Details have emerged of behind-the-scenes manoeuvres before President Uhuru Kenyatta — with DP William Ruto conspicuously absent — last Friday announced his first Cabinet nominees.
With the DP absent on Friday, the President and trusted lieutenants decided to retain some and name some new people — a lineup Ruto opposed.
The DP has wanted to position his key allies in the Cabinet to promote his 2022 run for the presidency.
Uhuru, on the other hand, wants to fill the new, 22-member Cabinet and other powerful positions with experienced men and women of integrity to realise his own legacy and development agenda.
The two agendas were bound to clash.
Multiple sources yesterday told the Star the President had at least three sets of close advisers who helped decide on the changes he announced.
The first team of technocrats was led by Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, who scrutinised all CVs and shortlisted them.
His team did the due diligence and dropped many names because of integrity issues.
Kinyua gave the list to the President who met with another team of advisers. They included NIS Director General Philip Kameru, Chief of General Staff Samson Mwathethe and Police IG Joseph Boinnet.
The President met this group in State House on Friday mid-morning after he flagged off textbook distribution. It was not clear to what extent Uhuru discussed the Cabinet and other changes with this group.
After meeting security chiefs, Uhuru met four other close advisers, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, Attorney General Githu Muigai, Interior CS Fred Matiang’i and Kinyua.
“It was in this meeting that final decisions were made on who was to be retained and why,” a source familiar with the events said.
This group looked at political ramifications of some decisions the President was to make. They also made changes to the final statement Uhuru read live to the nation at about 3pm.
Apparently part of the statement Uhuru read was hand-written and the changes were made just before he stepped out to read it.
“Some advisers were surprised by the final announcement and didn’t know why the President disregarded their advice and decided to go with the changes he announced,” another source in the presidency said.
It is understood DP Ruto had been consulted about some changes through the Christmas week while he was out of the country but he was not comfortable with some people eventually nominated.
Ruto returned on Friday morning.
He did not go to State House on Friday, as in the past, and sources close to him said he was unhappy with some choices.
Ruto has denied there is a rift between him and the President over nominations.
In a tweet on Sunday Ruto said, “Kenyans, more so Jubilee, should avoid useless political debates about positions including 2022 and focus single-mindedly on delivering our manifesto voted for by the people while allowing the President the space to perform his constitutional duty to assemble the team for us.”
Former Marsabit Governor Ukur Yattani — a Gideon Moi and Kanu nominee — was defeated by Ruto’s close ally Mohamud Mohamed Ali in a bitter contest. However, President Kenyatta decided to reward Yattani and replace Sports CS Hassan Wario.
The President’s handlers also rejected the DP’s proposal to name former Kajiado Governor Joseph Nkedianye into the Cabinet. Instead, the President named Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko.
“The team wanted to the President to not only name a high-profile and influential Maasai but also a person he can trust,” another source familiar with the decisions told the Star.
Tobiko was unaware he was due to be nominated to the Cabinet on Friday when he was summoned to State House.
President Kenyatta is expected to nominate more members of his Cabinet this week, including the first women. There could be more surprises.
Under consideration are former Kenyatta University Vice Chancellor Olive Mugenda who could replace Matiang’i as Education CS.
Monica Juma, PS for Foreign Affairs, is also expected to be promoted to the Cabinet.
But the question on everyone’s lips is whether Baringo Senator Gideon Moi will enter the Cabinet.
Moi has mulled over joining the Cabinet or nominating his allies to Uhuru’s administration as he strategises on a stab at the presidency in 2022.
It is understood that at least two Cabinet slots have been designated for him and his Kanu party. Sources said one of his likely nominees is director general of the Kenya School of Government, Dr Ludeki Chweya.
Chweya, former PS in the office of the Vice President and Ministry of Home Affairs, who hails from Western Kenya.
He would not confirm or deny if he had been made an offer.
Barely four months after the country went to the polls, Kanu is set for a major revival in two years to prepare for the 2022 General Election.
“We are keen on remoulding Kanu to make it an all-ages party. The tag that Kanu is for the old has cost us the support we need from the youth,” a source close to the party leadership told the Star.
It is understood the party is keen on fortifying its leadership with new people who add value.
Secretary General Nick Salat could be replaced, while West Pokot Governor Prof John Lonyangapuo is expected to assume a strategic portfolio.
“Professor Lonyangapuo’s political fabric is purely Kanu. He understands grassroots politics and as such can sell Kanu beyond Rift Valley,” a source said.
Entering the Cabinet would, of course, require Gideon to step down as Baringo Senator. This scenario would open a huge gulf between Uhuru and Ruto because Gideon and Ruto are bitter adversaries and rivals, both seeking to dominate the Rift Valley.
While both the Kenyatta and Ruto camps have downplayed the reported rift in the nomination of CSs, several sources have told the Star the Deputy President is adamantly opposed to Gideon’s appointment.