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Half of Uhuru Kenyatta's cabinet could be out by February

POLITICS
By Jacob Ng’etich | July 14th 2021
President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi. [Courtesy]

A half of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Cabinet could be forced to exit their ministry seats in February to vie for various seats ahead of next year’s general election.

Given that the coming elections will see a change of guard as President Kenyatta leaves office after the end of his term in August 2022, a chunk of his cabinet secretaries will be seeking political relevance beyond 2022. 

Last month, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) issued an election timetable that requires public servants interested in running for political seats to leave office by February 9, 2022.

In the timelines released by IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati, civil servants seeking political offices are required to vacate their positions in February next year.

The IEBC Election Operations plan requires them to resign six months to a general election.

A number of CSs have shown interest in gubernatorial seats and one on a senate position in the August elections, a move that could leave President Kenyatta with a desolate cabinet at a critical time that he is expected to finalise on legacy projects. 

Apart from the CSs, there are the Chief Administrative Secretaries (CAS), most of whom were picked by President Kenyatta after losing their seats in the 2017 elections. Those eyeing political seats must also exit office by February. Of the 35 CASs, about 28 are former politicians.  

Already, Interior and Coordination of Government CS Dr Fred Matiang’i has indicated an interest in an elective seat with pressure from his supporters asking him to succeed his boss in 2022.

Bestowed by President Kenyatta the onus of supervising his cabinet colleagues, a position that attracted the ire of Deputy President William Ruto allies, who argued that their man was being emasculated as the second in command, Dr Matiang’i will be keen to remain on top politically. 

“Dr Matiang’i is beyond the MP or governor position, he is going for the presidency, nothing less. One thing, you better take him seriously, he is a worthy contender and and will shock many. President Kenyatta could actually endorse him given his track record,” Nakuru Town MP Samwel Arama told The Standard, yesterday. 

Two weeks ago, Matiang’i and Gusii leaders were hosted by ODM leader Raila Odinga at his Karen home, where unity talks happened.

Most CSs interviewed by The Standard confirmed their candidature, but in anonymity given that they still want to serve the government without betraying their political ambitions. 

Mining and Petroleum CS John Munyes, his counterparts Peter Munya (Agriculture), Sicily Kariuki (Water and Sanitation), Charles Keter (Energy), Mutahi Kagwe (Health), Simon Chelugui (Labour), Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution) and Tourism’s Najib Balala are among the CSs with political ambitions.

Munyes, a former Turkana senator lost to Governor Josephat Nanok in 2017 and next year, the CS plans to mount another contest for the seat.

For Munya, former Tigania MP, it will be a contest to reclaim the seat from Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi, who beat him in 2017.

“I win be in the race for Turkana seat,” Munyes told residents of Lodwar town recently.

Other politicians in Uhuru’s cabinet are Keter, Chelugui, Kagwe and Balala who eyeing Kericho, Baringo and Nyeri gubernatorial seats respectively, while Balala wants the Mombasa senatorial seat.

Before getting into President Kenyatta’s cabinet, Keter was Kericho senator and had to resign to take up the Energy CS job in 2015.

Prior to that he was MP for Belgut for two terms where rose to assistant minister for Energy. “The CS is under pressure from people at the county for him to run for the governor seat,” his ally said.

Chelugui lost the senatorial seat to Gideon Moi and now plans to vie for governor, currently held by Stanley Kiptis. 

Kagwe, a former Mukurwe-ini MP and Nyeri senator, lost his gubernatorial bid at Jubilee Party nomination. “The CS will be in the contest for Nyeri governor,” said an aide in his office.

Once the Saboti MP, Wamalwa is interested in the Trans-Nzoia governor’s seat, after Patrick Khaemba who is serving in his final term. 

But notable is the debut entry into politics of Ms Kariuki, Transport CS James Macharia and his Information and Commutation Technology counterpart Joe Mucheru, who are also said to be interested in Nyandarua, Murang’a and Nyeri gubernatorial seats.

While Macharia and Mucheru have been cagey about their ambition and said to be ‘consulting widely’ Ms Kariuki has already hit the ground with a number of meetings in Nyandarua County, as she seeks to upstage Francis Kimemia, who is serving his first term.

Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria is serving his second and final term and Macharia’s entry will see him face former Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau, former PS Irungu Nyakera and other aspirants. In Nyeri, Kagwe and Mucheru could face off for the governor’s seat. 

 

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