Tough balancing act as President Ruto seeks to pick CASs

Dennis Itumbi, Millicent Omanga, Margaret Wanjiru, Charles Njagua

From left: Dennis Itumbi, Millicent Omanga, Margaret Wanjiru, Charles Njagua and Wilson Sossion.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto faces a tough balancing act as he picks his chief administrative secretaries.

For every appointment Dr Ruto makes – and it starts with how many CASs to name – he is faced with many considerations of role in his election, gender, regional balance, and whether or not the community or bloc has other appointments.

These choices are said to be the reason the shortlist was amended by the Public Service Commission (PSC) to add 16 names and make it 240.

Top on the list is former National Assembly Majority Whip Benjamin Washiali, who dropped his Mumias East re-election bid to campaign for Dr Ruto.

Interviews with President Ruto’s allies have established that there were protests from Kenya Kwanza politicians over exclusion of leaders they felt had given their best in the formation of the current administration.

“The change is due to an omission error. Washiali is qualified but you wonder why did the PSC failed to shortlist him,” a source said.

“Those dismissed from parliamentary leadership during President Kenyatta’s time hold top positions. Aden Duale and Kipchumba Murkomen are Cabinet Secretaries. Katoo ole Metito is State House Comptroller while Cecily Mbarire and Susan Kihika are governors. Washiali is still in the cold.”

PSC Communications Director Browne Kutswa yesterday said the list was changed for the sake of inclusivity.

“The commission reviewed the number of shortlisted candidates in order to deepen inclusivity with regard to gender, the marginalised and minority groups, youth and persons living with disability in accordance with the Constitution,” he said.

“We are an independent commission and cannot bend backwards to please individuals or politicians. We follow the law.”

It has also emerged that those who played key roles in the formation of Kenya Kwanza will be accommodated as parastatal chiefs or ambassadors.

Apart from politicians who campaigned for Dr Ruto, there are individuals who were part of his economic advisory council like Dr Irene Asienga, Dr Robert Muriithi, Dr Crispin Bokea and Dr Joseph Magut who may land ambassadorial jobs.

Mr Washiali was first elected to Parliament in 2007 on an ODM ticket. He was re-elected in 2013 and 2017 when he vied on a Jubilee ticket and served as Majority Whip.

He was later dismissed from the parliamentary position in 2020 for associating with Dr Ruto when he was deputy president.

Asked if he had protested his exclusion from the list, Mr Washiali said: “I did not and cannot claim to know what happened. I think the PSC updated the list without pressure from any quarter.”

With Mr Washiali and former senator Cleophas Malala coming from Kakamega, President Ruto finds himself in a precarious position.

Mr Malala ran for Kakamega governor on an Amani National Congress ticket but lost to ODM’s Fernandes Barasa.

Before the August poll, President Ruto and Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi reached a deal that saw Mr Malala fly the Kenya Kwanza governor flag, with UDA’s Boni Khalwale going for Senate.

A similar situation is playing out in Nakuru between former Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri and ex-Nominated MP Gideon Keter.

To ensure that the youth factor, the Sunday Nation has learnt that the President will pick Mr Keter or former Starehe MP Charles Njagua.

Dr Ruto’s digital strategist Dennis Itumbi, who has been shortlisted for CAS, hails from Kirinyaga County together with former Woman Representative Purity Ngirici.

It has emerged that Ms Ngirici was implored to withdraw her case against Governor Anne Waiguru in exchange for a state job while Mr Itumbi played a huge role in the formation of the Kenya Kwanza administration.

In Nairobi, the President will have a hard time choosing between Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, former nominated Senator Millicent Omanga and former Starehe lawmakers – Mr Njagua and Mr Simon Mbugua.

Young politicians

Some Kenya Kwanza leaders want the CAS position reserved for young politicians and not individuals who have served their two-term Constitutional threshold.

Nyaribari Chache MP Zaheer Jhanda and his Nandi Hills colleague Bernard Kitur say those who joined Kenya Kwanza after elections should not be considered for state appointments before loyalists are rewarded.

“They made life hard for us. They are welcome to  our coalition but should remain on the veranda as those who suffered and invested heavily are invited to the dinner table. Equity, fairness and loyalty should dictate such,” Mr Kitur said.

It is understood that Dr Ruto intends to use the CAS positions to achieve regional balance, with focus being Nyanza, Western, Lower Eastern and Coast. “I was called on Sunday and informed that despite applying for CAS position, I would not be shortlisted because the boss is not keen on appointing many people from Rift Valley and Mt Kenya. He wants to appoint individuals from (opposition) Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition strongholds,” said a leader who had applied for CAS.

President Ruto will have to decide between former Kisii governor James Ongwae – who joined him after elections – and former Kisii deputy governor Joash Maangi who once defected to Azimio but returned to UDA.

Some UDA leaders from the region like Mr Jhanda have vowed to block Mr Ongwae from landing any post in the Kenya Kwanza government, arguing that he frustrated them.

Posing headache

 “People like Ongwae should be in jail for the manner in which they ran the county for 10 years. He also frustrated the Kenya Kwanza politicians during campaigns hence he should not land any appointment in this government,” said Mr Jhanda.

For West Pokot, Dr Ruto is also faced with a complex situation of choosing between former Woman Representative Lilian Tomitom and former Kacheliba Mark Lomunokol.

A similar situation is also awaiting the Head of State in Bomet between former Senator Dr Christopher Lang’at and former KNUT Secretary General Wilson Sossion as well as in Nandi between the sons of Moi era Minister Henry Kosgey- Alex Kosgey and Allan Kosgey. Others also in the same county are former legislators Cornelly Serem and Wilson Kogo.

Another county posing a headache for President Ruto is Trans Nzoia where he has to decide between former county boss Patrick Khaemba and ex-Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa.

In Nyanza, the President will have to decide between former Nairobi governor Dr Evans Kidero, Fred Outa and Nicholas Gumbo.

All the three leaders who have expressed interests in the CAS from Azimio boss Raila Odinga’s political bedrock joined President Ruto’s camp after the August General Election.

Governance expert Javas Bigambo argues that President Ruto has outsmarted his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta by ensuring that every region benefits from his appointments.

“The President has to prioritise national cohesion initiatives just as much as development initiatives. It is evident that contrary to what the former President Uhuru used to do by way of skewed appointments to public offices which mainly favoured the Kikuyu community, President Ruto is spreading opportunities across regions and tribes,” Mr Bigambo said.

Charismatic abilities

“He is keen to solidify his national appeal and grip, and to deploy his charismatic abilities to avoid any chance of being held hostage by anyone or any region or community. The ultimate goal may be to annihilate Raila Odinga politically,” he added.

Former Mandera Senator Mohamed Maalim Mohamud has also been added to the list as well as former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Mohamud Ali Saleh.

James Kimanthi Mbaluka who vied for Kibwezi West MP on UDA but lost to Maendeleo Chap Chap (MCC) Mwengi Mutuse has also been added as well as former Baringo Speaker Kiplagat David Kipkorir

Others also are former Minority Leader in the County Assembly of Migori Nicholas Ngabiya Rioba, Mohammeddin Ibrahim Ibrein, Lucy Mihiuko Muchoki, Loice Chepchirchir Rono, Esther Nduku Muia, David Sande Oyolo among others.