President Uhuru finally drops defiant minister in minor shake-up

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020 00:00 | By
President Uhuru Kenyatta

Emeka-Mayaka Gekara

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday finally called the bluff and handed defiant Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri the sack he appeared to have been asking for.

Reacting to the sacking, Kiunjuri, a close ally of Deputy President William Ruto, said Uhuru’s move did not take him by surprise, as he had endured a lot of humiliation.

“It didn’t take me by surprise... I feel relieved,” he said at press conference at a Nairobi hotel hours after he was fired.

Uhuru also dropped suspended Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich in a minor shake-up of his administration. 

The President has had an uneasy relationship with Kiunjuri, who has  been accused of joining Ruto allies who have been accused of undermining the President’s Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

Last Friday, People Daily Friday painted Kiunjuri as a man who was provoking the President to fire him— and yesterday, the President apperead to grant him his wish.

Rotich has been on suspension after he was charged with corruption last year.

In his reaction, Kiunjuri declared that he was going nowhere and asked his supporters not to sympathise with his plight nor cry for him. 

Immediate former Agriculture Cabinet secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri. Photo/Courtesy

“Some of you know that I have endured a lot of humiliation and only God and my immediate family know how this made me feel,” he said.

He, however thanked the President who he said was his friend for according him the opportunity to serve in his government, adding that he was walking away with his head held high.

 “The President indicated that there has been significant growth in the agriculture sector. I am walking with my head high,” he said.

But he warned his detractors that if provoked, he will react.

  “For any action, there will be a reaction,” he added.

Kiunjuri was replaced with Peter Munya, who was moved from the Trade and Industrialisation docket.  Munya is a Ruto critic.

The  purge of the rebel within Cabinet  worsens relations in the ruling Jubilee Party, which is suffering factional fights between the Ruto-allied Tanga Tanga and Kieleweke, which backs the President’s Handshake with Opposition chief Raila Odinga.

Kiunjuri got the backing from another DP ally in the President’s backyard,Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu MP), who last night in a tweet  said the battle lines  were now drawn and that the 2022 presidential war has began.

“Mwangi Kiunjuri was & still remains the most hardworking CS & a highly respected Mt Kenya leader. What you’re seeing has nothing to do with performance.

Anyway, the sky is clear, the battle lines are drawn. Let the party begin! We’re African & Africa is our business,” Nyoro said on his Twitter handle.

Uhuru’s move also stirred disquiet among Ruto’s Jubilee allies in Western Kenya who cried foul saying the president had left out their region in the appointments. (See story below).

The President made the changes in a speech in which he spelt out a raft of measures to be undertaken in the next five months aimed at growing the economy. 

Incidentally, most of the measures fall in agriculture, which was Kiunjuri’s docket. The directives target the coffee, tea, milk and potato sectors which have made him the subject of criticism by leaders in the farming regions, including his Central Kenya region backyard.

“I want the economy to be a more important focus than politics. And this is because our practice throughout our history has been to pursue the political kingdom as opposed to the economic kingdom,” he said in Mombasa.

“Political power pursued for its own sake will not make us the great nation we want to become.   We must, therefore, use politics to shift the economy and address the plight of the most vulnerable members of our society, he noted.

He added: “We must use politics to better the livelihoods of Kenyans. If we use politics as a means to a greater end, we will give politics meaning. And this is my intent for this year.”

The appointment also saw accommodation of Opposition chief Raila’s Odinga supporters into government. These include former assistant minister Wavinya Ndeti, who was picked as Chief Administrative Secretary (Transport), former minister Jebii Kilimo was appointed Chief Administrative Secretary at Agriculture docket while Jubilee strategist Winnie Guchu will be the Chief Administrative Secretary at the State Law Office. 

Kiunjuri has not only opposed the BBI initiative spearheaded by the President and Raila but also attended functions where Ruto’s allies have made attacks against the President and his agenda.

The latest of this was the funeral of Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua’s mother at which MPs dismissed the BBI.

Kiunjuri was the only CS at the funeral that was skipped by the President.

The CS had also on November 29 last year convened a meeting of 57 elected leaders supportive of Ruto in Embu under the banner “Mt Kenya and Diaspora Leaders” whey they resolved to boycott presidential events. 

This was in reaction to what they interpreted as exclusion during the launch of the BBI report at the Bomas of Kenya just two days earlier.

Besides, Kiunjuri on October 24 organised and attended a press conference addressed by 42 MPs associated with the DP’s Tanga Tanga brigade where they issued conditions before they accept the BBI proposals.

In the reorganisation, the President nominated former Nyeri Senator Mutahi Kagwe as Cabinet Secretary for Health while Betty Chemutai Maina, a principal secretary, was nominated as Cabinet Secretary for Industrialisation. The two would require the approval of Parliament.

Kagwe, a former Cabinet minister, has positioned himself as the President’s key point man in Mt Kenya region. He was the Master of Ceremony during the Sagana meeting for Central Kenya leaders meeting hosted by Uhuru last year.

In other changes, acting Treasury Cabinet secretary Ukur Yatani was confirmed to the post and replaced at Labour by Simon Chelugui who was been the Cabinet Secretary for Water.  Yattani has been acting at Treasury following Rotich’s suspension.

 Defence CS Raychelle Omamo and Foreign Affairs’ Monica Juma swapped dockets.

Yesterday, the President rallied support for his the BBI and challenged the Judiciary to step up the war on corruption. 

“As we soldier on in this fight, I seek the indulgence of the Judiciary. And I do so because no administration in the history of this country has prosecuted corruption cases the way I have. From ministers to governors, senior government officers to procurement officers, I have been on the front line,” he said.

He added: “And since I respect the principle of separation of powers, I have no powers of convicting the accused. I have done my part. And I will continue to do so. Now the Judiciary should give us convictions as an indication that we are winning in this war.”

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