Ruto allies lose clout in Uhuru Cabinet changes
Deputy President William Ruto’s men were the major casualties in a Cabinet reshuffle by President Uhuru Kenyatta that saw him swap Cabinet Secretaries and transfer portfolios.
Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter was moved to the Ministry of Devolution, which was rendered an empty shell after its functions were transferred to another docket.
With the responsibility of coordinating planning and development of policies for arid and semi-arid lands, which constitute more than 80 per cent of the country’s land mass, moved to a different ministry, Keter will now be restricted to supporting county governments through policy formulation, capacity support and intergovernmental relations.
Additionally, and to an extent, he will be involved in managing disaster risk management between the National and County governments.
Keter’s removal from the Energy docket came hours after the President issued an executive order on reduction of electricity cost and a rethink of the engagement between Kenya Power and Private Power Suppliers.
A raft of orders were issued that the minister was supposed to implement by Christmas Day this year.
His removal, therefore, came at a time the energy sector was to undergo radical changes, including reducing the cost of electricity by upto 33 per cent.
A strong ally of the Deputy President, Keter has been the subject of criticism over the unprecedented rise in the cost of electricity and wrangles at Kenya Power.
Though packaged as normal changes, the Energy ministry appeared as the main target which saw Keter’s Principal Secretary Joseph Njoroge moved to the State Department for Transport.
Keter was replaced by Defence Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma. Former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa is the new Defence Cabinet Secretary.
All ASAL functions, which were domiciled in the Devolution ministry, were transferred to the Ministry of Public Service headed by Margaret Kobia, the ministry was renamed the Ministry of Public Service, Gender, Senior Citizens Affairs and Special Programmes.
The Labour ministry, which is led by Simon Chelugui, another Ruto ally, was also watered down with its functions touching on social protection and senior citizens moved to the Public Service docket.
“The presidential action promotes enhanced operational efficiency, institutionalises the implementation of various ongoing ground-breaking reforms,” said the Presidency in a statement read by Kanze Dena, the State House spokesperson.
“The department of Special Programmes is transferred to the State Department for Social Protection, Pensions and Senior citizens affairs,” said the statement.
President Uhuru also reassigned three principal secretaries (PSs) and expanded the portfolio of one.
Maj-Gen (rtd) Gordon Kihalangwa was moved from the Ministry of Public Works to Energy to replace Njoroge, who was redeployed to Transport.
Transport PS Solomon Kitungu was transferred to the Ministry of Public Works, while PS Nelson Marwa now serves the State Department for Social Protection, Senior Citizens Affairs and Special Programmes.
Senators last week censured Keter and his Petroleum counterpart John Munyes for ignoring their summons over the increasing fuel and electricity prices.
The Senate Energy committee wanted Keter to explain the financial status of the bankrupt Kenya Power.
He was also expected to explain circumstances that led to the abrupt resignation of Bernard Ngugi as the Kenya Power managing director.
Instead, Keter sent PS Njoroge, with the excuse that he was attending an international conference on atomic energy. Irate senators could hear none of the explanation and fined the cabinet secretaries.
Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula said the Cabinet secretaries displayed serious contempt of Parliament.
Moving the motion, Senate Minority Leader James Orengo said the no appearance show exhibited by the Cabinet Secretaries reeked of arrogance.
“They have treated Parliament as a lesser mortal. This practice must stop because summons by Parliament are an important instrument under our constitutional dispensation,” Orengo said.
Adding: “Breakdown of law and order doesn’t start with big infractions, it starts with smaller ones like what we are accusing the two of.”
A section of leaders yesterday welcomed the changes, though there were loud murmurs among Ruto supporters.
Keiyo South MP Daniel Rono said the Cabinet restructuring was part of the wider scheme to isolate Ruto and his allies from government.
According to Rono, the timing of the move is suspect, noting that it came at a time the DP has not been on good terms with the President.
“This is the continued marginalisation of the DP and his supporters. We feel it is the president settling scores with his deputy,” Rono told People Daily.
“We, the leaders of the Arid and Semi-Arid Region, express our gratitude to HE President Uhuru Kenyatta’s progressive gesture of transferring the functions of the State Department for ASAL to the Ministry of Public Service and Gender,” said Adan Keynan, the Jubilee Party parliamentary group.
“We believe in the fullness of time, the idea will open up greater benefits to the people, generate a pool of opportunities and activate immense benefits in the region,” said the Eldas MP said.
He urged public officers in the relevant state department and the Public Service Ministry to move with speed, build synergy, and work closely with other critical stakeholders to activate the benefits of the department for residents of the vast ASAL community.
Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina also hailed the President’s move.
“President you are taking the right steps ... but I must say you are a good Man! I would have fired them instead of moving them to other ministries. The Senate is truly defending the rights of Kenyans,” said the senator.
Following the uproar over the cost of power, Uhuru yesterday ordered a two-thirds reduction of power to Sh16 effective December 1, 2021.
The two-thirds reduction translates to a 33 per cent.
“The consequence of the proposed interventions is that a consumer who previously spent Sh500 per month on electricity shall by 31st December, 2021 pay Sh330 per month,” said Uhuru.
The reduction is a consequence of recommendations by a task force the President constituted in March this year, to review power purchase agreements and Kenya Power.