CS.
The division, he said, can be linked to the 2022 succession politics. According to another insider, 11 CSs support and are loyal to the DP. Others are deeply opposed to him and have distanced themselves from his movements.
It is this group that accompanied Matiang’i to Kirinyaga and never mention the DP in their public engagements.
“These CSs are in government courtesy of the President and his deputy. They now think they are superior to Ruto. Let them continue living in fantasy,” said Gachagua.
Some CSs have opted not to be drawn into the divide and are avoiding public engagements. “The CSs serve under the presidency. They have no business taking sides and should be working hard to deliver Jubilee’s pledges,” said Charles Kibiru, the Kirinyaga senator.
But some have openly contradicted each other in public. Last year, Matiangí and Industrialisation CS Adan Mohammed contradicted each other on sugar seized from traders.
Mohammed, in whose docket falls the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), told the nation that no traces of mercury had been found on the sugar, contradicting an earlier statement by his Interior counterpart.
Political observers now say President Kenyatta must step in and ensure his Cabinet speaks in one voice before it is too late.
“He cannot allow them to speak at cross purpose or at each other,” said Prof Munene Macharia, a political science lecturer at United State International University.