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Silent power games at play at Uhuru’s State House

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s top aides are locked in a quiet but vicious battle for control at State House as the administration’s team to steer the final term takes shape.

No less than eight top officials, including recent appointees, appear to have overlapping roles.

The matter has been compounded by the delay in releasing the much-awaited Presidential Executive Order Number One of 2018, which spells out the job description of each and every government official and their respective work stations.

Currently, State House has several senior officers, all who claim to report directly to the President.

Officially, Mr Joseph Kinyua, the Head of Public Service, is in charge of all civil servants starting from Principal Secretaries down to all the thousands of civil servants in the Executive wing of the government.

Then there is Mr Wanyama Musiambo, who President Kenyatta plucked from the provincial administration and appointed to deputise Mr Kinyua.

The former Rift Valley regional coordinator is however said to be working from Harambee House.

On February 13, the President named Mr Njee Muturi as the new Deputy Chief of Staff, in what was seen as a demotion from the previous position as Solicitor General.

Mr Muturi is supposed to report to Mr Nzioka Waita who is the Chief of Staff and also doubles as head of the Presidential Delivery Unit.

The duo is expected to be given a team of advisors whose main role will be to ensure Jubilee’s “Big Four” agenda is achieved within the set timelines.

Mr Waita and Mr Muturi are said to be keen on maintaining offices at State House.

A close confidant of the President and a former personal assistant for 13 years, which accorded him close proximity to Mr Kenyatta over the years, Mr Muturi’s links to the President make him a powerful figure in the larger scheme of things.

For some, the stage is set up for a repeat of the relationship he had with Attorney-General Githu Muigai at the State Law Office.

Even though Prof Muigai, who has since resigned, was supposed to be his boss, the solicitor general was perceived to wield more powers.

Though Mr Muturi’s new roles are yet to be defined, he has to contend with his other boss: State House Comptroller Kinuthia Mbugua, who is supposed to be the man in charge.

His powers include having the “authority to incur expenses” and signing letters for new State House appointees.

Technically, this means Mr Waita and his deputy, will have to deal with the former Administration Police head in the pecking order as it is not clear which staff the two will oversee.

Then there is Jomo Gecaga, the President’s private secretary and nephew, whose influence within the corridors of State House cannot be underestimated.

With the exception of Deputy President William Ruto and National Intelligence Service boss Maj-Gen (rtd) Joseph Kameru, Mr Mbugua and Mr Kinyua are the two men who meet the President on a near daily basis owing to the nature of their duties.

In communications, there is the State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu and a retinue of directors who are also fighting to find space in President Kenyatta’s second term.

The communication team, whose power struggles since 2013 are well publicised, has been facing immense pressure with some remaining uncertain about their future.

Then there is the vacant office of the Secretary to the Cabinet whose role is to oversee Cabinet office and take minutes during routine Cabinet meetings.

The office has remained vacant since Mr Kimemia was bundled out during Mr Kenyatta’s first term in office.

Added to the mix of influential individuals is the President’s immediate family — especially his mother, Mama Ngina Kenyatta, and his brother, Muhoho Kenyatta.

Though the President may have done away with retinue of advisors he kept during his first term in the Executive Office, it is expected a new set will be appointed.

Those who left include Constitutional Affairs advisor Abdikadir Mohamed, who has been appointed ambassador to South Korea, a posting he is said not to be enthusiastic about.

The others are Joshua Kuttuny, now Cherangany MP, James Nyoro, now deputy governor for Kiambu and Kilemi Mwiria, who went back to consultancy after a failed gubernatorial bid in Meru County.

The mixture of clashing egos and attendant interests of the appointees is likely to be a powder keg and a distraction if not managed, according to State House insiders who spoke in confidence and analysts interviewed.

This was evident when President Kenyatta witnessed the swearing-in of Cabinet Secretaries early this month, an event that was nearly marred by a small, yet dramatic incident captured on live television.

The President was seen pointing a finger towards the men at the podium where the new CSs were taking their oath of office.

A puzzled chief of Staff Nzioka Waita leans closer to listen to the President.

Mr Waita had brought the appointment certificate for the President to sign when he was met by a boss who had noted some commotion at the podium.

It turned out there were too many individuals at the podium, all trying to play a part in the ceremony, which apparently did not go down well with the Head of State.

At the podium was Mr Kinyua and Mr Stephen Kirogo, the principal administrative secretary.

Mr Waita appeared to be in control yet in the previous swearing-in ceremonies, the Head of Public Service was the one in charge.

Amidst all this jostling, Mr David Murathe, close confidant of Mr Kenyatta for many years, says the Head of State is in total control.

“The days of niceties are over. The President realised he is alone, that he could not depend on others.

“He will now govern through instinct, judgment and the powers conferred upon him by the Constitution. Provided his actions are within the law, he is okay with that,” Mr Murathe said.

Other officials and analysts allayed fears that the many appointees in State House without clear roles was hindering service delivery.

“They are professionals and they know their tasks. Their work is not to seek conflict,” Mr Esipisu said on Saturday.

Prof Nyagah Kindiki, a policy analyst echoed his sentiments.

“What you are seeing is activity because the president is applying pressure on the delivery of his agenda,” Prof Kindiki, who is a lecturer at Moi University, said.

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