Jostling for CS and plum State jobs in top gear
Even though the threat of his victory being overturned by the Supreme Court perilously hangs over his head, President Uhuru Kenyatta has silently embarked on crafting a team ready for a second term in office.
Together with Deputy President William Ruto, they have held numerous consultative meetings between themselves and with their advisors since the electoral commission announced the Jubilee candidate as the winner 11 days ago.
Mr Ruto is keen to have a mark on the Cabinet considering the political deal that he will succeed Mr Kenyatta in 2022.
As a result of the consultations, the Nation has learnt that there are indications at least half of the current Cabinet Secretaries will be sent packing in the event the highest court in the land validates Mr Kenyatta’s win.
Mr Raila Odinga, the National Super Alliance (Nasa) presidential candidate in the just concluded polls, on Friday evening filed an election petition alleging massive irregularities in the polls held almost a fortnight ago.
Influential individuals are also eyeing positions in both Houses of Parliament.
One surprise name being mentioned is that of former Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka.
He is Public Policy and Administration expert and it will be a rare case of someone with no legal training taking up the position — just as first Senate Speaker Ekwe Ethuro.
Mr Lusaka who lost to Ford-Kenya’s Wycliffe Wangamati has in the last few days launched what appears to be a subtle job search in the government, writing newspaper opinion articles where he appears keen to take credit for Jubilee’s inroads in the larger western region in the August 8 elections.
On Thursday, he urged his supporters not to worry since he would be back with a bang.
“I know I’m down but not out. With God’s timing everything is possible. I am optimistic of securing another job very soon and all my supporters will be happy with it,” he said.
Former Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba’s name also features prominently as a possible House speaker.
There are also indications that a Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ministry is also likely to be formed to accommodate one of the big names.
Whichever way it goes, the duo is poised for plum jobs as reward for standing with Jubilee in the face of a sweeping opposition wave in western.
Like the former county chief, Mr Namwamba, a lawyer, also became a casualty of Nasa’s juggernaut.
Those familiar with the talks in the corridors of power hold that only a handful of the ministers will retain their positions and some of those who are lucky will be moved to new dockets as Mr Kenyatta moves to reward loyalty and also have his team reflect the new political landscape – while also keenly aware of Mr Ruto’s interests tied to 2022.
Other than rewarding loyalty, Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, a close ally of Mr Ruto, gave a hint into what will guide the appointments.
“Most importantly, the President will be seeking to unite the country. Expect an inclusive government in every sense of it. Similarly, it is about cementing a legacy for the President and as such, he will be assembling a team guided by competencies,” he said.
The Treasury CS Henry Rotich, his Energy counterpart Charles Keter and Mr James Macharia of Transport are some the few who sources say stand a good chance to survive the purge.
Foreign Affairs boss Amina Mohamed too is not in a precarious position like many of her colleagues.
And after serving as the President’s chief agent in the elections, talk of former Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir returning to the fold after being hounded out of office on graft allegations are also rife.
In Central, Mr Macharia and Devolution minister Mwangi Kiunjuri are said to be in a strong position to retain their seats.
Though a silent mobiliser, Mr Macharia is said to have played a key role in getting voters in his Murang’a backyard to support Mr Kenyatta to a man.
The infrastructure projects rolled out by the President across the country could also come in handy for the CS.
Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa asked the current crop of Cabinet Secretaries and senior government officials “whose performance has not been excellent” to allow the President the leeway to appoint others.
“Performance and delivery will be the guiding points. Anyone who has performed well should have no reason to worry,” the lawmaker, who has been re-elected unopposed, said.
In the new equation that is taking shape, acting Interior CS Fred Matiang’i is tipped to be confirmed to the position, forcing the President to scout for his replacement in the Education ministry where he has initiated a myriad reforms and is in the process of rolling out a new curriculum.
But should the President change his mind since the final list is yet to be constituted, retired Chief of the Defence Forces Julius Karangi is another option on the table to lead the Interior ministry.
State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu had promised to consult with his boss before commenting on this article, but had not done so by the time of going to press.
The sensitivity of such a topic would ordinarily make it hard for him to comment.
We also gathered that the President does not want to appear as making the Supreme Court case inconsequential by confirming that he nonetheless is forming a government.
Other than Mr Lusaka and Mr Namwamba, the search is also on for a female legislator to replace Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso Murang’a as the deputy speaker.
Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege has been mentioned as a possible choice.
Meanwhile, in the Senate the loser in the Kisii Governor race Chris Obure alongside former chairman of the defunct Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution Charles Nyachae have also been mentioned as possible candidates for Speaker to replace Mr Ethuro. The former Speaker could be assigned another role, including a diplomatic posting.
Nakuru and Kiambu senators Susan Kihika and Kimani Wamatangi respectively are seen as likely candidates for deputy senate speaker’s slot.
If she offers her candidature, Ms Kihika appears to have an upper hand on gender consideration. But Mr Wamatangi touts his experience in the last Senate in his lobbying for the position. Sunday Nationhas also learnt that a section of the newly-elected senators from the larger Mt Kenya region has backed his bid, arguing that the position was held by one of their own (former Murang’a Senator Kembi Gitura) in the last Senate and ought to be retained there.
The MP, the only one to be re-elected in the Central region, is a strong defender of Jubilee administration in and outside the Senate and is most likely to win support of colleagues from the opposition he worked with in the last Parliament.
Barring any drastic change of heart, the two majority leaders in Parliament Aden Duale (National Assembly) and Kithure Kindiki (Senate) will keep their jobs.
The move by the public service commission to invite applications from those who want to be considered for principal secretary (PS) slots is said to be in line with the ongoing effort to form the government.
As expected, the development has triggered unprecedented lobbying from those in the Cabinet who are keen to preserve their positions as well as outsiders keen to catch Mr Kenyatta’s eye.
Axing of the incumbent CSs and PSs is meant to create room for some high profile politicians who were key in the Jubilee victory in areas hitherto seen as opposition bastions where Mr Kenyatta harvested a good chunk of votes but lost in the respective seats they were gunning for.
The move by Mr Odinga to move to the court has done little to discourage the canvassing with some exuding confidence that the case will disintegrate.
An overriding factor for Mr Ruto is his 2022 presidential ambition. It is understood that the general agreement between him and the President is to settle on a line-up that will enable him inherit the seat with minimal resistance.
This is however not going to be easy as the opposition regroups for another round of battle.
Interviews with various sources at the heart of power show that Gusiiland, Luhyaland and Coast will be some of the biggest beneficiaries of Mr Kenyatta’s second term in office.
It is part of the strategy to wrest control of these regions from the opposition’s stranglehold ahead of the next General Election.
Talk is also rife that Mr Kenyatta could reach out to some of the losers in Nasa and give them Cabinet slots.
Former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero’s name keeps cropping up. Were he to be picked, Jubilee would be plotting a takeover of the Luo Nyanza through Dr Kidero, a difficult task should Mr Odinga choose to stick around.
But not even three other Nasa principals – Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula – appear off limits in the appointment plans.
The powerful Interior PS Karanja Kibicho is also among those earmarked for promotion.
With Chief of Staff and Head of public service Joseph Kinyua set to retire, the bureaucrat is emerging as a favourite in what could be a reward for his role in the President’s re-election.
Other than being instrumental in Mr Kenyatta’s crackdown on illicit brews in central Kenya, Mr Kibicho has been at the fulcrum of the campaigns.
And with the line-up taking shape, and like is always a tradition, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) has been unleashed on the possible nominees to conduct background checks.
The aim is to avoid those candidates with glaring issues that may impede their ascension to office during vetting. They also seek to ascertain loyalty of such individuals to the system.