Kenya's President Ruto makes cabinet reshuffle

Thursday October 05 2023
Kenya’s President William Ruto

Kenya’s President William Ruto speaking during a past press briefing. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG


Kenya's President William Ruto on Wednesday night reshuffled eight members of his cabinet, folding the Foreign Affairs docket to the Prime Cabinet Secretary's office which is headed by Musalia Mudavadi.

Mudavadi will now double as Foreign and Diaspora Affairs cabinet secretary after Alfred Mutua was moved to Tourism and Wildlife.

"The president, in exercise of the presidential prerogative vested in the Head of State and Government, has reorganised the executive. As a result, changes have been made to the portfolio mandates of ministries and state departments," Kenya state house said in a release last night.

It's worth noting that the head of state has not removed any members of the executive in the changes, only moved them around. In the changes, he shifted functions and reconstituted some ministries.

A few months ago, he publicly lambasted his cabinet and accused some of them of being clueless in matters concerning their portfolios.

Read: Disappointments, high living cost cloud Ruto’s 1 year in office


"You know there's a problem when I know what's going on in the tour schedules better than you do," he said.

The comment was seen by pundits as setting the stage for the reshuffle. Many said at the time that it was the clearest signal that Ruto was showing some of his ministers the door.

Mudavadi's elevation immediately excited his social media base, which may not bode well for Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.

Those around Gachagua see Mudavadi as his checkmate in government, with suggestions that he could well be the president's running mate in 2027.

Read: Will Ruto’s coalition avoid the one-term curse?

To sack or not to sack is a delicate decision for the president, who is keen to win a second term, especially as most of his cabinet secretaries are politicians who control key regions whose votes he's keen to retain. This may have been the saving grace for some, who are said to have performed dismally.

Tender interests, infighting in some cabinet members and reports from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) are said to have influenced the president's move.

On the other hand, Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kiarie Kuria has been moved to Public Service, Performance and Delivery Management.

This is likely to be seen by observers as a demotion, given the clout and budget of the new ministry.

Kuria's days at the Trade Ministry were long overdue after he missed two presidential trips to the US.

On one of them, former cabinet secretary Adan Mohamed was introduced as the substantive officeholder, although he is really just an advisor to the president.

A few weeks ago, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said she had not met her Kenyan counterpart Kuria on her tour of the country, but refused to explain why, perhaps reflecting the reputational damage done to the Kenyan minister. Instead, she referred media enquiries to state house.

Read: Why I did not meet Kenya Trade minister, US official explains

She met with other Kenyan officials to discuss the US Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (Stip) and the US-East Africa Community (EAC) Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (Tifa) Council with EAC trade ministers.

Kuria’s place has been taken by Rebecca Miano, who headed the Ministry of EAC, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (Asals) and Regional Development. 

Peninah Malonza takes over Miano's former portfolio, while Ms Alice Wahome moves from Water, Sanitation and Irrigation Ministry to the Ministry of Lands, Public Works, Housing and Urban Development, in a swap with Zakaria Mwangi Njeru.

Ms Aisha Jumwa has been moved from the civil service to the Gender Ministry.

The reshuffle by Ruto will be seen by many as stabilising his ship in what was becoming a Tower of Babel with members of the cabinet talking at cross-purposes.

A number of principal secretaries were also affected with Harsama Kello moving to Asals, Julius Korir to Water, Geofrey Kaituko to Marine, Shadrack Mwadime to Labour, Paul Rono to Crops, Salim Dokota to Cabinet Affairs, Anne Wang'ombe to Gender and Veronica Nduva to Performance and Delivery.

Read: Loyalists in Ruto's bloated CAS list

The changes come at a time when some senior members of the ruling party have intensified calls for some ministers to be sacked over the high cost of living, exacerbated by rising fuel prices and the weakening Kenyan shilling, and arrogance by government officials.

Days before Ruto's announcement, several cabinet secretaries had become targets of the ruling United Democratic Alliance (UDA) Party leaders in recent weeks, accused of poor performance.

Kuria, Ababu Namwamba (Youth Affairs, Sports and Arts), Davis Chirchir (Energy and Petroleum) and Economic Advisor to the President David Ndii are some of the top government officials who have been publicly attacked by the president's close allies in Parliament, with some baying for their blood.

Those not named in the presidential directive retained their positions.