The SG that never was: Kenya makes surprise U-turn on Mwende Mueke nomination

The East Africa Community flag.

The East Africa Community flag.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

In a move that may reflect a political backlash, Kenya has replaced Caroline Mwende Mueke, the nominee for East African Community secretary-general, just two days before her expected swearing-in.

Instead, Nairobi said on Monday that it would unveil Veronica Mueni Nduva as the regional bloc's next secretary-general ahead of an extraordinary meeting of the EAC Council of Ministers on Tuesday 16 April. 

Veronica Nduva. She is the Principal Secretary, State Department for Performance and Delivery Management.

Photo credit: Ministry of Public Service

Ms Nduva is the current Principal Secretary in the Department of Performance and Delivery Management in the Ministry of Public Service and hails from Machakos County. Mueke, who was nominated in March, was born in Nairobi but her parents are from Kitui County.

It is this politics of genealogy and party affiliation that has played out over the past ten days, forcing Nairobi to change the name, sources said.

In a letter dated April 15, 2024, and addressed to Deng Alor Kuol, South Sudan's minister for EAC affairs and the current chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for EAC Affairs Peninah Malonza gave no reasons for President William Ruto's decision to appoint another candidate. The move came just a day before the Council deliberates on the replacement of outgoing EAC Secretary General Dr Peter Mathuki and later the summit on Thursday this week.

 "Further to our letter of 15 March informing you of a presidential action nominating Ms Mwende for appointment as the new Secretary General by the Summit in accordance with the EAC Treaty, we are writing to inform you that the President of Kenya has amended the nomination of Ms Mwende for the position of EAC Secretary General," said Ms Malonza, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of EAC, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development.

"Kenya now presents Ms Veronica Mueni Nduva for appointment as the Secretary General of the EAC."

Ms Mwende was due to be sworn in this Thursday, when the EAC summit was due to take place. But sources said politicians had resisted her nomination by pushing for someone else who was seen as toeing the right party line.

Later, Ms Mueke thanked President Ruto for the initial nomination and pledged to keep serving Kenya in her current role.

“I was deeply honoured to receive the initial nomination for the position of Secretary General to serve the people of the East African Community. I thank His Excellency the President of Kenya for this nomination. I extend my congratulations to PS Veronica Nduva on her nomination,” she said.

“I will continue to serve the Community in my current capacity at the United Nations. May God bless Kenya and  East Africa.”

Additional reporting by Aggrey Mutambo