Uhuru Pushes Ruto Out of Mount Kenya

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President sacked one, demoted two of the DP's allies in Cabinet in a strategic restructuring.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, DP William Ruto and Devolution CS Mwangi Kiunjuri at the venue for the Fifth National and County Government Coordinating Summit at State Lodge, Sagana. /FILE

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday moved to puncture his Deputy William Ruto’s 2022 political machine.

The President sacked one and demoted two of the DP's allies in Cabinet in a massive but strategic government restructuring.

The President also moved to appease his restless Mount Kenya backyard with goodies to struggling milk, coffee and tea farmers that his detractors have latched on to shred his legacy.

At the same time, Uhuru named some allies of Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka to top government positions, dealing a blow to the DP who claims the latter’s aim is to tear apart Jubilee.

In his address to the nation from Mombasa, the head of state restated his commitment to the Building Bridges Initiative that Ruto claims has been “hijacked to craft ODM's 2022 political lineup”.

In the Cabinet reshuffle, Uhuru fired Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, one of Ruto’s most ardent foot soldiers in Mount Kenya.

Kiunjuri – initially seen as Ruto’s would be running mate – had teamed up with the pro-Ruto Tangatanga brigade to become the face of the anti-BBI crusade in the region.

In his speech on Tuesday, the President asked anti-graft detectives including the National Intelligence Service to smoke out graft cartels, particularly in the Ministry of Agriculture

“It should also put the agricultural sector under the microscope,” Uhuru ordered.

After kicking out Kiunjuri, Uhuru brought in ex-Nyeri Senator Mutahi Kagwe as the new Health CS.

Kagwe is among the strongest BBI proponents in Central Kenya and was the master of ceremony at the Sagana meeting in November last year where Uhuru met leaders to pacify the restless region.

Kagwe and a host of former lawmakers have been gravitating towards Raila.

“I cannot see a situation where Raila is not going to run for political office in 2022. If you look at the behavior of Raila lately, he is an elder statesman and if you ask me, he is extremely presidential,” Kagwe said in 2018.

In the new changes, Simon Chelugui, a Ruto man, was moved from the lucrative Water and Irrigation Ministry to the less influential Ministry of Labour.

Ruto is believed to be using Chelugui to checkmate his political rival, Baringo Senator Gideon Moi as the two hail from the same region.

Water projects spearheaded by Chelugui’s ministry are among those the DP has been launching across the country to the chagrin of the President’s men.

In the new lineup, Uhuru handed CS Peter Munya, a fierce Ruto critic, a huge portfolio making him among the most influential ministers in the Jubilee administration.

Munya who was Industrialization, Trade, Enterprise Development and Cooperatives CS was moved to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives.

Munya was given an additional state department of cooperatives which was hived off from industrialization.

The Industrialization Ministry was given to Betty Maina, a close Ruto confidant who has been serving as Principal Secretary Environment.

Uhuru also brought in some allies of Raila and Kalonzo in the new-look government.

Among them are former Nyakach MP Peter Odoyo who was named Chief Administrative Secretary Defence and ex-Kathiani MP Wavinya Ndeti who now becomes CAS Transport.

Former Sonu chairman and Jubilee activist Zack Kinuthia was named CAS Education, making him the youngest high ranking leader in Jubilee.

Kinuthia is a strong critic of the DP and recently teamed up with ODM youths to wage a strong campaign against McDonald Mariga, the Ruto candidate in the November 7 by-election.

He is a close ally of nominated MP Maina Kamanda who leads the anti-Ruto brigade named Kieleweke.

“He [Uhuru] is simply trying to send a message he won’t take nonsense anymore. This decision doesn’t really smell nice for Ruto and must affect him. It is also a warning to his people and Mt Kenya,” said political analyst Herman Manyora

Patrick ole Ntutu, a close Ruto ally who has been serving as CAS in the Ministry of Interior, was also moved.

Ntutu, a former Narok Senator, will now be CAS for Labour and Social Protection.

To appease farmers – most of whom had shown their discontent with his administration - Uhuru ordered Treasury to release funds to rejuvenate the sectors.

Tea, coffee, and milk farmers’ trouble with the crops is argued to have fuelled the growing rebellion against the President in his backyard.

Leaders from the region, during a meeting at Sagana last November, called out Uhuru citing the low prices of tea, milk and the near death of the coffee sector.

Pundits have observed that the DP’s team seemed to have taken advantage of the upheavals to drive a narrative that painted Uhuru as having failed his own people.

Uhuru directed Treasury to release the Sh3 billion Cherry Revolving Fund to support coffee farmers and Sh1 billion to be injected into Kenya Cooperative Creameries (KCC).

Money to KCC will be for buying excess milk from farmers and for enhancing the processing capacity of milk plants in Nyeri and Nyahururu.

President Kenyatta ordered the removal of tea brokers, further calling for the restructuring of the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA).

On BBI, the President’s move is likely to puncture the DP’s momentum in the campaign against the document - which was already drawing sympathies from across the board.

Ruto, during last weekend’s activities gave the strongest signal he was not with the President on the renewed BBI campaigns.

The DP questioned the source of funds to drive the campaign and dismissed it as a pedestal for the Raila Odinga-led ODM party’s campaigns for 2022.

On many occasions, the DP and his allies have dismissed the BBI as a plot by the President to extend his stay beyond his term and to create positions for poll losers.

But in his address to the nation, his boss dealt him a blow by reiterating the Executive’s stance on the process which he argued would unite Kenyans.

The President vouched for an end to the scenario of winner-takes-all elections, signaling support for the expansion of the Executive to introduce posts of Prime Minister and two deputies.

“BBI will be the end of winner-take-all politics. We are on a path to end the cycles of election crises. This is the only path to winning the economic kingdom,” the President said.

“We must give ourselves a different political template if we are to truly prosper and not be dragged down by never-ending squabbling.”

He described the BBI process as all-inclusive and one where all voices would be heard “as an end to ethnic majoritarianism”.

“Every so often, the nation must come together and renegotiate its nationhood. We did it in Lancaster in the 1960s leading to the Lancaster consensus. We did it in the 1990s and then in 2008. It is time for a new consensus,” President Kenyatta said.

He called on politicians to appreciate that political power for the sake of it will not make the country great and that the same “can only help if used as a means to greater end”.

“We must, therefore, use politics to shift the economy and address the plight of the most vulnerable members of our society.  We must use politics to better the livelihoods of Kenyans.”

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