On face value, all is well in the governing Jubilee coalition. However, the scarcely veiled fight for territorial control of key government functions and programmes rekindles memories of hostile co-existence between retired President Kibaki and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Beneath the façade of camaraderie often displayed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, their allies are involved in protracted battles to influence government policy that almost forced the latter to quit coalition on the eve of the start of his trial at the International Criminal Court to underline his displeasure with the portfolio imbalance.
The near fall-out, The Standard On Saturday has established, follows concerns that the president’s advisors had further precipitated the collapse of 43 agro-based state corporations into four and placed them directly under the president’s office. In the power sharing agreement between Uhuru and Ruto agriculture portfolio was given the latter’s party.
The Agriculture Fisheries and Food Authority, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organ Development Service as a development isation, Agricultural and Food promotion agency and a training agency are the mega parastatals created from the previous 43.
The wresting of plum corporations from Ruto is just one of a string of complaints his followers cite as instances of treachery their party puts up with. It precipitated a crisis at the second cabinet meeting with a taskforce chaired by lawyer Abdikadir Mohammed that looked into parastatal sector reforms. According to cabinet secretaries appointed by Ruto, the meeting ended prematurely after Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich, EAC and Tourism Secretary Phyllis Kandie, Agriculture Secretary Felix Kosgey and Energy Secretary Davis Chirchir complained of being left with ‘shells’. The only minister to speak in favour was Industrialisation and Enterprise Development Secretary Adan Mohamed. “As differences between the partners threatened to turn chaotic with ministers allied to Ruto digging in, the president called off the meeting and directed the taskforce to fully brief the cabinet. Ruto skipped the third meeting to which he sent his chief of staff Marryanne Keitany, who made matters worse by trashing the report. It is upon this that the President made a decision to adopt the report as government policy when Ruto was at The Hague without the blessing of the cabinet,” a source that attended all the meetings says.
Mr Abdikadir, presidential advisor, declined to comment on the rifts.
It is against this backdrop that Kericho Senator Charles Keter launched a scathing tirade against the president’s allies in the civil service, alleging they had ‘fixed’ Ruto. It emerges that the statement, which the senator has declined to recant, was a warning shot over the fierce rivalry over public service appointments and apportionment of functions that is headed to a crisis point. Publicly, Ruto has distanced himself from Keter’s tirade, but he convened a meeting recently at his Karen residence where he was taken to task over being “pocketed too early.”
The tipping point in the uneasy co-existence between Uhuru’s TNA party and Ruto’s URP came when the latter sensationally alleged there were people who were eagerly waiting for the ICC cases’ outcome to take over the reins of government.
Initially, it looked like Ruto was mocking Raila, but after Keter’s statement, it turns out the deputy president was actually hitting out at the quartet of Kenyatta’s chief political advisor Nancy Gitau, former head of civil service Francis Kimemia, principal administrative secretary in the president’s office Stephen Gathogo and internal security principal secretary Mutea Iringo. Only Kimemia was trimmed as head of civil service. However, after nearly three months in the cold, during which the president appointed Kinyua private secretary, Head of Civil Service and coordinator of Cabinet Programmes, is making a comeback. The president directed Kimemia to chair a security meetings last week, which did not go down well with URP.
Speaking to The Standard On Saturday earlier, Ainabkoi MP Samuel Chepkonga acknowledged there was some unease in Jubilee, which he attributes to staff carried over from the Kibaki administration for “institutional memory.”
Chepkonga, who chairs the Justice and legal affairs committee, says: “There are concerns about the illegality of Kinyua being appointed. Kenya army has also been acting illegally. When recruits are being hired, KDF must indicate the vacancies available per county. We are not happy with the secret appointments in civil service,” he says. He warns that his party is ready to roll up sleeves to tough it out with TNA. “ Jubilee was founded on the principles of equality and if anybody attempts to undermine URP, the government will collapse,” the MP says.The rehabilitation of Kimemia is expected to upset the DP, who is fighting for the retention of national budget office under Treasury in his ambit. Under the Public Finance Management Act, national budget is under Treasury, but the transfer of the portfolio to Devolution and Planning is a foregone conclusion.
A senior staffer at the DP’s office who could not speak on record pointed out that prior to the transfer of Ruto’s budget to State House, there had been a tussle over the appointment of a principal accounting officer. Initially, the Mr Sylvester Mwadime, inherited from the former PM, had been earmarked for the post, but Ruto rejected him. Instead, Ruto rooted for Keitany, but this was shot down on the basis of her position.
State House account
Ms Gitau argued that Keitany could only handle private matters of the office holder. Mr Wambura was appointed principal administrative secretary, which functionally places him at par with principal secretary and accounting officer of the DP’s office.
The DP supporters are unhappy with Ms Gitau, who the deputy president perceives as the invisible power behind the throne, hence URP’s calls to rid his government of Ruto fixers.
At the meeting held at his residence two Fridays ago URP leaders reportedly discussed Gitau, Kimemia, Gathogo and Iringo, who they accuse of placing the public finance management unit under devolution and planning, re-transfer of key technical units – the Efficiency Monitoring Unit and the Inspectorate State Corporations. In fact as a result of the confusion staff in the two units that were previously under the DP’s office earned their salaries paid on November 17, with pay-slips bearing the account of State House.
“The deputy president has only support staff; he does not have any technical unit,” staff at his office told The Standard On Saturday.
It is not just in the presidency where the war has been fought. At Treasury, suppressed rivalry resulted in the recall from retirement of Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) commissioner for Commissioner, Investigation and Enforcement Joseph Nduati. The reappointment apparently angered Ruto, who had his choice for the post as the coalition partners tussled for key offices.
When the tiff threatened to get out of hand, Majority Leader Adan Duale threw his weight behind Rotich. “Rotich is doing a good job…KRA wants some sort of independence but we have asked him (Rotich) to screen public payrolls to rid the civil service of ghost workers an unaccounted for salaries and allowances,” he told The Standard On Saturday recently.