Gachagua and Mudavadi: Clash of roles?

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi. 

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi could be headed for a clash of roles in the Kenya Kwanza administration. 

On Tuesday, President William Ruto nominated his Cabinet for approval by the National Assembly. But what attracted the attention of Kenyans were the similarities of the roles he assigned to his deputy, Mr Gachagua, and Mr Mudavadi. The DP, as per the Constitution, deputises the President in the execution of his functions. 

The roles announced by the President “that seek to bring clarity to his office, will see him chair Cabinet committees and oversee implementation of Cabinet decisions across all government Ministries and State Departments (MDAs). 

He will also coordinate the planning and supervise the implementation of development partners’ funded programmes and projects and oversee public sector reforms and any other function as may be assigned by the President. 

On the other hand, Mr Mudavadi is to assist the President and the Deputy President in the coordination and supervision of government MDAs, work in liaison with the Interior and National Administration ministry, and oversee the implementation of national government policies, programmes and projects. 

Mr Amos Nyasani, a political analyst, says that Mr Mudavadi’s position is a rank above the Cabinet secretaries that also upsets the DP in the “looming” power games play. 

“If the Prime Cabinet slot wasn’t created, the roles assigned to that office would be executed by the DP. The DP has been left with statutory things like chairing the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council (Ibec),” says Mr Nyasani. 

Although President Ruto was clear that the Prime Cabinet Secretary position is the third in the Cabinet after the President and the Deputy President, Mr Nyasani says it could be a replay of the supremacy wars in the Jubilee administration between former Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and then-DP Ruto. 

“These are some of the issues that upset DP Ruto in the previous regime,” Mr Nyasani says.  

'Super CS'

In 2019, Mr Kenyatta, through Executive Order No. 1 of 2019, created the National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet Committee and appointed Interior Cabinet Secretary Matiang’i to chair it. These are the same roles that Dr Ruto executed before the order was issued.  

Dr Matiang’i's appointment earned him the moniker “super minister” effectively diminishing the DP Ruto’s role in the affairs of the Cabinet.

This led to Dr Matiang'i chairing a key committee on the implementation of development programmes, whose membership includes all Cabinet secretaries, the Attorney General and Head of the Public Service, a mandate that a government insider said essentially elevates him to a "prime minister or chief minister".

The committee was mandated to supervise all government projects, including the Jubilee government’s legacy-driven Big Four Agenda and provide solutions to challenges affecting delivery of various government projects. 

However, political analyst and University of Nairobi (UoN) lecturer Herman Manyora believes that Mr Mudavadi was shortchanged. 

Mr Manyora says that other than Mr Mudavadi chairing and coordinating the national government legislative agenda across all ministries and state departments in consultation with and for transmission to parliament, his other assigned duties are similar to Mr Gachagua’s. 

“If you look at what the President outlined, Mr Gachagua possesses the original jurisdiction to play the roles he was assigned. Mr Mudavadi got the duplicate of what was assigned to Gachagua. This means he cannot execute the roles without Mr Gachagua’s nod,” says Mr Manyora. 

This, according to Mr Manyora, reveals why Mr Gachagua is number two in command and the agitation for him to have his roles given to him “in black and white.” 

“The only new thing in Mr Mudavadi’s role is coordination of the legislative agenda. Again, this is nothing because it will ultimately get to the Cabinet where Mr Gachagua is in charge for approval before it is transmitted to Parliament. We are seeing a situation where Mr Gachagua got what he wanted,” the university don says. 

Dr Bosire Nyamori, an economics lecturer at the UoN, who is also a political analyst, says the roles for the two men are the same, a recipe for conflict, depending on how the two office holders relate. 

“The titles are different but the roles are the same. There is nothing really specific to each of the two offices. If anything, you cannot put a finger on what Mr Mudavadi is supposed to do without a signal from Mr Gachagua,” says Mr Nyamori.   

However, Mr Barasa Nyukuri, a governance expert, disagrees. 

“The roles assigned to the two are clear and distinct. They don’t put the two offices on a collision path,” says Mr Nyukuri. 

The creation of the Prime Cabinet Secretary is in line with the Kenya Kwanza coalition agreement that was signed by 15 political parties ahead of the August 9, 2022 General Election. 

The parties in the coalition are UDA of President Ruto, ANC of Mudavadi, Democratic Party of Kenya of former National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and Ford- Kenya of Mr Moses Wetang’ula, Mr Muturi’s successor, among others. 

Article 21 (k) of the Kenya Kwanza coalition agreement on the sharing of national government responsibilities provides how Mr Mudavadi’s responsibilities will be created in the new government.

“Within 30 days following the general election, the coalition shall introduce in Parliament legislation that shall provide greater legal clarity on the position, roles and functions of Prime Cabinet Secretary,” the coalition agreement reads. 

“The legislation so introduced shall amend the National Government Coordination (NGC) Act to include the Office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary and incorporate and align the functions of the Prime Cabinet Secretary as proposed herein to the existing structures under the aforesaid Act,” it adds.

The NGC Act, which is set for amendment, establishes an administrative and institutional framework for coordination of national government functions at the national and county levels of governance. 

Section 7 (1) of the NGC Act states that the President may, for purposes of directing and coordinating the functions of the national government departments, assign, through the respective Cabinet secretary, the responsibility of discharging any function of the national executive to any person in accordance with the Constitution.

While invoking Article 132 (4) (a) of the Constitution, former President Uhuru Kenyatta created the Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) positions immediately after the August 2017 General Election.

The Article provides that the President may perform any other executive function provided for in this Constitution or in national legislation and except as otherwise provided for in this Constitution, may establish an office in the public service in accordance with the recommendation of the Public Service Commission (PSC).

However, on April 20, 2021, High Court Judge Antony Mrima ruled that the creation of the CAS positions was unconstitutional.

The ruling was appealed by Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki and it is yet to be determined. It is not clear whether the President consulted the PSC before creating the office of Prime Cabinet Secretary, which is not known by the Constitution or any law.