30 Uhuru Kenyatta envoys face President William Ruto recall

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua during an interview at his office in Nairobi on October 28, 2022. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto is planning a major reshuffle of the country’s diplomatic postings, with an initial eye on at least 30 openings that will see close to half of key ex-President Uhuru Kenyatta’s picks retired or replaced.

For Dr Ruto, the openings in ambassador and high commissioner roles will give him yet another fresh chance to reward close allies who missed out on the Cabinet and principal secretaries’ appointments.

For long, presidents have used such envoy roles to reward key allies, with lots of interest in big postings seen as allowing influence in foreign countries.

“Diplomatic postings are done according to the prerogative of the President. The Ruto government is not about vengeance or unfair treatment. Yes, there will be changes but they will be based on a clear and fair criterion and not punitive,” Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua told the Sunday Nation.

Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Dr Korir Sing’oei confirmed the planned appointments but insisted the cases of the current office holders leaving their posts will vary from one person to another.

Most enjoys, he said, have completed their tenure of four years while others have reached the year of retirement.

“An ambassador serves a maximum of 48 months. There are about 20 who have exceeded this period and will be recalled. Ambassadors over 60 years old, having attained retirement age unless in exceptional circumstances, will be recalled. There are about six in this category,” Dr Sing’oei told the Sunday Nation.

But in what could be interpreted as a plan by Dr Ruto that could see a clean sweep in all Kenyan missions abroad, Dr Sing’oei said the envoys, after all, serve at the pleasure of the President.

“Ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the President and so it is possible some who may not fit the two criteria above could be recalled,” said Dr Sing’oei, who served as Dr Ruto’s legal adviser when he was DP.

The Executive Order released early this month listed 66 embassies and consulates across the world.

Yesterday, a senior member of Dr Ruto’s inner circle told the Sunday Nation that the purging of Uhuru allies in the country’s missions abroad is likely to commence immediately after the President concludes the changes which have been going on in boards of various parastatals.

“Obviously, we are going for all the ambassadors and high commissioners. The process would have started earlier, but we were waiting for a few things (pending). The boss (Dr Ruto) was dealing with the boards and he has been away and that is why it has not been concluded but we expect that in the next one or two weeks he would have sorted the boards and started embassies and consulates,” said the source.

He added: “They never believed in this government, why should we retain them? Even in America, when a new president comes in, all ambassadors are recalled.”

Some of the envoys whose terms are almost coming to an end are those who were appointed in 2018.

Uhuru envoys list

They include Cleopa Mailu (Switzerland, UN), Prof Judy Wakhungu (France), Willy Bett (India), Mohammed Shidiye (Botswana), Phyllis Kandie (Unesco), Lt-Gen (Rtd) Samuel Thuita (Israel), Nicholas Peter Ogego (Saudi Arabia), former DCI boss Ndegwa Muhoro (Malaysia) and Lazarus Amayo (Washington).

In 2020, Mr Kenyatta appointed Dr Martin Kimani to be Kenya’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York, Tom Amolo (Berlin), John Tipis (Canberra), Immaculate Wambua (Canada), Catherine Mwangi (South Africa), Jean Kamau (Ethiopia), Lemarron Kaanto (Brazil), Daniel Wambura (Burundi), Benson Ogutu (Russia), Tabu Irina (Japan), Linday Kiptiness (Thailand) and Joshua Gatimu (Iran), among others.

In case President Ruto decides to recall all the envoys appointed by Mr Kenyatta, the most affected ones will be the individuals he appointed towards the end of his term who are barely a year in office.

Mr Kenyatta appointed former Clerk of the National Assembly Michael Sialai (Namibia), former ICT Principal Secretary Bitange Ndemo (Belgium) and Mary Mugwanja (Vienna, Austria).

Others are Muthoni Gichohi (Beijing, China), Gathoga Chege (Cuba), Salim Salim (Djibouti) and Major-General A.G. Matiiri (Egypt).

The others are Clement Kiteme (Angola), Galma Boru (Indonesia), Paul Ndung’u (Mozambique), Major-General Andrew Ikenye (Nigeria), Margaret Shava (Netherlands), Amina Abdalla (Sultanate of Oman), Nyambura Kamau (Pakistan), Boniface Mwilu (Qatar), Michale Oyugi (Spain), Major-General (Rtd) Thomas Chepkuto (Somalia), Leonard Boiyo (Turkey) and Major-General (Rtd) George Owinow (Uganda).

The ambassador roles as well as that of the Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS)—the post created by President Kenyatta in 2018 to deputise Cabinet secretaries and which has since been challenged in court—are some of the remaining posts.

Some of the key Ruto allies still in the cold include former Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali, former Sports CS Rashid Echesa, former Soy MP Caleb Kositany, former Migori governor Okoth Obado and former Kakamega senator Cleophas Malala.

Former Kirinyaga woman rep Purity Ngirici is also likely to land a CAS post, especially after she withdrew her petition against Governor Anne Waiguru’s election.

Apart from politicians who campaigned for Dr Ruto and are yet to be rewarded, there are also individuals who were part of his economic advisory council like Dr Irene Asienga, Dr Robert Muriithi and Dr Crispin Bokea who have not landed a State job yet.

Nyaribari Chache MP Zaheer Jhanda argues that President Ruto should be given ample time to decide on individuals he trusts can implement his agenda for the country instead of being pressured to reward those who worked for him.

“Let us give him space to appoint people he thinks will help steer his agenda so that all of us Kenyans win together,” Mr Jhanda said.

Belgut MP Nelson Koech said Dr Ruto is a trustworthy and reliable person. 

“President Ruto is known to go beyond the norm to keep his word to himself and others,” he said.