Tough balancing act as Ruto crafts his Cabinet team

Friday, September 16th, 2022 03:00 | By
Ruto sworn in
William Ruto takes oath of office as Kenya's fifth President at Kasarani stadium on Tuesday, September 13, 2022. PHOTO/State House Kenya/Facebook

President William Ruto is facing a tough balancing act as he moves to craft his Cabinet line-up. The new Head of State must come up with a formation that will help him achieve his manifesto besides satisfying the interests of his close allies.

He will also be keen to reward political lieutenants who stood by him throughout his four-year fallout with the then President Uhuru Kenyatta, not to mention those who shelved their political ambitions to support him.

Ruto also faces a severe test as politicians from his United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party and leaders of other parties affiliated to the Kenya Kwanza Alliance, jostle for the limited lucrative slots in his government.

With some unconfirmed reports indicating that Ruto is keen to unveil his line-up before he leaves the country this weekend to attend the burial of Queen Elizabeth II in London and after that attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Ruto is also under pressure to form a Cabinet that represents the face of Kenya while also achieving gender parity as he promised.

 To achieve this, Ruto might have to appoint individuals from areas outside his strongholds, a move that could earn him the wrath of his ardent supporters.

The difficult choices of fulfilling his pre-election pledges, appeasing his long-time friends and living up to gentlemen’s agreements entered into with political leaders to marshal support for the August 9 elections leaves President Ruto between a rock and a hard place.

Time is not on his side as he finds himself with a great deal of work even before he can enjoy his political honeymoon.

“Whereas he has to reward his people, he must act knowing that he is the President of all Kenyans and not just a section,” said University of Nairobi lecturer Herman Manyora.

Work out formula

In 2013, Uhuru and Ruto constituted a Cabinet dominated by technocrats. They, however, later included politicians after it became apparent that the majority of Cabinet Secretaries could not articulate the Jubilee government’s achievements or agenda.

 It remains to be seen whether Ruto will follow this path and head hunt technocrats to assist him in “return the country to the correct path”, as his deputy Rigathi Gachagua, puts it.

On the other hand, the President must work out a formula to keep his promise to have half of his Cabinet made up of women. While signing a women’s charter at the Nyayo National Stadium that detailed policy interventions that his government would put in place if elected, Ruto not only promised to address Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), but also vowed to ensure a 50-50 per cent inclusion of women in leadership positions.

Besides the need to attain gender balance in fresh appointments, the President will also need to have other considerations such as profession, experience, competence, integrity, and regional and ethnic diversity.

The President had also promised to accommodate the youth in his Cabinet as a show of his commitment and appreciation to the lot that has quite often been relegated to the periphery of the country’s politics. 

Given the limited number of positions in the Cabinet vis-a-vis the huge expectations, Ruto may decide to follow in the footsteps of Uhuru by retaining the positions of Cabinet Administrative Secretaries (CAS) and Principal Administrative Secretaries (PAS). However, this could prove tricky since he would be going against a court order which declared the positions unconstitutional.

Uplifting the lives

During the campaigns, Ruto criticised Raila Odinga’s Azimio-One Kenya Coalition for focusing on sharing government positions through the failed Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) that had sought to expand the Executive to accommodate those who had foregone their presidential ambitions. Ruto instead maintained that his team was focused on uplifting the lives of Kenyans, rather than sharing seats.

Now, however, he is now confronted with a tough balancing act on how to reward officials and allies from the Amani National Congress, Ford-Kenya, Economic Freedom Party (EFP), The Service Party (TSP), Maendeleo Chap Chap, Pamoja African Alliance (PAA), Umoja Maendeleo, Chama Cha Kazi (CCK), Communist Party of Kenya (CPK), Devolution Party of Kenya (DPK) and Farmers Party, which he signed pre-election pacts with.

Prior to the election, Ruto had signed a pre-election deal with Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetangula, offering them a third of his government to two in exchange for support from their western Kenya base. The voting pattern in Bungoma, Wetang’ula’s stronghold, played a critical role in securing Ruto’s victory over Raila.

Already, Wetang’ula has secured the National Assembly Speaker’s position with the ANC boss set to be appointed to the position of Prime Cabinet Secretary to become the third most powerful leader in the Kenya Kwanza administration.

“ANC and Ford Kenya shall have 30 per cent of the positions in the national government including Cabinet and Principal Secretaries, ambassadors/high commissioners, heads of diplomatic missions, chairs of state corporations, directors of state corporations and chairpersons and commissioners of constitutional commissions,” says the deal between UDA, ANC and Ford Kenya. Going by the agreement, ANC and Ford Kenya will get at least seven ministerial positions and an almost equal number of PSs.

Ruto also shoulders the burden of satisfying politicians and professionals who have been his long-term allies. The situation is further compounded by the Johnny-come-lately politicians who have been decamping from Azimio and whom he has promised to accommodate. It is not clear what they were promised but it would not be surprising if one or two ended up in Cabinet.

Not surprisingly, the defection of Azimio members has not sat well with all the President’s allies who are now insisting that the newcomers should not expect government appointments.

During the campaigns, Ruto used promises of government jobs to fish key political figures from the Azimio camp to advance his chances. While some have already secured their positions, notably Wetang’ula and PAA’s Amason Kingi (Senate Speaker), many are still lobbying to be accommodated.

Presidential campaigns

Then there are those who vied and lost and could be looking for a soft landing in government. These include former Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar, Cleophas Malala, Johnstone Muthama, Mithika Linturi, former Machakos deputy governor Bernard Kiala and former Kajiado South MP Katoo ole Metito.

Leaders from the Nyanza region, among them former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo, former Kisumu senator Fred Outa, former Kisumu governor Jack Ranguma and former Migori governor Okoth Obado, former Kisii Woman Rep Janet Ong’era and former Cabinet minister Chris Obure have declared support for  Ruto and announced that they are ready to work with him.

So have former Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi and former Embu Senator Lenny Kivuti, both of who are now warming up to Ruto.

Further, some lawmakers, notably Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, MPs Aden Duale (Garissa Town), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu) and his Kandara counterpart Alice Wahome, who played a key role in Ruto’s presidential campaigns are reportedly eyeing  Cabinet positions, a move that could see them step down from their parliamentary posts.

Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko is also waiting for slots in the new government.

That means Governor Johnson Sakaja will have to consider appointing Sonko allies in his Cabinet.

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