Principal Secretary Monica Juma was nominated as Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, three years after MPs rejected her as Secretary to the Cabinet.
President Uhuru Kenyatta also used diplomatic posting to reward the Cabinet Secretaries that he had dropped from his earlier line-up.
Dr Juma, a former PS in the Foreign Affairs ministry, is due to work alongside Mr Macharia Kamau, until now Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York. She was also former ambassador to Ethiopia, the African Union (AU) and Intergovernmental Authority on Development.
She is set to replace Ms Amina Mohamed, herself a veteran diplomat who rallied the AU against the International Criminal Court, a push which faded as the country’s influence in the region waned. Ms Mohamed was unable to influence East African nations to sign a trade deal with the European Union and critics say Kenya’s influence dwindled recently as seen in various diplomatic squabbles with Tanzania.
However, it is Dr Juma whose fate will be determined by the National Assembly again.
In June 2015, the National Assembly accused her of “arrogance and insensitivity” and rejected her nomination. The MPs also said she could not spell out her achievements in previous postings as the Permanent Secretary for Defence and, later, Interior.
“The nominee lacked demonstrable passion to serve the public and their elected leaders,” the committee said in its report. “Our committee went through the whole motion of vetting her but only dark smoke emerged. There was never the white smoke,” Gatanga MP Humphrey Njuguna, had said at the time.
The President would later give her a lifeline as Foreign Affairs PS, quietly swapping roles with Dr Karanja Kibicho, without vetting. With years of experience in academia and diplomacy, Dr Juma is seen as one of the country’s top diplomats. When she was PS under Ms Mohamed, it made the Foreign ministry one of the key areas in government led by women.
She keeps a low profile, has no social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter. If MPs endorse her this time around, it could signify a change of fortunes for her.
That President Kenyatta nominated Mr Kamau as Foreign Affairs PS signals another intention to rope in a career diplomat. A widely-respected diplomat, Mr Kamau was appointed one of the two UN special envoys on El Niño and climate.
In the same year, he was honoured with the Elizabeth Haub Award for environmental diplomacy, in a ceremony attended by the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. The award was in recognition of his “extraordinary leadership and personal commitment to the negotiation and adoption of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”
However, President Kenyatta nominated five former CSs as ambassadors, keeping with the tradition of Kenyan presidents to appoint former politicians as envoys.
He nominated former Environment CS Judi Wakhungu to be ambassador to France, to replace Salma Ahmed. Dr Cleopa Mailu heads to Permanent Mission of the UN in Geneva from the Health ministry. If successful at vetting, he will replace Dr Stephen Karau.
Mr Dan Kazungu (former Mining CS) is the nominee for the High Commission in Tanzania, to replace former Matuga MP Chirau Mwakwere who quit to contest for the governorship of Kwale County but failed. Mr Lazarus Amayo, who has been Kenya’s envoy to the UK was nominated to the Permanent Mission of the UN in New York.
The President nominated former EAC Affairs CS Phyllis Kandie as envoy for Belgium and Luxemburg as well as the European Union. Mr Willy Bett, until Friday the Agriculture CS, is the nominee for High Commission in India to replace Ms Florence Weche. Prof Jacob Kaimenyi, the former Lands CS, was nominated to the Permanent Mission to Unesco in Paris, to replace former Education PS George Godia.
Mr Hassan Wario (former Sports CS) was nominated to be envoy to Austria, where he is set to replace Mr Michael Oyugi. Former MP Kiema Kilonzo was named the High Commissioner to Uganda, to replace Maj-Gen (Rtd) Geoffrey Okanga.