President William Ruto’s hollowing out of state institutions – by placing loyalists in key positions and enabling his cronies – is the source of his present frustration.
On August 1, 2023, the President and his deputy, Rigathi Gachagua, lashed out at government officials for showing up late to government events, with state officers suffering the ignominy of being locked out of State House where CSs and PSs had been called to sign performance contracts. The President expressed his frustration, citing instances of lateness to meetings and a lack of commitment to their work, which has translated into performance laxity.
The President also lamented that he had often found himself being more knowledgeable about certain ministry matters than the appointed CSs and PSs, questioning how he could be expected to receive proper advice when those in charge were oblivious to their roles and responsibilities.
But the sole answer lies with the head-of-state himself. By appointing a large number of friends, loyalists and cronies to crucial state functions without due regard to their qualifications, he set himself up for failure from the beginning. He cannot then turn around and question the effectiveness of the ‘unqualified’ people he appointed.
Appointing cabinet and principal secretaries based solely on political allegiance, as has been proven and cannot be repeated too often, leads to bad advice and policy.
The President’s lamentation speaks to his frustration at his own choices, and leaves a bitter taste in the mouth for the Kenyans who placed their trust in him at the ballot. What is more, it gives credence to concerns raised by Kenyans who have long questioned the qualifications and credentials of most state officers.
CSs reading from different scripts
More concerning, perhaps, is a recent tendency by cabinet secretaries to contradict one another on official policy, pointing to discord and incompetence, and raising concerns over their understanding of their mandates and the need for stronger central leadership.
Interior CS Kithure Kindiki (left) and his ICT counterpart Eliud Owalo.
One of the most recent instances is the conflicting statements made by Interior CS Kithure Kindiki and ICT CS Eliud Owalo regarding the cryptocurrency project, WorldCoin. Kindiki announced the suspension of World Coin activities citing safety concerns, while Owalo, merely 24 hours earlier, had asserted that the project was operating legally in Kenya. Instances like this only sow confusion and undermine the government’s credibility on regulatory matters.
At another time, Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi contradicted Trade CS Moses Kuria’s statement about sugar importation before the Senate, denying that he had issued permits for 200,000 metric tonnes of sugar. Kuria, on the other hand, maintained that the importation was underway.
Similarly, Linturi has at one time distanced himself from plans to import GMO maize, contrary to Kuria’s earlier statements advocating for it – and both of these on the life-and-death matter of food safety and security.
Besides bringing to question the competency of his CSs, the divisions in Cabinet reflect poorly on Ruto’s leadership. The president’s team needs to be aligned, well-coordinated, and focused on delivering the promises made to the Kenyan people, not pulling in different directions.