President Uhuru Kenyatta fired Mwangi Kiunjuri from the Cabinet as he doled out billions to bail out farmers and small traders who have borne the brunt of harsh economic times.
By pumping in cash into the agriculture sector, which Mr Kiunjuri was in charge of, the president has taken immediate steps to put money into the pockets of the ordinary mwananchi.
Mr Kenyatta has directed that the money be channelled to, among other things, buying produce from milk and rice farmers, outlining measures to raise revenue for players in the entertainment industry, as well as boosting small businesses.
The president declared that in the coming months, his administration would focus on efforts to grow the economy rather than politics, an apparent caution to leaders to slow down on the heightened debate around his succession plans for 2022.
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Kiunjuri is a close ally of Deputy President William Ruto, and his exit marks the second time the DP is losing a confidant in the Cabinet after the sacking of former Sports CS Rashid Echesa in March last year.
The ruling party, Jubilee, has been rocked by a widening rift, with camps linked to the president on one side and the DP on the other.
The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), a by-product of the handshake between the president and ODM party leader Raila Odinga, has become the latest source of acrimony in the party.
Former Nyeri Senator Mutahi Kagwe – who was a master of ceremony during the November meeting of Mt Kenya leaders at Sagana State Lodge convened by the president – has made a comeback to Cabinet as Health CS.
“If anyone is not in a place, so be it. The country must proceed,” the president responded when asked about the fate of Kiunjuri.
The former CS has been a marked man, and at one point the president publicly admonished him at a Nairobi agriculture event, warning him against authorising payments to maize cartels.
Yesterday, Kiunjuri said his sacking had not taken him by surprise.
“In the recent past, I have gone through a most difficult year that on a number of occasions threatened my energy and resolve,” he told a news conference yesterday.
Kiunjuri has also not shied away from expressing his displeasure with the BBI report, and has backed Dr Ruto at his public events, actions reported to have caught the attention of the president’s camp.
In his address to the nation yesterday, Uhuru, besides cracking the whip, appeared to respond to criticism that his administration was not doing enough to help farmers and small traders whose businesses have suffered from a struggling economy.
The myriad issues the president promised to address largely touched on Kiunjuri’s former docket, including poor pricing that hurt especially milk, tea and coffee farmers, unfair competition, conflict of interest, exploitation and lack of clarity in the declaration of dividends by tea subsidiary companies.
“My second intent for the year is to increase the money in the pocket of the farmer. This will be achieved by directing our anti-corruption efforts against those managing the agricultural sector and exploiting their positions for illegal gain and trading in conflict of interest,” Uhuru pledged.
“I am also directing action to increase the revenues to the farmer as opposed to the middlemen and brokers.”
Among the big winners of the changes in government were Ukur Yatani who was confirmed as National Treasury Cabinet Secretary, effectively taking over from Henry Rotich who was suspended following graft charges, and Peter Munya who was moved to the Agriculture docket from Industrialisation.
Mr Munya, an unapologetic critic of the DP and outspoken defender of the president, will now replace Kiunjuri at Kilimo House.
Last year, Munya recorded statements with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) over claims that he and three other ministers – Joe Mucheru, Sicily Kariuki and James Macharia – were plotting to eliminate the DP.
Uhuru re-assigned six CSs, eight PSs and appointed 15 Chief Administrative Secretaries (CASs).
“Seven of these appointments to the positions of CAS are young people, some below the age of 30 years. These CASs will work with, and understudy their more experienced colleagues in government with the aim of readying themselves to assume senior leadership positions in the near future,” the president said.
“I expect that these young trainee ministers will be role model to their fellow young people as they show high ideals of patriotism, excellence in public service and most of all, integrity.”
Uhuru has reorganised the government for the second time in his second term without the DP being present by his side as was the case in their first term.
“It’s quite unfortunate that there is a feeling of division on the BBI matter. The objective is to unify Kenyans. No one should feel left out,” he said.
“We should be talking with each other and not at each other and focus on real issues. It is not about creating positions, but for better governance, devoid of corruption, address youth unemployment. It is not for winners or losers; I am not for anyone but for the 47 million Kenyans.”
Johnson Weru, who has been part of the Kenyan team from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs championing the country’s candidature for a non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), is set to replace Ms Maina if he gets the approval of the National Assembly.
Others to be vetted by MPs when they get back from recess next month include nominated PSs Jwan Ouma (Vocational and Technical Training), Mary Kimonye (Public Service), Simon Nabukwesi (University Education and Research), Solomon Kitungu (Transport) and Enosh Momanyi Onyango (Physical Planning).
Among the reshuffled CSs are Raychelle Omamo from the powerful Defence docket that she has held since 2013 to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, replacing Monica Juma who has had run-ins with staff since she took over the docket from her Sports colleague, Amina Mohammed.
Dr Omamo goes to the ministry just five months to the crucial UNSC seat vote in New York, which has seen Dr Juma lobby the 193-member states to win against Djibouti.
Ms Kariuki takes over from Simon Chelugui at the Water, Sanitation and Irrigation Ministry, which has been dogged by dam scandals running into billions of shillings and resulted in the arrest and charge of former CS Rotich and his PS Kamau Thugge.
Mr Chelugui, a close ally of the DP, is presently being probed by the DCI over Sh19 billion allegedly lost in the multi-billion-shilling Itare dam project. He has been moved to the Labour ministry, replacing Mr Yatani.
The president also used the reorganisation to move the State Department of Cooperatives from the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade, Enterprise Development to the Agriculture docket.
He also moved the State Department of Youth Affairs from the Ministry of Public Service and Gender Affairs to the ICT and Innovations docket. Uhuru explained the decision to move the Youth Affairs department by saying ICT is the future and has good job prospects.