President Uhuru Kenyatta’s address to the nation on Tuesday 26th November was clear and straight to the point. The time had come for him to make seemingly radical yet necessary changes in his government.
What many of us may not have realized yet is that such changes are not unique to the Jubilee administration. Throughout history various rulers, monarchs, dictators, despots, and even democratically elected presidents have had to grapple with this difficult and slippery scenario that can either make or break a regime. In modern day democracies, this moment of reckoning usually pops up just around the middle of the first term of a regime. A good example is the much hyped re-organization of government by President Mwai Kibaki in 2005 during which he dismissed his entire cabinet.
Unfortunately, very few presidents get it right. In most instances, the political fortunes of many regimes dwindle even further after this reshuffle.
Maybe this inability to make the right decisions and choices can be attributed to the fact that a good number of those tasked with advising the president are still too drunk with the excitement of being in power to offer any rational counsel.
Perhaps the reality of how difficult it is to run a government is finally dawning and thus the president realizes the people he appointed at the beginning due to their input in his campaigns may not be the best for cabinet positions.
Fast changing political terrain since election time may also have transformed initial regime supporters into critics and vice versa and thus the need for a reshuffle to accommodate new entrants and do away with betrayers.
The approaching re-election campaign also plays a key role in determining who is dropped, absorbed, moved or retained.
Either, constitutional requirements may force the president to make changes in government.
Interestingly, almost all these factors seem to have shaped President Kenyatta’s cabinet reshuffle.
A critical look at the changes announced at State House Nairobi shows that the scion of Jomo – who has bestrode this country like a colossus for two and half years now – was keen on scoring several points at a go.
First and most critical, the man from Gatundu was keen on using the changes to step up his efforts of fighting corruption which has been his regime’s biggest headache. To drive this point home, the president fired all the five Cabinet secretaries who have been on suspension since March this year over graft allegations.
Two, President Kenyatta was keen to expand his government so as to improve delivery. There was a notable increase in the number of CSs and PSs as compared to the list he presented before Parliament when he nominated his first cabinet. Several new faces from the private sector were also brought on board.
Thirdly, the reshuffle rectified a situation where the President was risking operating unconstitutionally in regards to the number of CSs that he ought to have at any given time. Upon the resignation of Devolution and Planning CS Anne Waiguru a few days earlier, the cabinet had remained with only 13 CSs which is short of the constitutional requirement of at least 14 CSs.
Finally, the President took this opportunity to stamp his political authority. He brought on board several politicians presumably to help him deal with the rising political temperatures as the country prepares for the 2017 General elections. Definitely, the former Gatundu South legislator will be seeking another term.
But perhaps the most interesting political angle of the appointments is the nomination firebrand Laikipia politician Mwangi Kiunjuri as the Devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary. In the recent past, the powerful docket has been an easy target for the opposition as it is assumed that ability to bring down the CS in charge like it happened with Anne Waiguru translates to a major political score. However, with a guy like Mwangi Kiunjuri at the helm, the task may turn out to a bit more difficult. Apart from being a former assistant minister, Kiunjuri is a seasoned politician with several feathers in his cap. The man from Nyeri does not shy away from controversy. He will definitely weather the political storms that come with the plum job better than his predecessor.
Will the reshuffle make or break the Jubilee regime? Only time can tell.
Alvan Kinyua is a Kenyan communications enthusiast, digital strategist&blogger, socio-political analyst and avid writer. He comments on topical issues.