Kimemia: Dogged by controversy at every turn

Saturday March 23 2013

Head of public service and secretary to the cabinet Mr. Francis Kimemia addressing the media during a press briefing on the status of Kenya’s preparedness for the general election in Kenya on 1st February 2013 at the Sarova Stanley Hotel

  Head of public service and secretary to the cabinet Mr. Francis Kimemia addressing the media during a press briefing on the status of Kenya’s preparedness for the general election in Kenya on 1st February 2013 at the Sarova Stanley Hotel  NATION

By LUCAS BARASA [email protected]

The Office of the Head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet has come under sharp scrutiny over his recent directives and the trappings of power accorded to President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.

And just like his predecessor Francis Muthaura did in 2007, Mr Francis Kimemia finds himself ruffling feathers. The civil service boss and the transitional committee he chairs are on the spot over the implementation of the Assumption of Power Act.

The Coalition for Reforms and Democracy believes Mr Kimemia is fast-tracking the law to defeat the purpose of the alliance’s petition challenging the declaration of Mr Kenyatta as President-elect.

Despite Mr Kenyatta’s election being challenged in court (a judgment is due later this week), the Jubilee leader has been accorded presidential security, he traverses the country using a Kenya Air Force plane and has a presidential motorcades and riders.

Interim orders

But Nairobi lawyer JM Waiganjo, who is also the Ol Jorok MP-elect, says the Supreme Court has not issued interim orders stopping the implementation of the Assumption of Power Act.

The TNA MP added that despite Cord’s sentiments, “nothing stops him from implementing the Act.”
Mr Waiganjo noted that just like with Mr Muthaura in 2007, “you cannot stop certain organs of government from functioning, especially transitional ones, while waiting for the decision of a court.”

He adds, however, that it would have been prudent of Jubilee leaders to have waited until after the swearing-in ceremony to start using Kenya Air Force helicopters and presidential motorcades.

“Their manifestation of power is opulent. It borders on obscenity. It is meant to show their opponents that nothing will change the way things are. I think they are overdoing things,” Mr Waiganjo said.

He, however, notes that the law allows for the President-elect to be given enough security and a motorcade prior to swearing in.

Among the issues that have put Mr Kimemia at loggerheads with Cord leaders are security briefings to Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto. Mr Kimemia chairs the National Security Advisory Committee. Cabinet ministers James Orengo and Mutula Kilonzo, both senators-elect, have accused Mr Kimemia of leading a group of government bureaucrats allied to the PNU wing of the Grand Coalition into making decisions on national issues without consulting Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka as required by the Constitution and the National Accord signed in February 2008.

They were referring to last week’s meeting of the security advisory committee allegedly called to address security threats, after which Mr Kimemia announced restrictions on political gatherings.
Presidential directive

The same night also Mr Kimemia released a presidential directive for the Treasury to release Sh2.7 billion for subsidised fertilisers.
There was also an earlier order for ministers who won elective seats in the March 4 election to resign before being sworn in. Mr Odinga told ministers to ignore the directive and remain in office until a new government was established.

The different directives have caused confusion with State House referring to the ministers who had been elected to various positions as former ministers.
Mr Orengo stated that President Kibaki and PM Odinga were still in charge as joint coalition principals as the country awaits the decision on Mr Odinga’s election petition.

However, Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi has argued that Mr Kimemia, who is leading the Assumption of Office of the President Committee, was acting within his mandate.

“Whatever authority Mr Kimemia is exercising is derived from the transitional committee which is in charge of how President Kibaki will hand over to the new president,” he said.

Mr Kimemia has certainly attracted a lot of controversy during his stint at the helm of the civil service.
For instance, prior to the March elections, Cord accused him of having hatched a plan to rig the polls, something the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission dismissed as untrue.

Mr Kimemia also faced accusations of being behind the delayed gazettement of the National Land Commission and ignoring a court order on the appointment of county commissioners.

He has made public statements on virtually all issues of national interest, hitting headlines often, unlike his predecessors who rarely appeared in the media.
Those around Mr Muthaura say he was a man who, despite wielding a lot of power, gave the impression of being an outsider.

After Mr Muthaura’s January 2012 exit due to the ICC case, the Office of the President made a number of decisions that proved unpopular with both politicians and the general public.

The late Geoffrey Kariithi was the longest-serving head of the civil service, having held the post for 12 years.

In the last years of President Jomo Kenyatta’s rule, he played a key role in shielding the civil service from the political battle that went on over Mr Kenyatta’s succession. He also helped ensure a smooth handover to President Daniel arap Moi.

Upon retirement from the civil service, he went into politics, got elected to Parliament and ended up serving as an assistant minister in Mr Moi’s government. He died in July last year.