President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday shocked and surprised his handlers and allies alike when he unveiled nine nominees to the Cabinet and sacked 13 others.
The President dropped all the women in his earlier Cabinet, naming only men in his first nine appointments.
Unlike in 2013, Deputy President William Ruto was not at his side when the President made the shocking announcement that he would only retain only six of his 18 CSs.
Close allies from Parliament and the presidency said they had been outwitted by the head of State who had earlier indicated that he would be naming his Cabinet “in the coming weeks”.
Many were left with mouths agape at the large number of casualties with some regions protesting after their sons and daughters were dropped.
Some of the leaders interviewed said the President’s move was “a massive bloodbath”.
All the five women CSs; Raychelle Omamo, Sicily Kariuki, Phyllis Kandie, Amina Mohamed and Judi Wakhungu were dropped. One of Ms Mohamed’s contribution during Mr Kenyatta’s first term in office was to rally the international community against the International Criminal Court, where both Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto were facing charges of crimes against humanity.
However, it is the inclusion of the Director of Public Prosecution, Mr Keriako Tobiko, the head of a constitutional organ, that got tongues wagging on what Mr Kenyatta’s intentions could be and whether he was reaching out to the Maasai community following the demise of Interior CS Joseph Nkaissery, just weeks to the General Election last August.
However, the post of CS for the Interior and Co-ordination of the National Government was given to Dr Fred Matiang’i, who was appointed acting Education CS.
“I have today accepted the resignation of Mr Keriako Tobiko as Director of Public Prosecution under Article 158 (ix) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010,” the President said before announcing that Mr Tobiko would be in his Cabinet.
The nomination of former Marsabit Governor Ukur Yattani also meant that the fate of Sports minister Hassan Wario was sealed because the two hail from the same region.
A former Jubilee candidate for Turkana gubernatorial race, Mr John Munyes, was also nominated. He and the other nominees will be waiting for vetting by Parliament before they can be formally appointed.
His appointment is in keeping with the ruling party’s plans to win all the pastoralist communities to its side after a lackluster performance in Turkana in the last elections.
Opposition candidate Raila Odinga obtained more votes than Mr Kenyatta there. It would also appear that Mr Munyes’ recent trip to State House when he led a delegation from the region paid off.
Mr Kenyatta left little doubt that it was all about securing his legacy. Earlier in the day, he had set the tone for his plan of action at the launch of book distribution to primary and secondary schools when he said that he would pick a lean team comprising individuals who do not condone graft.
“Some of the changes I am proposing during my final term is to come down hard on individuals who are abusing our systems for personal gain,” Mr Kenyatta said at a meeting in Karen earlier Friday.
“They must change or step aside because the time to laugh over these issues is over. There are many Kenyans willing to serve in public positions.”
In a departure from 2013 when the president and his Deputy William Ruto paraded their Cabinet nominees in an elaborate ceremony marked by fanfare, Mr Ruto was missing in action.
He travelled to India and is reported to have returned Friday but Mr Kenyatta did not explain his deputy’s whereabouts during his televised addressed from State House, Nairobi.
Besides the five women, the other CSs who have effectively been dropped are Mr Wario, Mr Mwangi Kiunjuri (Devolution), Jacob Kaimenyi (Lands), Eugene Wamalwa (Water), Willy Bett (Agriculture), Dan Kazungu (Mining), Adan Mohamed (Industrialisation) and Cleopa Mailu (Health).
All fell by the wayside as the President moved to demonstrate that none in his Cabinet was indispensable.
The case of Mr Wamalwa and Mr Kiunjuri will, however, elicit mixed reactions since they shelved their political ambitions at the request of Mr Kenyatta.
At the height of the campaigns, the President had hinted that he would retain them in the Cabinet. He could, however, appoint them to other plum positions.
Efforts by the Ameru professional group to campaign for Prof Kaimenyi hit a snag. They have, for some time now, run major campaigns in the press to have the CS retained.
For Dr Mailu, the protracted strikes by health workers and the general crisis in the sector may have cost him his job.
The sackings hand Mr Kenyatta an opportunity to reach out to new allies, especially following the post-election realignment. However, it could also pose new challenges for him in the regions that will feel left out.
Friday’s shocker announcement also came with a seal of approval for Interior SC Fred Matiang’i, the man who has become the darling of the President and is often referred to as a super minister by his colleagues.
He is also the acting Education CS under the new dispensation, having switched the two roles. The others that the President retained were Mr Henry Rotich (National Treasury), Mr Najib Balala (Tourism), Mr James Macharia (Transport), Mr Charles Keter (Energy) and Mr Joe Mucheru (ICT).
It would appear that Attorney-General Githu Muigai was retained though the President did not make any mention of him.
“I wish to state that I am retaining the following persons in my Cabinet and shall reassign them accordingly in accordance with Article 152 (v (a)),” Mr Kenyatta said before reading out the names of the men he had retained.
Mr Macharia must count himself lucky given the fact that the country has witnessed numerous road accidents, peaking on the eve of New Year when almost 40 people died in the wee hours of Sunday morning at Migaa on the Nakuru-Eldoret highway.
Keen to reinvigorate the fight against crime, Mr Kenyatta got rid of long-serving head of the Directorate of the Criminal Investigations, Mr Ndegwa Muhoro, who will now report to the Public Service Commission for reassignment.
A number of murder cases which have happened under his watch such as those of businessman Jacob Juma and most recently that of the ICT manager at the electoral commission, Mr Chris Musando, remain unsolved.
Other changes announced in the security sector included the promotion of Mr Edward Njoroge Mbugua as acting Deputy Inspector General Kenya Police, Mr Noor Gabow as acting Inspector General in charge of the Administration Police and Mr George Kinoti Maingi who replaces Mr Muhoro. Mr Samuel Arachi, the Deputy Inspector-General of the AP was sent back to Public Service For redeployment. (Story on Page 6).
Changes in the security docket just like those concerning Cabinet that will require vetting and approval by relevant bodies such as the National police service Commission and Parliament.
“I would also like to inform the country that on the advice of the National Police Service Commission and in consultation with the Inspector-General (of Police) and (in line with) Regulation 26 of the National Police Service Commission Act Recruitment and Appointments Regulations 2015, the following officers are appointed in acting capacity until processed by the commission in accordance with the said law,” he said.
With superior numbers in both the National Assembly and the Senate, the President expects little resistance in approving his list of nominees.
At State House, Mr Joseph Kinyua was retained as the Head of the Public Service to be assisted by Mr Wanyama Musiambo.
“I will be making further announcements to fill Cabinet positions, to fill the positions of Principal Secretaries as well as our Sagas (parastatals) as we continue to populate the Government with those that will be charged with the responsibility of executing our agenda for the next five years,” Mr Kenyatta said yesterday.