Instability has rocked the once-solid communications team that has traditionally surrounded President William Ruto for over a decade. Recent events, attributed to the entry of Hussein Mohamed as State House Spokesperson caused the old order, at the top of which is David Mugonyi, President Ruto’s long-time spokesperson.
After his swearing-in, President Ruto appointed Mohamed (pictured, left) as the State House Spokesperson, elevating him from his campaign role as director of communications. And it seemed like a no-brainer: Mohammed was the man for the job because of his extensive expertise in journalism and his ability to manage public relations effectively. His experience as a journalist gave him an edge to handle media interactions and manage the president’s image.
But others felt that Ruto already had a solid team of communications experts, who have been around him for many years, and that an extra communications person would simply spoil the party. Besides, Mugonyi already had his eyes set on the Spokesperson role.
Hussein’s tenure as State House spokesperson was off to a rocky start as the President’s confidants felt that a newcomer was not the best person to control the flow of information to the public, as both camps jostled for control to act as the intermediaries between the President and the public, in a bickering war reminiscent of the turf wars between former State House Communications Director Dennis Itumbi and then State House Spokesperson Manoah Esipisu, who is currently Kenya’s ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Sources intimate that both Mugonyi and Mohamed’s teams have been trying to outdo the other as they jostle for the president’s ear and attention, including frustrating access to anyone deemed to be friendly to the other side, and creating a great deal of tension and infighting. The situation was further complicated by the release of Executive Order No 1 in late 2022, which placed Mohamed under the Head of the Presidential Press Service – something that has never happened before.
The situation became so bad that Hussein Mohamed was reportedly considering quitting. However, this was resolved by a subsequent Executive Order in 2023, which separated the offices of Mohamed and Mugonyi.
The control of information about the president has always been a politically charged issue, with various stakeholders eager to stay close to the person in charge, the result being bitter infighting within the State House as individuals jostle for position and control over the president’s public communications.
The situation has been further complicated by the fact that the Head of PPS is largely invisible, unable to talk to the media, take interviews, or release press statements. This has left Mugonyi feeling threatened, as he is unable to perform the same high-profile tasks as the spokesperson. The tension almost negatively impacted work at State House, as statements were finding their way out in the public before they could be officially released – leading to talk of potential sabotage. (