Kenyan MPs to vet Cabinet nominees amid integrity and ethics queries

Sunday October 16 2022
Kenya parliament

Newly elected members of the Kenyan Parliament gather for the first sitting since the August election, in Nairobi, on September 08, 2022. PHOTO | SIMON MAINA | AFP


The Kenya Parliament will begin vetting President William Ruto’s Cabinet nominees next week amid allegations of an anti-corruption whitewash in the courts to have them cleared for appointment.

The 22 Cabinet nominees will each appear before a parliamentary select committee chaired by the National Assembly Speaker to prove their suitability for public office, with integrity questions expected to receive the most public attention.

The committee will submit a report recommending approval or rejection of a nominee to the House, setting the stage for President Ruto to appoint his first Cabinet on November 3 earliest.

Cases of Parliament rejecting a president’s nominees are extremely rare, with the last known rebuff coming in 2015 when MPs refused to approve former president Uhuru Kenyatta’s nominee as Secretary to the Cabinet for her perceived disrespect to the legislators while serving as Interior principal secretary.

The countdown to the vetting of President Ruto’s Cabinet nominees next week has been dominated by public debate about curious decisions by the prosecutions office withdrawing court cases against two of them.

On Wednesday, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Noordin Haji, withdrew corruption charges against Aisha Jumwa, the Cabinet nominee for Public Service and Gender.


Ms Jumwa, a former MP, is facing separate charges for alleged murder.

Earlier, attempted rape charges against the Cabinet nominee for Agriculture, Mithika Linturi, were also withdrawn after he and his accuser agreed to an out-of-court settlement.

Ms Jumwa and Mr Linturi were also among 241 politicians that the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission unsuccessfully sought to have blocked from contesting various elective seats in the August 9 elections.

The court cases would have been cited during vetting as grounds for the duo’s possible rejection under Chapter 6 of the Kenyan Constitution, which sets the leadership and integrity bar quite high for persons seeking public office.

However, chances that parliament could reject any of the Cabinet nominees were already slim after National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula issued a ruling last week declaring President Ruto’s coalition the majority party, ending the weeks-long standoff over the balance of power in the House.

Wetang’ula said the ruling Kenya Kwanza Coalition had 175 Members of Parliament against rival Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Alliance’s 157, disregarding protests from the latter that up to 14 of its members had illegally shifted loyalties after the August 9 elections.

The defectors belong to political parties that were affiliated to Azimio under pre-election deals, but renounced the agreements after Ruto was declared the winner of the presidential election on August 15.

Wetang’ula, who resigned as a Kenya Kwanza-allied senator to take the Speaker’s seat last month, appeared to cast doubts on the validity of the agreements that barred parties in the opposition coalition from bolting out within 90 days after the election.

The Speaker’s ruling issued amid chaotic scenes in the House means that Kenya Kwanza will produce the Majority Leader, the second-in-rank behind the Speaker in parliamentary authority whose roles include planning the legislative agenda and advancing his party’s or coalition’s interests in the House.

The ruling coalition will also name the majority of members in the select and subject-matter departmental committees, which are tasked with, among others, vetting the decisions of the Executive and recommending them for approval or rejection by the House.

In addition to tilting the balance of power in favour of President Ruto’s coalition, the ruling by the National Assembly Speaker is also seen as smoothing the way for his legislative agenda and tightening his grip on the country’s bi-cameral Parliament after Kenya Kwanza won the majority seats in the Senate as well.

Under Kenya’s presidential system of government introduced by the 2010 Constitution, Parliament is deemed independent of Executive control and has been given fairly robust powers to enable it to play its oversight role effectively.

But a president still holds considerable sway over the legislative agenda and allegations of intimidation or bribery of MPs to vote for controversial government Bills are common.

It has not helped that the opposition has appeared to grow weaker in the past decade, with the ruling party or coalition frequently wooing defectors to its side or cutting post-election deals to boost its parliamentary strength.