Cabinet shuffle? Writing is on the wall
Pressure is mounting on President William Ruto to reshuffle his Cabinet following outbursts by senior government officials over the rising cost of fuel.
Those caught up in the storm include Energy Cabinet Davis Chirchir, Trade and Industry CS Moses Kuria and the President’s economic advisor David Ndii.
Over the weekend, they made controversial remarks on the prices of fuel after Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) announced sharp increases during the monthly price adjustments.
The new prices saw the cost of petrol going up by Sh16.96 to retail at Sh211.64 per litre while that of diesel increased by about Sh21.32 per litre to retail at Sh200.99, and Kerosene increased by Sh33.13 to retail at 202.61 per litre.
Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale led calls for President Ruto to sack the three, saying they had failed him.
Khalwale, who was speaking in Kakamega, said Kenyans who elected Ruto with the hope that he would change their lives were beginning to despair given the rising cost of living.
“President Ruto, I want to tell you today from Kakamega, watu wenye umepatia kazi wamekuingiza kona mbaya sana; mtu ambaye anaitwa minister for Trade, mtu ambaye anaitwa waziri wa Energy na mtu ambaye anaitwa your Economic advisor (President Ruto, the people you have given jobs have put you in deep trouble; the CS for Trade and the CS for Energy and your economic advisor,” Khalwale said.
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, also waded into the debate, with the former warning that the outbursts by some government officials do not reflect the government’s official position.
Rigathi, who jetted into the country from Colombia where he had been attending a business forum, said he had noted with concern the exchanges between public servants and Kenyans and warned against arrogance on the part of public officers.
The DP warned the affected CSs and the advisor to be sensitive against talking down to and demoralising Kenyans, instead asking them to inspire hope in the citizenry.
He said: “I would like to remind them that although the people of Kenya did not employ them directly, they decisively elected H.E. President William Ruto, who in turn he appointed them Cabinet Secretaries and Advisors. And hence by virtue of this, they are employed by Kenyans.
"You do not address your employer with arrogance. Do so with humility and decorum. Kenyans, like the rest of the world, are going through difficult economic times and leaders should address them with sensitivity and empathy.”
He said that although the issue of fuel prices was a worldwide challenge, the government was committed to finding lasting and sustainable solutions to the economic challenges that face Kenyans.
Separately, Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi hinted at a possible Cabinet reshuffle, warning that it was not beyond the President to do so when he feels the right is time.
“The President is clear about one thing, this administration is about efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery to the people,” said Mudavadi in statement.
“The moment any appointee steps out of line or acts in a manner that is inconsistent with this mantra, it is not beyond the President to make changes in senior ranks of the Executive. At an appropriate time and in his wisdom, the President could make such changes.”
Own oil well
Gachagua and Mudavadi’s sentiments followed comments by the three who told Kenyans that there was nothing much the government could do over the current high cost of fuel.
Kuria, in several tweets and a video, warned that the cost of fuel would continue rising every month until March because the prices of crude oil have gone up.
In one tweet, Kuria stated: “Sasa ukishinda ukisema bei ya mafuta imeongezeka kutoka asubuhi hadi jioni, si uchimbe kisima yako (rather than lament from morning till evening that the cost of fuel has gone up, why not drill your own oil well?)”
In another tweet, he said: “I repeat. Petrol will be 260 Ksh by February. And El Nino is coming in 3 weeks that will last till March. These are global and climate change driven. Responsible leaders ought to tell the truth to prepare the people. You can throw stones at me all you want.”
Ndii posted tweets suggesting that Kenyans were wrong to trust politicians.
“Finally, I’ve been advised that I owe the public empathy. I don’t agree. I do not subscribe to sentimentality in the conduct of public affairs. I owe my position in this society to speaking truth to power, brutally. I ruffle feathers,” he said in an apparent reference to the admonition from the Deputy President.
He added: “Facts are stubborn things. You can blame greedy lying politicians (and you’d be right), shake fists at the President, berate the IMF, shoot the messengers, fantasise about all manner of miracle cures and when you are done, the facts will be staring at you, unfazed.”
Chirchir, while appearing before the National Assembly’s Energy committee on Friday, said the government had no control over fuel price increases because these were a result of global challenges.
“We are dealing with several governments and the suppliers of these products. We are likely to be going through even harder times. There is nothing much we can do about it. It is just unfortunate that we do not have our own products,” he said.