President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday declared all Cabinet seats vacant, signalling his assumption of office and the end of President Kibaki’s government.
“The tenure of the Cabinet serving either as part of the Grand Coalition Government or as part of the Caretaker Government under President Kibaki, which has been in place since the holding of the first elections under the Constitution of Kenya 2010, on 4th March 2013, came to an end on midnight of 9th April 2013,” the new President said in a statement from State House.
“Consequently, the occupants of these Cabinet positions are deemed to have vacated them for all purposes whatsoever”.
Permanent secretaries, who are the accounting officers of various ministries, will continue to look after the affairs of their dockets until the appointments of new Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries.
The statement was the culmination of a busy first day in office for the Head of State and Deputy President William Ruto.
The two spent the day receiving briefings from top government officials on security, pending government business and Budget preparations; and putting final touches to the shape of the new administration.
They also found time to receive some of the foreign leaders who attended their inauguration on Tuesday.
There was no inkling on when the new Cabinet would be appointed, but knowledgeable sources said the thinking in government was for all major appointments including Cabinet secretaries (formerly ministers), Principal Secretaries (formerly Permanent secretaries) and diplomats to be named on the same day.
That could delay the appointments given that Principal Secretaries have to be interviewed by the Public Service Commission before the President picks from a list of nominees approved by Parliament.
There were 1,200 applicants for the positions, but only 66 were short-listed for interviews with plans to trim the number further to 44.
The Nation also learnt that a list of 22 Cabinet Secretaries was ready on Wednesday ahead of the major announcement.
The names will be tabled in Parliament for vetting before they are forwarded to the President for formal appointment.
Mr Kenyatta’s first day in office began at exactly 7am when he met senior government officials who briefed him on what he is inheriting from President Kibaki’s administration.
The government delegation, which met the President, was led by Head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia and senior security chiefs.
The new government faces the unenviable task of managing a slowly recovering economy. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth barely hit five per cent last year, and more effort and resources are required to juice up the numbers.
Kenya’s public debt has topped Sh1.8 trillion as at the end of last year, which is equivalent to half of the country’s annual GDP.
This is more than the current fiscal year’s budget of Sh1.5 trillion and this should send chills down the spines of economic planners. A report by the Controller of Budget for the first half of the current fiscal year shows the Kibaki administration defaulted on paying Sh32.6 billion.
Later, President Kenyatta and his deputy held talks with Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.
They also held separate meetings with Malawi Vice-President Khumbo Kachali, US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, India’s Human Resource Development Minister Shashi Tharoor, South Korean special envoy Choung Byoung-gug, Sri Lanka envoy Guna Wardena and China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) Vice-Chairman Zhang Baowen.
President Kenyatta also held talks with World Bank Vice-President Makhtar Diop and World Bank Country representative Johannes Zutt.
At the meeting with the Chinese delegation, President Kenyatta invited more investors into the country.
He called on China to increase imports from Kenya, singling out tea and coffee.
Mr Zhang, who was here as an envoy of President Xi Jinping, said that the two countries would continue to cooperate in diverse areas such as climate change and UN reforms.
During talks with the Malawi’s special envoy, the President said Kenya had a lot to learn from Malawi’s government policy intervention on food production.
Reported by Eric Shimoli, Edith Fortunate and PPS