How President William Ruto settled on Cabinet nominees

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua (left), President Dr William Ruto and Prime Cabinet Secretary nominee Musalia Mudavadi

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua (left), President Dr William Ruto and Prime Cabinet Secretary nominee Musalia Mudavadi at State House in Nairobi on September 27, 2022, during the naming of Cabinet Secretaries.
 

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The President held consultations with his deputy Gachagua, Mudavadi, MPs Nyoro, Sudi, Koech, Senator Cheruiyot and Governor Sang and Kihika.
  • Unlike Mr Kenyatta, who largely relied on technocrats for 10 years, Dr Ruto opted for seasoned politicians in his administration so as not to lose his political ground.
  • Apart from the gender card, the likes of Kandara MP Alice Wahome (Water CS nominee) and Aisha Jumwa (Public Service) are among those rewarded for standing by Dr Ruto since he fell out with Mr Kenyatta.


Rewarding loyalty, ensuring regional balance, the need to avoid the fate of his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta, who paid the political price for overreliance on technocrats and an eye on the 2027 election informed selections for President William Ruto’s Cabinet, the Nation has learnt.

After assuming office, Dr Ruto immediately assembled loyal troops to help him craft a team that would reflect the face of Kenya.

Before unveiling the 22-member Cabinet on Tuesday, the President had held consultations with his deputy Rigathi Gachagua, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi, Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot, Nandi Governor Stephen Sang, Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, Belgut MP Nelson Koech and Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika.

Unlike Mr Kenyatta, who largely relied on technocrats for 10 years, Dr Ruto opted for seasoned politicians in his administration so as not to lose his political ground.

Having braved the onslaught from the state machinery and an incumbent who opposed his presidential bid, Dr Ruto placed a premium on rewarding politicians who shrugged off the intimidation to stand by him as he faced his main challenger, Azimio’s Raila Odinga

Apart from the gender card, the likes of Kandara MP Alice Wahome (Water CS nominee) and Aisha Jumwa (Public Service) are among those rewarded for standing by Dr Ruto since he fell out with Mr Kenyatta.

At one point, Ms Wahome brazenly attacked Mr Kenyatta, describing him as the “biggest existential threat” to Kenya’s political, social and economic prosperity, blunt criticism that cemented her place in Dr Ruto’s camp.

“For Aisha Jumwa, it is largely due to her long history. She came out of ODM and suffered. Those are individuals who have stayed with [Dr Ruto],” said an MP who attended one of the President’s consultations.

Mt Kenya slice

Dr Ruto could not pick both Ms Wahome and Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, as both are from Murang’a County.

But it has also emerged that he did not want to lose some of his strong foot soldiers from Mt Kenya.

Mr Nyoro will, thus, chair the powerful Budget and Appropriations Committee in the National Assembly.

With seven Cabinet slots, Attorney General-designate Justin Muturi and Mr Japhet Koome, the Commandant of the National Police College in Kiganjo, tipped to take over as Inspector General of Police, Mt Kenya has secured a huge slice of plum posts, pointing to the President’s determination to keep a region that accounted for 42 per cent of his vote tally.

The same consideration was at play to keep Western, which also largely helped Dr Ruto win, hence the designation of Mr Mudavadi as Prime Cabinet Secretary alongside Susan Wafula (Health) and Ababu Namwamba (Sports), in addition to National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula. 

Garissa Township MP Aden Duale (nominee for Defence) was among those purged from House leadership in the last Parliament for his association with Dr Ruto.

Mr Duale, axed as majority leader in 2020, landed a plum docket, as did Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who was ousted as Senate majority leader.

Mr Murkomen (nominated for Roads and Transport) is viewed as one being groomed to take over regional leadership when the right time comes.

Another person selected for standing by Dr Ruto in the previous administration was Labour CS Simon Chelugui, now nominated for Cooperatives, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development.

“We avoided people who were in the previous administration like Charles Keter because he worked with the past regime up to the end. Chelugui came out to stand with Ruto and that made him get a docket with a budget of just half a billion,” added the source.

Dr Ruto retained Monica Juma as a Cabinet-level adviser. She has served in government since the Mwai Kibaki era.

The Nation understands that the Kenya Kwanza administration needed her because of her vast international network.

"Uhuru mistakes"

“Most of the people in this Cabinet are a departure from the past regime. It is because William Ruto has realised the mistakes of Uhuru Kenyatta,” Mr Koech said.

“Uhuru Kenyatta stayed in office until he lost his ground. His Cabinet was largely guys who were technocrats. They did not have any connection with the people and did not understand what was going on.”

The Belgut MP added: “Some people might poke holes in how William Ruto has picked politicians and some of them have issues in court, but if you look at it as a politician, you will understand that it is a masterstroke for him. 

“Now, he has people who understand his agenda. People who will go to the ground and people who have been there. These are the guys who largely delivered this government. The same politicians William Ruto wants to use to now go and do what he promised during campaigns.”

Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa yesterday said a balance between technocrats and politicians in crafting the Cabinet was not important but getting individuals who will push Dr Ruto’s agenda was key.

“Getting individuals with the requisite skills to advance the President's agenda is what is important. After all, technocrats will be PSs because they are the policy implementers, while CSs are the designers of those policies after interacting with Kenyans from different parts of the country,” Mr Barasa said.

Missing from list

Key figures like UDA chairman Johnson Muthama and Josphat Nanok, who was the director-general of Dr Ruto’s presidential secretariat, did not make it to the Cabinet. 

The Nation has, however, established that the former will get a PS or chief administrative secretary post, while the former Turkana governor is likely to become State House comptroller, with former Mombasa senator Hassan Omar being considered for the solicitor-general role.

Sources told the Nation yesterday that though Mr Nanok was at the helm of President Ruto’s inner circle, he failed to deliver votes in his own county, while in Mr Mudavadi’s case, he stood by Dr Ruto when Mr Kenyatta was out to sideline him.

Dr David Ndii is said to have chosen to remain the President’s economic adviser.

Former Migori governor Okoth Obado did not make it to the Cabinet as Eliud Owalo (nominated for ICT) joined Dr Ruto’s team much earlier.

“President Ruto has rewarded loyalty, commitment and passion to serve his government & the people. The hustler cabinet is going to be transformative, people-centred and revolutionary. The fixing of an ailing economy has just begun in earnest,” said Nandi Senator Samson Cherargey.

With Dr Ruto rewarding his IT guru, Davis Chirchir, who played a critical role in the Kenya Kwanza campaigns, as Cabinet nominee for Energy, a docket he once held in the Jubilee administration, Nandi Governor Stephen Sang is now pushing for former Agriculture CS Felix Koskei to be appointed State House chief of staff.

Mr Chirchir’s appointment also addresses a grievance in South Rift as there had been grumbling in Bomet that the last administration short-changed the county as both the then Energy CS Charles Keter and his Trade and Industrialization colleague Ms Betty Maina were from Kericho.

Regional balance played a role in the selection of Soipan Tuya for the Environment docket, though fellow nominated Senator Peris Tobiko, also from the Maa community, had also been eyed for a Cabinet slot.

With Nakuru getting its first CS since independence, Governor Susan Kihika celebrated the appointment of an ally, Zechariah Njeru.

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