The 13 Cabinet Secretaries whose names were missing from President Uhuru Kenyatta’s recent partial list of a new team are engaged in an intense behind-the-scenes fight for survival ahead of the unveiling of the full Cabinet expected this week.
President Kenyatta had been expected to name the full Cabinet before leaving the country for South Africa on Thursday, according to senior officials who spoke to the Nation in confidence, but he shelved the plan after what was said to be inconclusive talks with Deputy President William Ruto.
When he named the first six nominees for CS positions on January 5, President Kenyatta was categorical that he had retained only six ministers, leading to the conclusion that he had fired the remaining 13 — but they were given a lifeline hours later when State House clarified they would remain in office until the full list was unveiled. It is this window that has given room to intense lobbying in the last week.
“It is like being somewhere between heaven and hell — not a very comfortable place,” said an aide of one of the Cabinet Secretaries in limbo who is still hopeful of being reappointed.
On Saturday, during the burial of the Alice Wambui Gicharu, the mother of Mount Kenya University founder and Chairman Simon Gicharu, in Githunguri, Kiambu County, Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa hinted at the anxiety facing him and his colleagues when he quipped that he needed to resolve the residents’ complaints since he wanted to retain his position.
“I’ll do all I can to resolve the problem, you know I’m still looking for a job so I must be seen to be working,” he said.
The event was attended by Deputy President William Ruto.
The retained Cabinet Secretaries include Dr Fred Matiang’i (Interior and acting Education ministry), Najib Balala (Tourism), Joe Mucheru (ICT), James Macharia (Transport), Charles Keter (Energy) and Henry Rotich (National Treasury).
The remaining ministers spent last week engaging in their respective ministerial duties, obviously energised by an announcement from State House last Saturday that they still remain in office.
The statement released by State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu appears to have been intended to correct the impression, at least for the time being, that they had been relieved of their duties.
“I have reported to work as usual. I also attended a meeting on the budget priorities for the Big Four to ensure that Jubilee’s agenda for the next five years succeeds without a hitch,” Land Cabinet Secretary Prof Jacob Kaimenyi told the Nation.
On Friday, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett and his Water and Irrigation counterpart Eugene Wamalwa held a day-long meeting with Deputy President William Ruto at his Karen office.
It was the second meeting on Strategy and Action Plan for the delivery of Jubilee’s food security pillar, listed by President Kenyatta as one of his major priority areas in his second and final term in office.
When he named his partial Cabinet on January 5, President Kenyatta had omitted all those serving in the current dockets aligned to the “Big Four” agenda in his first nine-member team.
He also removed urban and housing development from Mr Macharia’s ministry, lending credence to the speculation that he could create a full-fledged ministry to run the Big Four theme.
Foreign Affairs CS Amina Mohamed, one of the 13 waiting to see if they will retain their job, was on President Kenyatta’s entourage to South Africa on Thursday alongside Principal Secretary Monica Juma.
Ms Mohamed had last Saturday represented President Kenyatta during the burial of Harvard University’s Prof Calestous Juma alongside her Environment counterpart Judi Wakhungu whose fate also hangs in the balance.
Prof Wakhungu has also been finalising plans for a three-day conference in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The conference will focus on the ban and importation of hazardous wastes to Africa and control of trans-boundary movement of hazardous waste.
Prof Wakhungu is credited with the ban on use of plastic bags, a highly successful venture that has earned Kenya global accolades.
But it is the omission of Devolution Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, and Mr Wamalwa that has shocked many. The two politicians were at the centre of Jubilee re-election campaigns last year and were largely seen to have shelved their political ambitions.
Mr Kiunjuri has since taken a low profile with staff at the Devolution Ministry saying he has been reporting regularly to his office at the Treasury Building. His allies have, however, been holding strategy meetings and making public statements calling for his re-appoinment.
Mining minister Dan Kazungu, another politician who gave up his position as ODM Malindi MP, was also missing from the list of those retained and has also taken a low profile. At Harambee House, which also houses the office of the President, Ms Sicily Kariuki of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs has been meeting her think-tank team, even tweeting to promote the Kenya Youth Employment and Opportunities Project, a programme run by her ministry.
BIG FOUR PLANS
At Afya House, Health CS Cleopa Mailu on Wednesday met World Health Organisation Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to discuss Kenya’s progress on universal health coverage, one of Jubilee’s Big Four plans.
The other CSs who reported to their offices last week are Ms Phyllis Kandie (East Africa Community, Labour and Social Protection), Raychelle Omamo of Defence, Mr Adan Mohamed (Industry, Trade and Cooperatives) and Dr Hassan Wario of the Sports, Culture and Arts docket.
A highly-placed Jubilee member in the senate confided in the Sunday Nation that some of the 13 CSs had made it to the final list to be unveiled by the President, including “politicians left behind and at least one woman”.
“The main problem is the difficulty in meeting the one-third gender rule; we need at least seven female CSs and this is where the problem lies,” said the senator.
As the CSs went about their ministerial duties awaiting the unveiling of the full Cabinet, there was intense lobbying by their supporters to have the President retain them.
A meeting called by Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi to discuss “development” in the county failed to agree on whether to push for Prof Kaimenyi’s retention or the appointment to the the Cabinet of former Meru governor Peter Munya.
South Imenti MP Kathuri Murungi told the Nation that the leaders in attendance had failed to agree on who between the two should sit in the Cabinet.
“We were giving our input on sub-county development committees being set up by the county government. However, I told my fellow MPs that we must join hands to enable us bargain for serious positions in government. We must organise ourselves so that we can negotiate for positions ahead of future elections,” Mr Murungi said.
He added: “That is a hot potato and no one is ready to sit and talk about it. Every leader has their own interest. But my position is that the CS position should go to someone from Meru North region.”
But North Imenti MP Rahim Dawood maintained that he supports the retention of Prof Kaimenyi.
SHOWN THE DOOR
“As North Imenti leaders, our request is that the Lands’ CS should be retained. We are also requesting for another Cabinet position to go to Meru North,” Mr Dawood said.
During the burial of three AIPCA bishops attended by President Kenyatta on Monday, Governor Murungi said Meru leaders had no “irreducible minimums” on Cabinet appointments.
In Bungoma county, a Jubilee MP threatened to ditch the party if Mr Wamalwa is not retained in the Cabinet. Speaking in the county, Kimilili MP Didmus Wamalwa warned that the community will not take it kindly in the event that Mr Wamalwa is shown the door.