Uhuru fires key advisors in State House purge

Uhuru fires key advisors in State House purge

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Uhuru Kenyatta has fired top advisers over multiple blunders he has been making and opted to rely on intelligence, military men and other security apparatus in running his government. The move comes after Uhuru earlier wiped out William Ruto’s sympathisers from State House for being perceived to be doing inside jobs for the DP.

Lawrence Lenayapa

Notable ones who were chucked out were State House Comptroller Lawrence Lenayapa, Manoah Esipisu head of Presidential Communication team, Eric Ng’eno the presidential speechwriter and Dennis Itumbi the head of IT. Uhuru’s decision to sideline politicians, close family members and business friends is based on secret reports that they are partisan in his succession gameplan and are out to scuttle various presidential aspirants’ bids purely based on personal political interests, future business investments and fear of those in plum government positions being sacked in the impending transition. For business friends, they were using their closeness to the head of state to land lucrative government tenders.

The said advisers were pushing Uhuru to make major cabinet and changes in government to sack pro-Ruto allies in government. There has been an icy relationship between the president and his deputy. However, Weekly Citizen has established that the move was shelved by the president himself on grounds that by appointing new faces to the cabinet, it needed parliamentary approval and most likely, with the current divided Jubilee and ODM leader Raila Odinga facing rebellion from MPs outside Luo Nyanza, the possibility of the nominees not being cleared was real. Thus, the positions would remain vacant derailing service delivery and sabotaging his government. By then, talk was rife of a reshuffle that would have seen ODM, Musalia Mudavadi’s ANC, Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper, Gideon Moi’s Kanu and Moses Wetang’ula nominate names to the cabinet to form a government of national unity.

Uhuru’s decision was informed by the realisation that the advisers were also using State House influence to land or force their proxies to land lucrative state tenders some which have ended up tainting his image locally and internationally. To complicate matters is the current political rating of Uhuru among his Kikuyu tribesmen that has been dipping due to the impoverishment of the community. It is common to nowadays see Kikuyus unable to afford basics while many who a short five years ago were considered well off are now so badly off they are having to sell their cars and land to survive. “Huyu mtu amepeleka pesa wapi?” you hear Kikuyus ask. Reports indicate that the Kikuyu nation is hostile to Uhuru and even support of BBI referendum in the region will be impossible even if it goes through the county assemblies.

To Uhuru, the now isolated members of his kitchen cabinet were partisan in succession power games and were seeking a way to be relevant after the 2022 polls when he will have exited the political stage. Some of the president’s key advisers and senior staff at State House were also accused of trying to influence decisions of other holders of public offices, questioning their intent. Insiders revealed that those the president has sidelined as advisers include Interior principal secretary Karanja Kibicho, long-serving presidential adviser Nancy Gitau, Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju, chief of staff Nzioka Waita, his deputy Njee Muturi, ICT cabinet secretary Joe Mucheru and his Water counterpart Sicily Kariuki. We could not establish the fate of Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe.

Karanja Kibicho

At the family level, sources added that the president has made a surprise move not to frequently consult his younger brother Muhoho Kenyatta, and private secretary Jomo Gecaga, in the running of his government. He uses the Covid-19 protocols to dodge them citing social distancing measures. It is said on the family side, Uhuru now prefers dealing with First Lady Margaret, who is sober-minded, his mum Mama Ngina and his uncle George Muhoho who was in Mwai Kibaki’s kitchen cabinet and served as minister in Moi’s regime. Those sidelined were part of the team Uhuru had formed after the 2017 repeat presidential elections to contain Ruto.

The disbanded advisory team met often to devise strategies on containing Ruto. At one time last year, a section of cabinet secretaries from Mount Kenya region hit the headlines when it was claimed that they were meeting secretly in city hotels to block Ruto presidential bid where it was alleged that they were being backed by State House insiders. Of the disbanded advisory team, some had become vocal and had even publicly declared Uhuru would not hand over power to Ruto should the DP triumph. Some of those dropped now book appointments to meet the head of state and strictly if allowed to State House in the evening, they only share a drink with the president and do not discuss politics.

So boring are these sprees downing gallons of choice whisky without spicing it with political skulduggery that some get sleepy nursing glasses in their hands as they only unzip their mouths to sip. Soon, one said, music might as well be introduced to fill in the long uncomfortable bouts of silence. Also barred from State House unless summoned by the president is Nancy who has now relocated to her Kileleshwa office where she is leading civic education for the Building Bridges Initiative. The purge was a blow to Nancy who has been a resident at State House from the time of Kibaki. Before joining Kibaki, Nancy worked for the United States Agency for International Development where she was involved in the democracy and governance sector.

One of the projects she oversaw was a partnership between Kenya’s parliament and the State University of New York Albany’s Centre for International Development which was at one time managed by Sam Mwale and Fred Matiang’i. Mwale and Matiang’i would later become civil servant bureaucrats, serving as permanent secretary and cabinet secretary, respectively. For long, Nancy has been at loggerheads with Ruto and was at one time accused of being one of the architects of a report that implicated the DP in the 2007 post-election violence. Incidentally, she was in the team that was meeting at La Mada Hotel located in the New Muthaiga residential area in Nairobi where Ruto claimed in 2019 that a plot to assassinate him had been hatched by people known to Uhuru.

For Kibicho, he has now been directed to concentrate on his duties at Harambee House and keep off from politics. Kibicho’s troubles started when Kirinyaga governor Anne Waiguru blamed him for sponsoring an impeachment motion against her. It is said Uhuru summoned Kibicho to explain the allegations but the powerful PS told the head of state that the governor was playing politics by involving his name as a scapegoat. It is the same case with Mucheru and Kariuki, who have been directed to be making appearances at State House during cabinet meetings or any other time the president calls them, unlike in the past when they would pop in any time. Kariuki’s tribulations have to do with graft at Health ministry when she served as CS. For Jomo, there are reports he had been kicked out of State House.

The sources added that the decision to sideline Uhuru’s young brother, Muhoho was tactical to avoid dragging the family in the mud over Uhuru’s succession. Muhoho, the chaperon of the Kenyatta family’s vast business empire which sweeps across agriculture, education, finance, hospitality, insurance, media, equity, property and real estate, has been ordered to run the empire from Chancery House on Valley Road, but with unlimited access to State House to discuss family business matters. The move now stops him from holding political sway as in the past as Uhuru would always consult him on major political decisions. For instance, Muhoho and his mother, Mama Ngina, played major roles in securing Uhuru and Raila’s truce culminating in the March 9 handshake which calmed bitter political rivalry after the 2017 protracted elections.

Insiders added that the advisers dropped were the architects of the purge on Ruto’s allies in the senate and national assembly, which has come to haunt the president. It was coordinated by Njee who was always spotted during proceedings lobbying among parliamentarians. In the purge, Kithure Kindiki, the senator of Tharaka Nithi county was dropped as deputy speaker and replaced by his Uasin Gishu counterpart Margaret Kamar while West Pokot Senator Samuel Poghisio replaced Elgeyo-Marakwet’s Kipchumba Murkomen as majority leader. In the national assembly, Garissa Township MP Adan Duale was dropped as majority leader and replaced by his Kipipiri counterpart Amos Kimunya.

But the changes, and others in both houses, have not helped Uhuru but left him in an awkward position as he has lost support in the victims’ strongholds. The president cannot make any changes in the government as this would need parliamentary approval. The best he can do is to institute presidential decree as was in the case of the appointment of Major General Mohammed Badi to the Nairobi city county. The advisers were also seeking to influence the 2022 general election by mooting decisions to disadvantage the deputy president whom they loathe. This explains why the deputy president is not facing the tribulations visited on him as the president is keen to ensure a level playing field in next year’s polls and does not mind who wins or loses the election.

Muhoho Kenyatta

The president, sources added, took the drastic decision after the advisers several times threw the presidency into disrepute by giving him bad advice which ended up embarrassing him. Some of the bad decisions blamed on the advisers include sidelining the deputy president by even having cabinet secretaries or politicians deliver the president’s message in functions such as funerals in the presence of the second-in-command and using county commissioners to stop Ruto events and those of his allies. The latest incident was in Machakos County during the burial of area senator Boniface Kabaka where angry mourners stormed out in protest after Ruto invited Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka to deliver the president’s condolences.

Uhuru was later to be told that blocking Ruto was making him even more unpopular. Besides, where would Uhuru hide if Ruto became president? Keen observers will have noticed that of late Ruto is provided with security whenever visiting an area. The president is now relying on the advice of Chief-of-General Staff Robert Kibochi, National Intelligence Service Director General Philip Kameru, State House Comptroller Kinuthia Mbugua and Head of Civil Service Joseph Kinyua who is set to retire. Uhuru has refused to accept Kinyua’s retirement due to his input in handling major crises. Another new player in the kitchen cabinet is a senior State House officer George Kariuki. It is these men, together with Mama Ngina who advised the president to drop his hardline stance on his deputy and instead cultivate a cordial relation with him.

They also advised the head of state to ensure a level playing field so that Kenyans decide on whom his successor will be, just like his predecessor Kibaki did. Many were surprised when Ruto read Uhuru’s speech during the burial of former cabinet minister Joseph Nyaga in Embu. It was this team that also advised the president to shift base and usher the New Year celebrations at his new ranch home in Trans Mara West sub-county in Narok county where he plans to retreat to after the end of his tenure as president. Uhuru’s new home occupies over 1000 acres neighbouring the famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve. It is in Lolgorian ward and is heavily guarded. It was purchased from two groups of ranches Olerian and Kengami.

Mama Ngina Kenyatta

Weekly Citizen has information that unlike before when Kenyatta family visited Mombasa during the festive season, this time they were all holed in Trans Mara to usher in the new year and grace Uhuru’s acquired landmark property as president. It was purely a family affair and even his New Year message to Kenyans was recorded and not live. The new advisers are mostly military men being preferred on grounds that they are neutral in Uhuru’s succession and have no political ambitions but have the country at heart having taken an oath to defend the country just like Uhuru who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The presence of Kibochi who was sworn in as the new Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces in May last year influence in the corridors of power is being felt.

Robert Kariuki Kibochi

Others, however, say that these are yes-man who only follow orders without question and have no minds of their own. NIS director also a military man Kameru is a man with unhindered access to the president and delivers intelligence briefs daily. Kameru is said to be sober in decision-making and gets on well with all politicians he believes will influence Uhuru’s succession. Kameru wants all key politicians involved in BBI process to unite the country in the post-Uhuru era and be the president’s legacy. Uhuru’s current headache is BBI referendum passage hence his own personal initiative to have Mudavadi, Kalonzo and Wetang’ula be part of the process after the discovery that a section of dropped handlers was sidelining them.

Margaret Kenyatta

Uhuru is also in talks with Ruto on the BBI issue after being told that fired innercore brigade wanted to use it to set the stage for next year’s elections. Analysts say that with a united country after elections, investors’ confidence will be back, leading to double-digit economic growth within two years as it happened when Kibaki won elections in Moi succession and Uhuru accepted defeat. Post-elections violence according to secret reports, has greatly derailed economic growth and need to be addressed for future prosperity. Insiders added that the president has also retained as advisers Justin Muturi, national assembly speaker, his senate counterpart Kenneth Lusaka and Interior cabinet secretary Matiang’i.

Kinuthia Mbugua

Matiang’i also gets own well with military faces in government. Health CS Mutahi Kagwe has taken a slot in the kitchen cabinet. Muturi is among individuals the president has been consulting before making important pronouncements. For Waita, his star started dimming when he was dropped as head of the President’s Delivery Unit. The move saw this Uhuru schoolmate at St Mary’s School lose the prestigious unofficial title of Uhuru’s Mr Fix It. He has now turned to the bottle to drown his worries. For Njee, a schoolmate of Uhuru at Saints and formerly Uhuru’s personal assistant for 11 years and solicitor general, many in the president’s circle blame him for legal blunders that saw laws passed in parliament successfully challenged in court.

As Solicitor General, Njee was a constant figure in the national assembly’s public gallery to ensure MPs toed the line in controversial security amendments. Today, key departments such as ODPP, Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission, Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, Financial Reporting Centre, National Social Security Fund, Kenya Maritime Authority and the Kenya Coast Guard Service are manned by intelligence or military men. They are Captain Gilbert Kibe for Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, Cyrus Oguna as government spokesman, NTSA chairman Lt Gen (Rtd) Jackson Waweru, Kenya Railways Corporation chairman Gen (Rtd) Jeremiah Kianga and KPA chairman Gen (Rtd) Joseph Kibwana, NSSF chairman (General (Rtd) Julius Karangi.

Others are Twalib Mbarak who served at the National Intelligence Service and now heads EACC and Alexander Muteshi, formerly NIS director of counter-terrorism and now Immigration Services boss. Muteshi replaced retired Major-General Gordon Kihalangwa who was appointed as the principal secretary in the ministry of Defence. Mwathethe is now chairman Kengen board chairman after he retired from the military. His arrival at the board has seen Kengen MD Rebecca Miano and top managers panic.