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Inside Uhuru’s meeting with top State officials and why Ruto missed it

By Emeka Mayaka
Friday, February 19th, 2021
In summary

Isolation of Deputy President William Ruto from President Uhuru Kenyatta’s power circle could barely be hidden yesterday, when he was left out of a top-level meeting of government officials at State House, Nairobi.

High-profile sources at the meeting who spoke to People Daily indicated that the President used the occasion to read the Riot Act, warning the State officers to focus their energies on his legacy projects and the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) project.

The President is also said to have warned officers not keen to work with him to resign and join their preferred political wing, comments which, our sources said, were directed at Ruto and his allies.

Uhuru, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, sat on the podium during the talks attended by Ministers, Principal Secretaries and Chief Administrative Secretaries across the government.

“The President was clear that his main focus, was to ensure the Big Four agenda projects are completed. He said State officers should go out there and overturn the narrative against BBI, saying it will help unite the country,” said a senior official who requested to speak on condition of anonymity.

“He said he was only keen to work with a strong, united team and warned those with their loyalties elsewhere, that they were free to leave and he would readily replace them. He said it is either you are with him or not,” revealed another source who attended the meeting.

The President has been at loggerhead with his deputy, who he has dared to resign for criticising the government in which he serves and opposing the BBI on which he has staked his legacy.

By closing doors to Ruto, it is apparent that Uhuru is determined to forge ahead with his agenda without the support of his erstwhile political companion.

Ruto’s spokesman Emmanuel Talam yesterday said that the DP was not invited to the State House meeting.

“He (DP) did not attend; was he invited? Ask Kanze Dena (State House spokesperson) to tell you whether the DP was invited. He has been at his Karen office. He is still there even as we speak,” said Talam.

According to a statement issued by State House, President Uhuru met the officers in the senior ranks of the Executive, to discuss government priorities in the current calendar year.

“The President outlined to the officers his vision and priorities for this year, top among them the completion of ongoing government projects and programmes across all sectors and regions of the country. The President instructed the officials to ensure prudent utilisation of public resources in service delivery, saying Kenyans must always get the highest value return for their money,” noted Dena.

Keiyo South MP Daniel Rono, a strong Ruto ally, told People Daily that Uhuru’s Principal Assistant was “not wanted” in the State House meeting.

“I can confirm to you that he was not invited. It is part of this government’s efforts to sideline and weaken him but we will soldier on,” said Rono.

The meeting came a day after the President made some changes in senior levels in government, a move that saw him appoint new CASs and reshuffle some PSs.

It also took place at a time county assemblies are processing the Constitutional Amendment Bill (2020) which captures the BBI proposals with those in Ruto leaning regions opposing it.

Last week, the President and his deputy were caught up in a war of words, with Ruto saying he won’t resign from government and denied allegations that he was disrespectful, disloyal and impatient.

“On the one hand he is saying the government has failed, and on the other hand he is saying we as a government have done this and that development,” the President said in apparent reference to his deputy, who has perfected the art of outlining achievements of the Jubilee government while at the same time, saying it had failed.

“That is double speak, you can’t be speaking of the failures of a government where you serve while at the same time outlining, what you refer to as what we have achieved as a government. You better resign,” the President said.

In response, Ruto said: “I will continue working as the DP of Kenya, because that is my position under the Constitution.”

“There is absolutely no contest between my boss and I. I respect the decision of His Excellency the President and the President calls the shots. He is in charge and he takes all decisions and I have not countermanded any decision,” he added.

The State officers who attended yesterday’s meeting have for the past three weeks been criss-crossing the country to monitor government projects and enforce a presidential directive that they must be completed by June.

The new approach is aimed at stealing the thunder from Ruto, who has been showcasing government projects in his whirlwind tours of the country, to drum up support for his 2022 presidential bid.

The brief is to counter the narrative advanced by Ruto and his allies that the government had abandoned the Big Four agenda in favour of the BBI project.

Notably, Matiang’i on Wednesday toured the Liwatoni fisheries project in Mombasa county accompanied by members of the National Development Implementation, Coordination and Communication Committee and warned about the slow pace of construction of the facility.

“I have been discussing with my brothers and sisters about the pace of work and it is not moving as fast as possible,” he said.

On Tuesday, 23 CSs landed in Nakuru, Murang’a, Narok and Machakos counties under the aegis of the committee which is chaired by Matiang’i, to inspect various government projects. CSs Eugene Wamalwa, James Macharia, Betty Maina, Najib Balala, Margaret Kobia and John Munyes were in Nakuru county to inspect construction of the new railway line between Naivasha ICD and Longonot.

A second team led by Amina Mohamed, Joe Mucheru, Simon Chelugui and Peter Munya was in Murang’a county to inspect the Northern Collector Tunnel and the Kenol- Sagana road while a third team comprising Mutahi Kagwe, Raychelle Omamo, Farida Karoney, Adan Mohamed, Charles Keter and Raphael Tuju were in Narok county to inspect various government projects.

The fourth team comprising Ukur Yatani, Monica Juma, Sicily Kariuki, George Magoha and Keriako Tobiko was in Machakos county to also inspect various government projects.

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