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Kenya: William Ruto role in new structure biggest puzzle in Jubilee

Deputy President William Ruto met with President Uhuru Kenyatta in Mombasa yesterday, a day after Mr Kenyatta appeared to transfer most Ruto’s powers and responsibilities to Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i.

The meeting came against the backdrop of hue and cry from Dr Ruto’s allies, who, speaking in various forums around the country, demanded to know his role in the new Cabinet reporting structure announced by the President on Tuesday.

Details of Dr Ruto’s meeting with the President were scanty last evening as neither State House nor Dr Ruto’s communication team was willing to discuss the matter.

President Kenyatta hosted Dr Ruto for lunch after the meeting.

The duo was joined by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, his Senate counterpart Kenneth Lusaka, House Majority leaders Aden Duale (National Assembly) and Kipchumba Murkomen (Senate), Senate deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki (Tharaka-Nithi), and Senate deputy majority whip Irungu Kang’ata (Murang’a).

AGENDA

Also in the 1.30pm lunch at Barka Restaurant in Mombasa’s Old Town district — where the President ordered a plate of biryani, chicken tikka, chapati, mchicha, (amaranthus) and tamarind juice — were Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju, party chairman Nelson Dzuya, and Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji.

Mr Duale and Prof Kindiki said the morning meeting at State House Mombasa discussed the party’s legislative agenda for the next one year, but the presence of Mr Tuju betrayed another agenda: that of the health of Jubilee Party.

“We discussed our legislative agenda ahead of the resumption of the two Houses,” Prof Kindiki said on phone with the Nation, before adding: “We also discussed other issues touching on the party.”

Both Mr Duale and Prof Kindiki, however, refused to be drawn into discussions on what came of the deliberations about the Jubilee Party and the simmering disunity within, with Mr Duale saying it is Mr Tuju who should comment on party matters.

UNITY

Asked by the Nation about his sudden silence over issues affecting the country and politics, Mr Duale, who is the Garissa Township MP, referred us to The 48 Laws of Power, the book by American author Robert Greene regarded as the definitive manual for anyone interested in gaining ultimate control of others.

“When you are silent, you receive more honour and respect,” Mr Duale said, adding: “I am a senior leader in this country.”

During the meeting, Mr Kang’ata, National Assembly deputy speaker Moses Cheboi (Kuresoi North) and nominated MP Cecily Mbarire were chosen to accompany the President for Thursday’s swearing-in ceremony of Democratic Republic of Congo president-elect Felix Tshisekedi.

After lunch, President Kenyatta briefly addressed a crowd outside the restaurant and asked them to live in unity, while Dr Ruto jumped straight into his car and drove off.

“Nimekuja kutembelea mtaani wenu kidogo na nashukuru kwa kunikaribisha. (I have come to see how you are all doing, and I am happy with this reception) We want Kenyans to live together,” the President said before boarding his car and leaving.

NEW ROLE

Away from Mombasa, the DP’s allies were curious about what the changes announced by the President on Tuesday meant within the context of power-sharing in Jubilee.

Although many were guarded in questioning the elevation of Dr Matiang’i to the position of overseeing the implementation of government projects — a role that Dr Ruto had taken as his own in his numerous tours across the country — they argued that there should be clarity on what Dr Ruto will be doing henceforth.

Dr Matiang’i, now regarded as President Kenyatta’s Mr Fix-It, was named as chairman of the National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet Committee comprising all Cabinet secretaries, Attorney-General Paul Kihara and Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua.

Deputised by his Treasury counterpart Henry Rotich, Dr Matiang’i will, in the new role, report directly to the President.

He will be in charge of supervising the delivery cycle of all national government projects and providing guidance on measures to address challenges impeding effective implementation of projects.

He will also monitor and evaluate State projects to ensure proper utilisation of resources.

MANDATE

By placing the “inspection” of government projects under the Dr Matiang’i-led team, the President appeared to disparage the many countrywide “development” tours that Dr Ruto has in recent months been conducting, and now many analysts see this as a whittling down of the role of the DP.

“In the letter of the law, what the President did is right, but the spirit of the government re-organisation is, understandably, making many Kenyans uncomfortable,” vocal Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei told the Nation.

While insisting that those were his own views, Mr Cherargei, one of Dr Ruto’s staunchest defenders, called the current environment within Jubilee the “symptomatic effects of the handshake” — referring to the March 2018 truce between President Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Many of Dr Ruto’s allies regard that truce as the single biggest threat to the DP’s presidential bid.

“I have always suspected that the handshake is a poisoned chalice, and you cannot rule out succession politics in all this right now. But no one should even imagine that the Deputy President can be undermined. Both he and the President serve at the pleasure of the people who elected them in 2017,” said Mr Cherargei.

SUPPORT

Keiyo South MP Daniel Rono said the President has the right to re-organise his government, but said it should not be politically motivated.

“It sounds irregular for a minister to be a prefect of other ministers. This defeats the Building Bridges spirit. The right person for the job would have been Dr Ruto,” said Mr Rono before posing.

“The big question is, what is the role of the DP in this arrangement? Is he in or is he out?”

But, as the Deputy President’s camp fussed and fumed over Dr Matiang’i’s appointment, Amani National Congress (ANC) Deputy Party leader Ayub Savula was rooting for the President, saying he had reached out to at least 30 MPs to entrench the “super-minister” role in the Constitution.

“This is a noble idea. It effectively elevates Dr Matiang’i to a de facto Prime Minister. Once the House resumes from recess, I will table a motion in Parliament and mobilise MPs to formalise the position,” he said.

The ODM director of elections Junet Mohamed also supported the move, saying it is the prerogative of the President “to organise his government”.

By Daily Nation

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