Uhuru reads the Riot Act on people he accuses of creating ‘a parallel centre of power’. Although his official title is Secretary to the Cabinet, Francis Kimemia has been performing duties of the powerful office of the Head of Public Service.
But he won’t perform that role any more. That job has been assigned to former Treasury PS Joseph Kinyua.
And Kimemia’s duties have been reduced to writing invitation letters to Cabinet secretaries to attend Cabinet meetings, taking minutes during the meetings and disseminating the same to the secretaries. In a sense, the Westgate attack has cost the former Head of Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet his job.
At a Cabinet meeting in State House, Nairobi on Thursday, President Uhuru Kenyatta is said to have read the Riot Act on people he accused of creating a “parallel centre of power” within the government.
The President is said to have seethed with rage after it emerged that some senior officials in Harambee House, the former Office of the President, were issuing unauthorised instructions over the Westgate Mall attack.
And immediately after making his point, the President introduced Joseph Kinyua to replace former powerful PS in the Office of the President Mr Kimemia.
Kimemia was also at the Thursday meeting in his capacity as Secretary to the Cabinet.It also emerged that Kimemia chaired the National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC) meeting where the National Intelligence Service (NIS) says it provided information on the impending attack at the mall. “He is secretary to the Cabinet and only God knows in what capacity he was chairing that meeting,” said a close Uhuru ally at Harambee House.
A Cabinet secretary told The Standard on Sunday that Uhuru was furious when he addressed the Thursday Cabinet meeting.
“Some of you think there are two centres of power. I am the President and there is also the Deputy President. There is no other centre of power,” Uhuru is said to have warned at the State House meeting. It was after he made the tough remarks that Uhuru introduced the appointment of Kinyua as the Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service.
Kinyua became the centre of attention after the meeting with all Cabinet secretaries lining up to greet and congratulate him. That effectively made him the third in command within government after Deputy President William Ruto and the second in command at State House after the President. Sources in the Cabinet informed The Standard on Sunday that the changes were made following a series of communication goofs where Kimemia was implicated.
Concern was raised when Interior Permanent Secretary Mutea Iringo called a Press conference at Harambee House when his boss Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku was addressing another one at Peponi Road in Westlands.
“It is not possible Iringo could have called that Press conference without the knowledge of Kimemia who is in charge of affairs at Harambee House,” said our source.
The Cabinet secretary was with the military generals and top police officers including Inspector General David Kimaiyo, and CID boss Ndegwa Muhoro when he was issuing the Press statement on Sunday evening.
The team had opened an operation camp near the site of the attack but Kimemia and Iringo were conspicuously absent.
“The president noticed that because the whole world could see there was somebody who was trying to create another centre of power,” said an official from the Executive Office of The President.
The management of the crisis became more complicated when the Interior ministry started tweeting and releasing conflicting information. At the same time, the police service was releasing different information from what was coming out of Harambee House.
The social media went viral on the conflicting information, which top government officials blamed onKimemia. According to our source, Kimemia had not realised that Harambee House was no longer the Office the President.
“The last time Uhuru was at Harambee House was when he was President-elect and has since worked from his office at State House,” our source explained.
It appears Uhuru was surprised to learn that Kimemia was the head of NSAC and was getting all security briefs, but some of the information was not reaching him and other agencies.
“The information on the Westgate attack was given but it did not go anywhere. The NIS had informed them what vehicles the Al-Shabaab would use and at what time they would attack. Kimaiyo was also said to have been there and that is why NIS keeps saying they gave information to top officials at OP and police,” said our source.
State House officials say Kimemia had taken too long to understand that he was secretary to the Cabinet, whose job is to write letters of invitation, take minutes and circulate them.
“ Kimemia surprisingly is still chair of NSAC just like he was when he was head of public service when he is only supposed to be secretary to the Cabinet,” said another senior officer at the ministry of Interior.
When The Standard on Sunday contacted Kimemia to comment on the unfolding events, he sent an SMS saying: “No comment. I know what I am supposed to do.”
The Standard on Sunday is in possession of letter sKimemia wrote to Cabinet secretaries while designating himself as Permanent Secretary, to the Cabinet and Head of Public service.
In the letter dated 24th June, Reference number OP.CAB.9/1, the “Head of Public Service” an office that was scrapped with the beginning of Uhuru’s term, he instructed all Cabinet secretaries not to gazette any new appointments of chairpersons or chief executive officers in the government parastatals unless in concurrence with the Office of the President.