Lobbying for the 22 Cabinet secretaries slots has intensified with both serving and those aspiring to hold the plum jobs adopting innovative ways to catch President Uhuru Kenyatta’s eye.
By so doing, they hope that they will be giving themselves a head start amid speculation that the list of nominees will be handed to the Speaker of the National Assembly before Christmas.
It is expected that succession politics will have a big influence on who gets appointed.
Already, counties, interest groups as well as individuals have been canvassing for the positions, with some basing their appeals on the need for the presidency to reward loyalty.
Others have asked the President and his deputy, Mr William Ruto, to also consider gender and regional balance, with inclusion being a key plank in their lobbying.
For instance, the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) has asked the President to appoint at least seven women to his Cabinet as one way of implementing the one third gender rule.
“The women of Kenya call upon you to uphold the spirit and letter of the Constitution. We look forward to at least seven Cabinet seats assigned to competent and qualified women,” said Ms Josephine Wambua-Mong’are, the chairperson of Fida Kenya.
President Kenyatta, who has barely started his second and final term, will be seeking to appoint a team that will not only solidify his legacy but also play a key role in steering the country after the end of his tenure in 2022.
Although many of the incumbent CSs are working to retain their seats, there are those who are seeking to unseat them.
Many of them are facing competition from their own counties from politicians who are seeking to find their way in.
Unlike in 2013 when Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto invited applications, this time round, this is yet to happen.
Although the two had promised that there would only be token politicians in the Cabinet, the number of politicians grew in the run-up to the election and this is likely to influence how the new team will look.
Those eying the appointments are using both covert and overt methods to ensure that their interests in the slots are conveyed to the appointing authority.
Emissaries have been sent privately to convey such interests, while others have opted to showcase their loyalty and qualification in the hope they will catch the President’s eye.
Among the rank ‘outsiders’ who are actively eying a slot in the Cabinet are Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba, former Funyula MP Paul Otuoma and former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar.
There are those within the Jubilee Party who have indicated that the Secretary-General, Mr Raphael Tuju, could also be considered.
Others are former governors Moses Akaranga, Peter Munya, David Nkadianye and Kinuthia Mbugua, who has already been offered a State House posting after losing the August 8 election.
Former Kilifi North MP Gideon Mung’aro, former Garsen MP Danson Mungatana, Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau and former Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro are also said to be angling for positions.
It is unlikely that all the politicians will be invited to the Cabinet, which could reach 22.
The President will be under pressure to balance the many competing interests while also ensuring that he has a team that can deliver both on their dockets and also beyond.
In his inauguration speech, he said that one of the things he will prioritise is national unity, so this will be a key consideration in his appointments.
As a rule, recruitment to the Cabinet involves elements of reward, fulfilling election promises and planning for succession.
“As a young president, Kenyatta is keen to keep his word on all the promises he has made,” said University of Nairobi don Herman Manyora.
Regional balance is playing a critical role in the lobbying. For instance, Mr Namwamba is up against Dr Otuoma, Water CS Eugene Wamalwa, and Environment’s Judi Wakhungu.
Everything else being constant, it might come down to performance who between them can secure support for the Jubilee Party in the region, which is an Opposition stronghold.
In Meru County, the contest between Mr Munya and Lands CS Jacob Kaimenyi is shaping up, with accusations and counter-accusation by their respective supporters noted earlier this week.
Whereas Mr Munya has the backing of the Nchuri Ncheke Council of Elders, Prof Kaimenyi has turned to professionals from the county for support.
“We appreciate it is the prerogative of the President to appoint his Cabinet. But as you perform this key national duty we will appreciate if you reappoint Prof Kaimenyi,” the professionals said at a press conference last week.
The Njuri Ncheke have not only cursed Prof Kaimenyi but also asked President Kenyatta to drop him. It will also be remembered that Mr Munya was promised a government position in return for his support for Jubilee and the President’s re-election campaign.
Not all counties are rocked by wrangles, however. On Monday, Members of the County Assembly drawn from Elgeyo Marakwet described National Treasury CS Henry Rotich as a “performer” and an “asset” to the government and pleaded with the President to retain him.
“His appointment saw Jubilee Party get overwhelming support in this year’s elections. As grassroots leaders, we call on the President to retain Mr Rotich in his new Cabinet” the MCAs said.
In the South Rift, leaders have openly advocated for former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto to be rewarded for agreeing to leave Nasa and support the Jubilee Party after the August 8 General Election.
Cheplaungu MP Gideon Koskei said the former governor sacrificed his political ambitions to ensure that President Kenyatta and his deputy get maximum support in the South Rift region in the repeat presidential elections, and therefore should be rewarded. But this will be easier said and done.
In neighbouring Kericho Jubilee MPs have endorsed the retention of Mr Charles Keter, the Energy CS, on the strength of the last mile electricity connectivity programme under the Energy docket which they said persuaded Kenyans to vote for Jubilee.
However, legislators Nelson Koech (Belgut) and Japheth Mutai told the President the region deserves two Cabinet slots.
In Kirinyaga, the name of Martha Karua is being mentioned. When she abandoned the opposition, endorsed President Kenyatta and declared interest in the Kirinyaga gubernatorial seat, Jubilee welcomed her with both arms.
During the hotly contested race for the Kirinyaga governor’s seat, which Ms Anne Waiguru eventually won, President Kenyatta promised a government slot for whoever lost.
In Mombasa, former Senator Omar Hassan’s defection to Jubilee was seen as a first step towards a government job.
However, he is a Johnnie-come-lately and his appointment could ruffle political feathers among those who have been in Jubilee longer.
- Others have asked the President and his deputy, Mr William Ruto, to also consider gender and regional balance.
- FIDA has asked the President to appoint at least seven women to his Cabinet.
- Unlike in 2013 when Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto invited applications, this time round, this is yet to happen.