The rise of Ukur Yatani to Treasury CS
Seth Onyango @SethManex
Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani’s spectacular rise to the apex of Kenya’s economic planning has the hallmark of a man driven by sheer passion for excellence.
From a village boy in Forole, North Horr sub-county to the powerful ministry, his success story epitomises utter determination of a man who dared to dream.
Against all odds, Yatani will today present his maiden Budget, one of the most decisive in Kenya’s post-independence history, as the country wades through the Covid-19 pandemic.
All eyes will be on the son of Forole, who just over a year ago, was an unlikely pick for the top Treasury job but who, to his close associates, presented a natural nominee given his fine credentials.
Born to Yatani Kanacho, a Gabra elder in 1967, Yatani set out on a journey from a humble beginning that later saw him serve in various capacities in government, including an ambassadorial role, an assistant minister and governor.
His scholastic pursuit had begun in 1975 when he was enrolled to a school in Maikon before moving to North Horr Primary School in 1978.
He sat his Certificate of Primary Education (CPE) examination in 1981 and emerged the top student in the then Marsabit District and was given a scholarship by the Jomo Kenyatta Foundation to join Garbatulla High school where he equally performed well and later joined Kabarnet High School for his A-levels between 1986 and 1987.
Yatani received his Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Sociology degree from Egerton University in 1991 and recognising his dedication to public service he was appointed a district officer.
Hard-working, focused, and committed to service delivery, Yatani quickly rose through the ranks from district officer cadet to a senior district officer and then promoted to a district commissioner in July 2002.
In this position, he successfully coordinated State business, managed government resources, maintained law and order, directed disaster relief operations and implemented long-term strategic plans that improved government services and the lives of local residents.
Last year, Yatani landed his biggest job shot after the widening rift within Jubilee precipitated the exit of his predecessor Henry Rotich in an acting role at the Treasury.
It came after President Uhuru Kenyatta chose to sidestep Parliament to avoid factional wars within the ruling party that could have sabotaged the appointment of a substantive finance chief.
His appointment came amid fears that Treasury was descending into shambles following the prosecution of Rotich, his Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge and other officials over alleged graft.
Rotich’s exit created a leadership vacuum at the ministry, consequently grounding most operations.
In his maiden speech, Yatani acknowledged that his new assignment was challenging but promised to give it his best to ensure fiscal soundness of the economy as well the success of the Big Four agenda.
“I thank the President for the honour and trust he has bestowed on me by appointing me the acting CS for Treasury.
I promise to do my best in order to realise his dreams of transforming this nation,” he said.
Yatani served as Member of Parliament for North Horr for nine months, during which professionals were harassed and intimidated.
He was, however, lucky and was appointed the Kenyan Ambassador to Austria with his portfolio also including Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia.
In 2013 Yatani was elected to pioneer the devolved County Government becoming the leader of the largest county in the nation.
He returned to run for governor in 2013 and asked for forgiveness from the elders who then backed him as the Gabra candidate under the Regabu alliance, a loose ethnic collation of Gabra, Rendille and Burjis against the Borana candidate Mohamud Ali, the current governor.
In 2018, a section of leaders came out to strongly oppose the nomination of Yatani as the Labour CS.
Yatani also served as the governor of the board for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which works to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy around the world.
Among his many accomplishments at the IAEA during his tenure, was the strategic use of strength and diplomacy to de-escalate and safeguard Iran’s nuclear capacity.