Public servants in President William Ruto’s government are not allowed to engage in politics.
And the president has made his wishes clear and often cautions them against partisan politics.
In his pronouncements just after assuming power, President Ruto would assure such officials, some of whom he accused of undermining his presidential campaigns, that he would not settle scores.
It is a call that he has made several times in the last few months, extending the same to Cabinet Secretaries, whom he asked to serve Kenyans impartially at their swearing-in ceremony last October.
Ruto sought a departure from former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s regime, where CSs were part of Azimio leader Raila Odinga’s campaigns.
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua also condemned the involvement of public officers in politics.
In November, he said he agreed with Water and Sanitation CS Alice Wahome move to keep off United Democratic Alliance (UDA) nominations for Kandara parliamentary by-election.
The Kandara by-election is scheduled for tomorrow. Other by-elections to be held tomorrow are for the Garissa Township parliamentary and Elgeyo Marakwet senate seats which were vacated by Defence CS Aden Duale and Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen, respectively.
Town hall meetings
Stay informed. Subscribe to our newsletter
While Wahome and Murkomen have largely kept off their succession contests, Duale has consistently campaigned for UDA candidate, Major (Rtd) Mohamed Barrow Dekow who is up against Nassir Dolal Jofle of the United Democratic Movement and former Fafi MP Abdikarim Osman of the Democratic Party.
Others are Ali Mohammed (Usawa kwa Wote), Shure Ibrahim Malow (Narc Kenya) and Hassan Abdi Ahmed (Safina).
Duale has actively sold Dekow’s candidacy, holding town hall meetings with Garissa Township residents. That is contrary to the hard stance adopted by the president and his allies during the campaigns.
The Defence CS is of the view that the law allows him to participate in political campaigns.
“The law allows me to campaign but not to use State machinery,” he told The Standard. “The difference between us and former President Uhuru’s regime is that they used State machinery.”
But UDM leader and Mandera Senator Ali Roba claimed Duale was using military aircraft to campaign for the UDA candidate.
On Monday, Roba told a rally for UDM candidate Jofle that the will of the people will determine the winner and not undue influence.
The involvement of public officers in politics has been frowned upon owing to the fact that more often than not, public resources have been used in advancing political interests.
Many such officials move in government vehicles and receive allowances.
In the run-up to the August 9, 2022 General Election, Ruto occasionally lamented that public servants ought to adopt political impartiality, much to the chagrin of Raila and his allies, who consistently reminded him that he had encouraged the involvement of CSs in the 2017 political campaigns.
In 2022, Ruto would clash with former CSs Fred Matiang’i (Interior), Joe Mucheru (ICT), Eugene Wamalwa (Defence) and Peter Munya (Agriculture), as well as former Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho for campaigning for Raila.
His allies would accuse regional administrators of intimidation and incitement in the campaigns.
On Saturday, Interior CS Kithure Kindiki recalled all regional commissioners whom he said would be redeployed to other departments and appointed new ones.
But the former CSs would argue that they were constitutionally entitled to political rights that allowed them to have preferences.
“An appointed State officer, other than a Cabinet Secretary or a member of a County Executive Committee shall not, in the performance of their duties— act as an agent for, or further the interests of a political party or candidate in an election; or manifest support for or opposition to any political party or candidate in an election,” Section 23 (1) of the Act states.
The said provision has received widespread criticism, most notably from Wafula Chebukati, the chair of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission
“That statutory provision no doubt falls foul of the constitutional underpins under Chapter Six of the Constitution,” Chebukati said in 2021 when UDA complained to the commission that CSs were campaigning for Raila.
Lawyer Bobby Mkangi describes Section 23 of the Leadership and Integrity Act as “being alive to the fact that the Executive is a political creature.”
“But its blend of politics is different from the kind that an MP would engage in,” he said, adding that in passing the Constitution in 2010, Kenyans wanted to create institutional demarcations by excusing CSs from podium politics.”