After three years in the political cold, Devolution and Planning secretary Festus Mwangi Kiunjuri has made up for lost time by using his oratory prowess as a Jubilee Coalition defender.
He has also had a busy schedule handling matters devolution – that has turned out to be the most important if also highly controversial aspect of the 2010 Constitution – as well as tackling the ongoing drought.
He has had to traverse various parts of the country where he delivers his speeches with passion before presiding over dishing out of food aid and cattle vaccination in the mainly arid and semi-arid regions.
He seems to be at his best when speaking in his mother tongue as was recently demonstrated during the burial ceremony of former Nyeri governor Nderitu Gachagua when he spoke in proverbs that his audience seemed to connect with.
In his speeches, Mr Kiunjuri has been unequivocal in championing Jubilee’s agenda and defending the leadership of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, which he asserts means good for Kenya.
But Mr Kiunjuri’s critics see him as a political hireling out to please his bosses and have dismissed him as a spent force in elective politics. His sentiments have occasionally attracted bitter responses. Take for instance when he visited Meru for a church fundraising meeting and was told by governor Peter Munya to cool his heels and seek election in Laikipia as governor before advising Kenyans on who to elect in 2022.
“I will be on the ballot and Mr Kiunjuri must stop barking to make his masters happy. This has ensured he has a small bone to eat (sic) as a Cabinet Secretary (CS). He lost the gubernatorial seat in Laikipia and cannot advise Kenyans on who to elect as president in 2022,” said Mr Munya.
Not one to be outdone, Mr Kiunjuri retorted, “You (Munya) your time is up and come August 2017 Munya will know that Meru people have another governor. You are like a piece of iron rejected by the ironmonger. Come 2022, Deputy President William Ruto will be elected as president of this republic with central Kenya leading the pack to the last man,” he said.
True, Mr Kiunjuri, also known as “Wa Gerald” (son of Gerald), has not let down his boss (President Kenyatta) as he promptly responds to whatever accusations levelled against the Commander in Chief, Deputy Ruto and the Jubilee coalition.
Not too long ago, Mr Kenyatta made it clear that he did not want Mr Kiunjuri to run for governor of Laikipia as he would rather he stuck in Nairobi to continue defending the government and its policies.
Being the politician that he is, Mr Kenyatta sees his CS as one politician capable of vigorous, quick and sharp-witted reaction to critics.
Mr Kiunjuri, who has been in government since December 2015, seems to have proved his worth by engaging Opposition leader Raila Odinga on numerous topics as well as criticising other leaders in the Cord coalition and hardly spares Jubilee leaders who criticise the President or his deputy.
Kiambu governor William Kabogo tasted Kiunjuri’s wrath when he hinted that Mr Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid would not receive automatic political support from central Kenya.
The 48-year-old told off Mr Kabogo saying central Kenya would support DP Ruto to the last man standing, adding that leaders (Kabogo) should be predictable in their talks to unify the people at all times or risk voter backlash in August 2017.
Asked why the Jubilee government seems to be marred in one controversy after another, CS Kiunjuri quickly blamed the media for failing to tell the success stories of better hospitals, roads, airports and the upcoming standard gauge railway only to concentrate on little squabbles within the government.
“Even at home you have truant children that must be disciplined along the way. That does not make you a bad parent. Anyone linked to any scandal has either been fired or prosecuted and we are waiting for the courts to complete their work of jailing the criminals and recovering public money,” he said.
The three-time Laikipia East MP, who rose from being a secondary school teacher, a mini-lorry owner and a tout previously served as an Assistant Minister for Water and Irrigation, Energy and also at Public Works on separate occasions during which he amassed wealth. He is said to be worth Sh798 million and has palatial homes in Nanyuki, Sagana and Nairobi.
During his vetting by a parliamentary committee, CS Kiunjuri pledged to create a good working relationship between the national government and the 47 count governments via his oft-cited negotiation skills. This, he promised to directly engage the county governments and ensure they access funds to carry out their functions.
Mr Kiunjuri’s hard-ball political tactics have ensured he is always in the middle of controversy defending government projects where he often accuses the Opposition of failing to appreciate the ‘many’ good things done for Kenyans while ignoring Jubilee government’s success.
“I tell people about Jubilee’s success and some see hyenas eating sugarcane. Just see what you want and remain outside the government. My work as a CS is to defend all government projects and execute my mandate of making the Jubilee Manifesto improve Kenyan lives, which will enable President Kenyatta to seek re-election when time comes,” he said.
He lost the last Laikipia gubernatorial race to TNA’s Joshua Irungu. But he seems to have regained his political gab going by his fierce defence of the Jubilee government.
When Cord took to the streets to demand the ouster of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) bosses last year, Kiunjuri accused the Opposition of pursuing a witch-hunt, saying even a change of the IEBC top brass would not enable them to trounce Mr Kenyatta at the August 8 polls.
Ascension to power
When TNA secretary-general Onyango Oloo decamped to ODM, he quickly jumped in saying Mr Oloo could be seeking refuge against an impending prosecution over his leadership “errors and omissions” at the Lake Victoria Basin Development Authority (LVDBA).
“Let him know the LVDBA is under my docket and if we find that he mismanaged it, we shall have no option but to pursue him inside ODM,” he said.
To further entrench himself within the Jubilee Party ranks, Mr Kiunjuri apologised for his political ‘mistake’ and pledged to dissolve the GNU party with all followers and leaders in GNU joining Jubilee.
He served as an untrained teacher for a while before training at Moi University’s Maseno campus and obtained a Bachelor of Education degree that saw him take up teaching positions in three different schools.
While in Parliament, Kiunjuri studied law, but abandoned it in the third year to pursue a Global Masters in Business Administration degree (GMBA) at the USIU.
He is on record as saying he will ensure promises Jubilee made before the 2013 General Election are met, noting that government defenders are ready to do everything to ensure the party’s ascension to power again.
“We Cabinet secretaries have to ensure President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy have something to tell the electorate during the electioneering period. It is akin to seeing a leopard and you confront it accompanied by your in-laws,” he said.