President Uhuru Kenyatta has once again enhanced the power of Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i charging him with coordinating delivery of national priorities and flagship programmes.
The changes, contained in Executive Order Number Six of 2019, are a follow up of the directive issued at the beginning of the year placing the Cabinet Secretary in charge of more State corporations and the day to day running of government.
“To foster the integration of the functions of Registration of Persons and the functions of Immigration, the State Department for Interior and the State Department for Immigration and Citizen Services are merged to establish the State department for Interior and Citizen Services. The State Department for Interior and Citizen Services shall be domiciled within the Ministry of Interior and Co-ordination of National Government,” reads the order.
By virtue of chairing the Cabinet Committee on Development, Dr Matiang’i’ is seen as a “super minister” of sorts with his detractors calling him “the Prime Minister”.
Earlier in the year Mr Kenyatta appointed Dr Matiangi Chairman of the National Development Implementation and Communication Committee putting him in charge of all CSs.
The move further puts the CS in the pole position in initiating, launching and supervising development projects — a key facet that DP William Ruto has been banking on to enhance his presence across the country ahead of the 2022 elections when he hopes to succeed the president. The Executive order will no doubt breed more suspicion because the DP has privately complained to his handlers that Dr Matiang’i’s previous elevation had to do with efforts to scuttle his ascension to power.
He has in the past accused a cabal of State functionaries based at the Office of the President and led by Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho of running a campaign to stop his presidential bid, a charge they deny. The Cabinet has in the past been hit by reports of some CSs allied to the DP boycotting sessions chaired by Dr Matiang’i, forcing the government to clarify that all was well within the Executive.
There is fear that the toxic environment will gain more currency in the run up to the next elections as those allied to Mr Ruto in the Cabinet strongly come out in his support.
In yesterday’s re-arrangement of the Executive, the Irrigation department was curved from the Agriculture ministry to that of Water headed by Mr Simon Chelugui.
Observers say that is where it should have been in the first place.
“To enhance synergy within the water sector which is a key enabler for the implementation of the Big Four, the State Department for Irrigation is merged with the State Department for Water and Sanitation to establish the Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation,” the President said.
To some, Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri was a casualty of the changes.
He has come out as one of the leading defenders of the DP in Central Kenya at a time when a group of MPs from the region — under the Kieleweke lobby — is opposed to Mr Ruto’s presidential ambitions.
Dr Matiang’i will also lead efforts to achieve national cohesion at a time when the country is staring at a possible referendum drive after the Dr Ekuru Aukot led Punguza Mizigo initiative got the nod of the electoral body to go ahead and convince the 47 county assemblies to ratify his proposal to alter the laws of the land.
There is also the possibility of another referendum push under the auspices of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) set up by Mr Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga. The team is currently writing their report for the two principals.
There are loud murmurs that the two leading politicians are keen on a plebiscite to change the Constitution and create more positions to reduce the risk of tension during elections occasioned by the winner-take-it all arrangement currently in place.
President Kenyatta has named Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani to replace Henry Rotich at the Treasury in an acting capacity.