Uhuru accuses Ruto's administration of discrimination in office row

Uhuru Kenyatta (inset) and his spokesperson Kanze Dena. [File, Standard] 

The stalemate over retired president's office continues as the government has declined to lease the former head of state Uhuru Kenyatta’s residence adjacent to the state House as his official base.

Uhuru's spokesperson Kanze Dena says the retired president is now paying his staff from his pocket, and that even the vehicles that he is lawfully entitled to, have not yet been provided. 

Uhuru’s office, the size of his entourage while travelling and the number of staff have been a bone of contention between the former President and the current administration.

Whereas the Ruto administration has offered Uhuru a Sh250 million one-storied office at the Nyari Complex in Nairobi, which was previously occupied by the second president the late Mwai Kibaki, Uhuru has insisted that he uses his former home adjacent to State House.

In a letter to State House Comptroller Katoo Ole Metito, Uhuru’s private secretary Kinuthia Mbugua noted that the office of the Retired President ‘shall be domiciled in the premises located off Dennis Pritt Road, and at the corner of Gate D The entrance to State House, Nairobi, Plot reference number:209/1570.’

“We therefore request that you facilitate the Department of Lands and Housing to value the property, to lease the property by the office of the fourth President, and enable other administrative processes to commence,” wrote Kinuthia.

Kanze told the Saturday Standard that Uhuru has been denied an opportunity to have an office of his choice, just like his predecessors late Daniel Arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki had and was now being forced to use an office that was occupied by Kibaki.

Kanze said Uhuru is entitled to Sh 20 million for office rent per year but currently he has been forced to furnish an office within his private compound in Nairobi owing to his position as East Africa Community facilitator for peace initiative in Congo DRC and Tigray region in Ethiopia. 

The former president’s spokesperson wondered why Uhuru would be denied an opportunity to have an office of his choice, yet even former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka have been allowed to operate offices of their choice.

“The former Presidents, Vice Presidents and former Prime Minister were allowed to give suggestion on the office spaces that they preferred, why is former President Uhuru Kenyatta being denied an opportunity to have a private office of his choice befitting his status,” said Kanze. 

A senior official at the Presidency, who sought anonymity, however told The Standard that the government had explored the Uhuru proposal on the leasing of his house to be his private office and found it untenable.

“The legal advice was, that the matter would result in a conflict of interest given that the former President wants his house to be leased to him as his official office, it is on that basis that the government declined, it is against the Public Procurement laws of Kenya,” said the senior officer at the Presidency.

Kanze said  “The major issue is the former President being denied a chance to have an office of his choice. There is also the case of taking away the vehicles that he gone home with after handing over power with no replacement, why is he being intimidated and treated badly yet he served this country well,” said Kanze.

The State House source said the office at Nyari is currently undergoing renovation and it will be upon the former President to occupy it . 

“The law says that the government should provide a former President with an official office, it does not give the owner of the office the latitude to demand an office of his taste, that he can go ahead and procure a private one for himself,” said the officer. 

According to the Presidential Retirements Benefits Act, No 11 of 2003, the former President is entitled to two four-wheel cars 3400 cc of the retired president’s choice replaceable every three years. He is entitled to another two saloon vehicles of 3000cc. 

According to the senior officer at the Presidency, the government had given Kenyatta 12 vehicles, eight vehicles more than he required. 

 The list of vehicles The Standard has indicates that they include four Range Rovers including two of 5000cc, four Toyota Prados, two Toyota land Cruisers (4000cc), a Mercedes Benz 5000cc and a Subaru Forester.  

Last Sunday, State House Spokesman Hussein Mohamed said that the former head of state declined to use the office occupied by his predecessor Mwai Kibaki in Nyari, Gigiri that the late Kibaki had occupied for nine years until his death in April 2022. 

"There’s an office complex in Nyari that was used by President Mwai Kibaki. It is very well known that it is there and it's vacant and President Uhuru Kenyatta can use that office as and when he deems fit,” Hussein said.

Kanze said that her contract and that of other senior staff working for the former President have not been renewed and that Uhuru was paying them from his own pockets and that out of the 34 staff members working for the former President only those on permanent and pensionable terms were getting salaries.

She said the vehicles that the former President had retained after living office had been taken away from his compound and that he had not been allocated others as it is stipulated in the Presidential Retirement benefits act which she said was disrespectful to the former President.

Another bone of contention within the government and the office of the former president is the size of his entourage while traveling locally and abroad. 

The Ruto administration, concerned by the list of people traveling with the former President during his trips within the country and outside was forced to review who can accompany the retired President. 

In a letter from the Head of Public Service Felix Koskei to the Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs Korir Sing’oei, Mr. Koskei instructed that the former President should only be allowed to  be accompanied by a lean team of 1 plus 10 during official visits abroad.

“We noted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Affairs, had expressed concerns on the size of the delegation accompanying Former President Uhuru Kenyatta during his engagements and interactions within and outside the country, as the delegations are huge and occasion huge budgetary implications,” read Koskei’s letter. 

Koskei in response to Singoei’s letter MFA/CONF/PROT/13th June 2003 on the subject, noted that the ministry was guided to recommend an optimum level of facilitation for the office of the Fourth Retired President.

“In this regard, this office approves the recommendation by the Ministry, that the Former President be accompanied by a lean delegation of 1+10, during official visits abroad.” Said Koskei in the letter. 

The list of the 1+10 includes a private secretary, an Aide de Camp, a doctor, an advisor, a protocol officer, hospitality, two security officers, and two press officers. 

Uhuru’s office has in the past complained that they were not being funded fully as is required. According to the Act, the President is entitled, four vehicles, four trips a year not exceeding two weeks each.