What you need to know:
- At least four Cabinet secretaries have been marked for dismissal — two from Mr Kenyatta’s side and two said to be loyal to his deputy.
- The only question has been whether it is the right time to effect such changes with the current coronavirus pandemic.
The cold war between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto escalated Sunday with reports of looming changes in government that could see leaders allied to the DP kicked out of plum positions.
In the changes that could come “soon”, at least four Cabinet secretaries have been marked for dismissal — two from Mr Kenyatta’s side and two said to be loyal to his deputy.
A powerful Cabinet secretary, the Nation has been reliably informed, could also be moved from the influential docket to a “lesser ministry, but which still wields a lot of power locally and internationally”.
The Nation has also learnt that several meetings have been held in homes of prominent individuals in Nairobi’s Karen suburb.
Some of the leaders reported to have been in the meetings are Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga, Kanu chairman Gideon Moi, Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary-General Francis Atwoli, former Cabinet minister Paul Otuoma and Siaya Senator James Orengo.
While many leaders interviewed Sunday remained guarded over the matter, Tiaty MP William Kamket, an ally of Mr Moi, authoritatively stated that the changes could come “in any form, any manner and any time”.
“Between William Ruto and Raila Odinga, who supports President Kenyatta? Between Gideon Moi and William Ruto, who supports the president’s agenda? The answer is clear, these two leaders are not meant to be just choir members in this government when some people viciously attack it,” Mr Kamket told the Nation.
“The president has been quiet as they make their noise, attack him, and now it is time to act. He has waited for them to make true their threats and walk out, but they’re hesitant. It’s now time to kick them out and it will happen very soon.”
Mr Kamket went on: “For now, not everything has to be said. Lazima wakanyage nje. Na kama hawataki kukanyaga nje, watakanyagishwa (They must leave and if they don’t want to leave, they will be forced out).”
He revealed that the purge will also affect Parliament “where the likes of (Senator Kipchumba) Murkomen, who have been antagonising the government, will be kicked out”.
A senior member of Mr Kenyatta’s Cabinet, who declined to be named, told the Nation that the fight between the president and his deputy “is now real and vicious”, and the only question has been whether it is the right time to effect such changes with the current pandemic.
“The question has been whether it’s wise to conduct the changes at the moment. The timing has been a big concern, but the gloves are now off,” the official said.
While using the words of Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula, when he said the divorce between his Ford Kenya party and Mr Odinga’s ODM would be “messy and noisy”, the official said it was an understatement regarding the divorce between the Head of State and his deputy.
“This one is very serious and if (Covid-19) wasn’t there, it could have now been full-blown.”
Cherang’any MP Joshua Kutuny, an ally of Mr Kenyatta, confirmed the looming changes at the legislature.
“There is concern on the parliamentary leadership and the entire leadership of the committees. The battle is on the leadership of the House, including the chairmen of committees. We must sanitise the leadership of committees and Parliament because it has failed the president in many ways as most are allied to the DP,” Mr Kutuny said.
The reports of the looming changes emerged as apocalyptic videos akin to those that ran against Mr Odinga in the 2017 campaign surfaced online, this time targeting the Number Two man.
The video that has all the hallmarks of the well-planned propaganda campaign that the former prime minister suffered in 2017, asks Kenyans to kick out dishonest leaders.
Images of the deputy president fill the video, although he is not mentioned.
On Sunday, Jubilee Deputy Secretary-General Caleb Kositany, who has become the de facto spokesman for the pro-Ruto camp, said his team was aware of the videos.
“We know who is producing them. It is a group of people supervised by a leading government official and their job description is to discredit William Ruto,” Mr Kositany, who is also the Soy MP, said.
The 2017 anti-Odinga videos and the divisive campaigns that started in 2013 but were escalated five years later were linked to British firm Cambridge Analytica and Harris Media, with the former said to have mined personal information from social media giant Facebook to craft and target personalised messages at voters.
“We just put information into the bloodstream of the internet and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again… like a remote control. It has to happen without anyone thinking, ‘that’s propaganda’, because the moment you think ‘that’s propaganda’, the next question is, ‘who’s put that out?’” Mr Alexander Nix from the firm said in the undercover video by Channel 4 TV.
The Ruto team On Sunday castigated the move by the government to reopen restaurants and not churches.
Dr Ruto’s activities have stopped due to the directive to close churches. Mr Kositany said places of worship should open, and follow the Covid-19 guidelines.
“It's not about DP stealing the show in churches, those in charge are more inclined to business, than Godliness,” Mr Kositany said.
Churches, he said, were the “last thing on their mind”. Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen questioned the government’s move “to open bars and not churches”.
Addressing the press in Nakuru, Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, another key Ruto confidant, accused President Kenyatta of leading a government “full of brokers who have circled themselves against him, leading a fierce war at the Jubilee party”.
“We’re even amazed that there has emerged a certain faction led by the president himself engaging in politics at the time Kenyans are embracing directives to curb the spread of the coronavirus,” said Mr Ngunjiri.
Additional reporting by Samwel Baya