The president’s men: Who-is-who inside the house on the hill?
A sneak peek into President Uhuru Kenyatta’s State House shows a man who has chosen to walk away from the traditions employed by his predecessors. Uhuru has chosen a few old timer confidants and close family members as key members of the kitchen cabinet.
Multiple sources with knowledge of the running of State House since Kenyatta took over the reins of power four years ago, indicate that he has a very close working relationship with Deputy President William Ruto.
Unlike in the past where vice presidents held a “role-distance” relationship with their bosses, sources say that the one between Uhuru and his deputy borders on informality, sending signals of a pair that is first bosom friends and then officially President and his Deputy.
“A day hardly passes without Ruto popping into State House or calling the President. He (Ruto) has free access to State House. Except on Thursday’s mainly when there is a Cabinet meeting or when there are official engagements, the two relate in a very unofficial way,” said a source.
Apart from Ruto, whom he regularly consults, Kenyatta has a few friends and close relatives whom our sources describe as the key power brokers in his presidency. Standing out in this list of confidants is his nephew, Jomo Gecaga, who doubles up as his personal assistant, a common figure around the President for years.
Also within his close ranks are Solicitor General Njee Muturi and the President’s younger brother, Muhoho. Former First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta and her brother George Muhoho are also said to be among close relatives that Uhuru relies on for advice. Outside family circles, the President’s chief of staff Joseph Kinyua is said to have influence because of his extensive knowledge about the workings of the government bureaucracy.
The former Treasury PS is also the head of public service. But it is Jomo Gecaga who is reported to hold immense influence and a common feature at Uhuru’s State House. Those in the know say that the British-educated Gecaga is the de facto keeper of the President’s diary and is a key determinant on who has access to Kenyatta, especially on the political front.
“He (Gecaga) is one of the most feared and respected confidants of the President. The President trusts him a lot and this makes him one of the decision makers within the inner sanctum of power,” the source told The Standard. Gecaga previously worked as a First Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He is the son of Udi and Jeni Wambui Gecaga (first President’s daughter). He attended the prestigious Eton College in Windsor, Berkshire. Before coming into the limelight, Gecaga was the personal assistant of former Foreign Affairs Minister Raphael Tuju during President Mwai Kibaki’s first term.
Tuju is now Jubilee Party’s secretary general. Although State House Comptroller Lawrence Lenayapa is the official diary keeper of the President, Gecaga plays a crucial role in fixing most of the political appointments. “For any politician apart from, say, the Deputy President and those with direct access to the President like J.B (National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi), (Leader of Majority Aden) Duale and the likes, Gecaga has to authorise any political appointment with the President.”
Those close to him say that despite his quiet and likable demeanour, Gecaga is cunning and a zealous individual. The other face that is synonymous with President Kenyatta is that of Njee Muturi whom close State House operatives describe as the “unofficial” Attorney General.
Despite Prof Githu Muigai holding the substantive office of the AG, it is Njee who is mostly at State House consulting with the President and always beside the Head of State every time he is assenting to a law. “The President is very close to Njee and most of the time you will see him consulting him on legal issues. Githu (Muigai) comes to State House but he is not as frequent as Njee,” another source intimated to The Standard.
During the passing of the controversial Security Laws in the National Assembly, Opposition MPs claimed in the House that Njee was literally camping at Parliament to whip MPs to vote. He was adversely mentioned by MPs who accused State House of advancing the Executive arm of government to parliament.
“It is known within Parliament that it is Njee who pushes any agenda of interest to the President, and is a common visitor in Speaker Muturi and Duale’s offices. Any time we see him around, we know there has to be something that the President wants done,” said an MP from Central Kenya, who asked not to be named.
Another influential figure in President Kenyatta’s government is Muhoho with close friends revealing that he is a suave man known to pull strings. “Muhoho is one person who has the President’s ear. He is always by his side especially when the President is in a middle of crisis or has some challenges,” another source explained.
Muhoho is mostly involved in running the family business together with his mother, Mama Ngina.