Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Heightened drama in delay of Uhuru’s cabinet composition

President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks at a conference

President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks at a conference as his deputy William Ruto looks on. Against the backdrop of a Cabinet nomination impasse, a combination of various interests —regional, ethnic, gender and political among others — have taken advantage of the situation to lobby. PHOTO | FILE 

Nairobi. On January 5, President Uhuru Kenyatta named a nine-member Cabinet and promised to announce a complete list of his Cabinet “over the next few weeks.”

Fifteen days after he made the pronouncement, and 53 days after he took the oath of office for a second and final term, the high drama over Cabinet composition plays on. In 2013, it only took him 14 days to name his first Cabinet, and on his 34th day in office, the 16 Cabinet Secretaries (CSs) were sworn in.

Against the backdrop of a Cabinet nomination impasse, a combination of various interests —regional, ethnic, gender and political among others — have taken advantage of the situation to lobby.

While he told the country that he was prepared to get to work immediately he took office on November 28, it has not only been 53 days since he took the oath, but President Kenyatta, in the height of irony, also failed name a CSs for the four key sectors he singled out as key in his legacy-driven second term.

He had named manufacturing, health care, affordable housing and food security as his Big Four plans—but were not in the first list of nine Cabinet slots.

Meanwhile, the related push for “electoral justice” by the Opposition has similarly encouraged external actors like the European Union Parliament and the American ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec to call on the President and Opposition leader, Raila Odinga, to enter into dialogue.

Strong Signals

Recently, Senate Leader of Minority and Nasa co-principal Moses Wetang’ula gave the President startling unsolicited advice to form an all-inclusive Cabinet that includes individuals from the Opposition. This triggered questions on whether Nasa had finally recognised Mr Kenyatta as the President—or was sending strong signals that it was ready for dialogue.

While Mr Wetang’ula has since claimed he was quoted out of context and further reiterated that Nasa does not recognise the Kenyatta presidency, the exclusion of Water minister Mr Eugene Wamalwa from the partial Cabinet announced on January 5 has left many, especially in Western Kenya, scratching their heads.

Mr Wamalwa is not only a close ally of President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, but is also seen as the face of the populous Luhya community in Jubilee. Political watchers, therefore, believe that if Mr Wamalwa were to be sidelined, he would only be replaced by another high-profile figure from the region.

In crafting his new team, the President said he would retain only six CSs with a statement from State House hours later clarifying that the remaining 13 CSs had not been sacked.

Political scientist Adams Oloo thinks that by leaving in limbo all key CSs from the communities where the four Nasa principals — Mr Raila Odinga, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Musalia Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula — draw their support from, the President could have been passing a subtle message that there was a window for the opposition.


But following days of reported disagreement over the list between the President and his deputy on the Cabinet formation and the dialogue issue with Jubilee, Nasa strategist David Ndii has come out to firmly state that the opposition has no role in the delays in naming the full Cabinet and “we do not want to be part of that mess because we are not bargaining with Jubilee over this matter”.

Internally, however, some Jubilee hardliners are pushing the president to be more assertive and name the 13 other ministers without giving further hints of an opposition inclusion.

Leader of Majority in the National Assembly, Aden Duale declined to be drawn into discussion on the apparent friction over the Cabinet list, arguing that it was a sole prerogative of the President.

However, he explained that his parliamentary work was not affected by the delay “since 70 per cent of my work includes direct consultation with the Executive and so far so good”. The Garissa Town MP said that the President still had one more month to come up with a Cabinet list: “There is no hurry in doing this. After all we (Parliament) are on recess until February 14.”

Nonetheless, the Majority Leader points out that crucial and urgent tasks await the new Cabinet, including approval of the second supplementary budget and several pieces of legislation like universal health care and food security.

“There should be no panic over the perceived delay because the Speaker (Justin Muturi) and I, plus the relevant vetting house committee, are ready to dispense off with this matter within 14 days once the Executive hands over the list of (Cabinet) nominees,” Mr Duale told the Nation. (NMG)