From the classroom to Cabinet: How ex-CS rose through the ranks

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020 00:00 |
Former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri. Photo/File

The rise of outgoing Agriculture minister Mwangi Kiunjuri has been steady––until President Uhuru Kenyatta stripped him of his Cabinet duties yesterday.

He was born on April 29, 1969 and brought up in the Kahurura Forest section of Mt Kenya region in Kieni, Nyeri county.

His father worked as a dresser at a dispensary in the area.

The Moi University Bachelor of Education graduate worked as a teacher at Kangema High School, Kiarithaini High School and Dr Kiano Boys School between 1983 and 1997.

He quit teaching in 1997 and successfully vied for the Laikipia East parliamentary seat on the Democratic Party ticket.

While at Moi University, Kiunjuri was a fiery student leader. Based at the university’s Maseno Campus,  Kiunjuri sold second-hand clothes to earn a living.

He joined Parliament at the age of 28 still unmarried. He would later wed in a big ceremony in Laikipia attended by then President Daniel Moi and then DP leader Mwai Kibaki. Moi donated one of the 10 bulls slaughtered at the wedding.

Matatu tout

The former matatu tout was re-elected for another two terms, in 2002 and 2007 but lost in 2013, when he vied for Laikipia governor.

 Kiunjuri’s command of his Gikuyu language and mastery in the use of proverbs and idioms is unmatched among politicians of his generation from Central region.

 His first government office was in the Water and Irrigation ministry, where he served as the assistant minister. He was later moved to the Energy ministry.

He became Devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary in 2015, replacing Anne Waiguru who had resigned over corruption allegations. 

When the Jubilee government retained power for a second term, Kiunjuri was appointed the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture.

However, his differences with his boss—the President—came to the fore in 2018, when the Head of State rebuked the CS in public after cash meant to pay maize farmers was allegedly re-directed to a cartel network, leaving farmers broke.

Since then, the outspoken politician has not hidden his position in the succession politics, openly taking sides with Tanga Tanga—the team associated with Deputy president William Ruto.

In fact, the planners of the infamous “La Mada” Hotel meetings convened by Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries and State agencies’ heads, shunned Kiunjuri as he was seen as a Ruto sympathiser.

A defiant Kiunjuri shocked many when he convened a press conference attended by over 40 MPs in October last year at Parliament Buildings, where they started the region’s position on the Building Bridges Initiative report.

A few weeks after the report was unveiled at the Bomas of Kenya, Kiunjuri also mobilised over 57 MPs from Mt Kenya region for a retreat in Embu.

It was during the Embu meeting that the MPs vowed they would be boycotting all future presidential functions claiming the President had subjected them to ridicule.

His position in the succession politics has not been a secret, he has openly stated his support for Ruto and is one of those speculated as the possible running mate to Ruto.

Kiunjuri has dared tread where many of his colleagues could not. His stand has been seen to be in breach of a direct order from the President barring Cabinet Secretaries from engaging in politics.

Sadly, the audacious move may have cost him his job. 

To many, including his nemesis, Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, the vocal CS has been provoking the appointing authority to fire him.

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