Julius Karangi factor and intrigues of the central Kenya politics

Retired Chief of the Defence Forces Gen Julius Karangi.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Retired general was always close to the President as the Chief of Defence forces.
  • Sources intimate President to create a new security docket to be headed by the former army boss.

Retired Chief of the Defence Forces Gen Julius Karangi could be the biggest beneficiary of an expected major reshuffle of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government, the Sunday Nation can report.

According to sources familiar with government activities, the retired general could be named to the Cabinet to head a new super ministry.

The sources said the President intends to create the Homeland Security docket, a special Cabinet position for his former military chief, that will be similar to the US Department of Homeland Security.

If this happens, the new ministry will integrate the Department of Interior, the Kenya Police, the Administration Police and the Kenya Civil Aviation. Under it there would also be a border patrol unit as a new security formation.


The expected reshuffle could follow the expiry of the 60-day deadline President Kenyatta gave the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Director of Public Prosecutions to conclude investigations into corruption allegations against a number of senior government officials.

The sources said that to create room for Mr Karangi in the Cabinet, one of the suspended Cabinet secretaries may have to give way.

The position of suspended Transport Secretary Michael Kamau, according to the sources, has received particular attention because the engineer comes from Nyeri County as does Gen Karangi.

Mr Kamau is among five Cabinet secretaries who were forced to “step aside” two months ago to facilitate investigations into claims of corruption in their dockets following the President’s handing of an anti-corruption dossier to Parliament.

Others affected are Mr Felix Koskei (Agriculture), Mr Davis Chirchir (Energy), Mr Kazungu Kambi (Labour) and Mrs Charity Ngilu (Lands).

“With mounting criticism that President Kenyatta has been favouring Jubilee strongholds Central and Rift Valley in state appointments, he may want to avoid having both Mr Kamau and Mr Karangi in Cabinet,” the source said.

“I can tell you that the Karangi and Kamau issue has generated a heated, albeit quiet, debate among power brokers from Central and especially Nyeri, and time will tell who carries the day. Unlike Eugene Wamalwa who negotiated a Cabinet post for himself without hurting anybody, Mr Kamau is likely to be a victim of those who want to see Mr Karangi back in power,” the source added.

Senate Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki has proposed the creation of the Homeland Security docket through an Act of Parliament as a way of combating runaway insecurity; issues involving terrorism, ethnic clashes and cattle rustling.

“We must learn from countries that have efficiently responded to such incidents. Nothing short of a fully-fledged multi-agency unit can secure our homeland,” Prof Kindiki said in the wake of the April 2 terrorist attack at Garissa University College where 148 people perished.

According to security analyst and Major (Rtd) Bashir Haji Abdullahi, the Homeland Security docket was mooted because of the uncoordinated response during security crises.

“With a Homeland Security docket, there will be a central command and the response and coordination will be enhanced,” he said. The head of the proposed docket, he added, should be someone with requisite expertise and foresight though indications are “that will be a political appointment”.

But security analyst Dr Ochieng’ Kamudhayi, who teaches conflict management at the University of Nairobi’s Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies, said the creation of new institutions should go hand in hand with meritocracy.

“The critical thing to ask ourselves is what value the new institution brings, because in my view it will be occupied by the same people who have been part of the problems in Kenya. The problems in Kenya are dysfunctional institutions that are patronised by politicians and activists. There is no meritocracy,” said Dr Kamudhayi.

Commenting on the debate, Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau, who is a close ally of President Kenyatta, said the Head of State was free to pick any Kenyan he deems fit to serve the country in any capacity.

“It is the prerogative of the President to appoint anybody of his choice to his government. Ours as the National Assembly is to vet and gauge the suitability of such persons,” he said.

However, ODM’s secretary for political affairs Opiyo Wandayi argues that such an appointment would just confirm Jubilee’s poverty of ideas.

“That would be a perpetuation of old order and will show lack of new thinking in the Jubilee. Worst of all, it will entrench the militarisation of government institutions that has been going on,” the Ugunja MP said, pointing an accusing finger at Mr Karangi over security attacks the country has suffered.

The people backing Mr Karangi are said to have been keenly monitoring the EACC investigations against Mr Kamau with unconfirmed reports that some have even been calling senior officials at Integrity Centre to establish the extent of the investigations.

In case the Cabinet re-organisation comes to pass, expectations are that Gen Joseph Nkaiserry’s Interior and National Coordination would become part of the Homeland Security docket.

Meanwhile, Mr Nkaiserry would be moved to the Department of Defence, currently occupied by Ms Raychelle Omamo. According to sources, Ms Omamo will replace Mr Kambi in Labour.

Like Mr Kamau, Mr Kambi’s fate lies with EACC investigators and the Director of Public Prosecution.


Mr Kamau is implicated in the alleged irregular award of a tender for a new terminal at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in 2012, when he served as permanent secretary for roads. The allegations against Mr Kambi are that he supported a controversial variation of the cost of Tassia II Project, which the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) had initially awarded at Sh3.3 billion but the cost later varied to Sh5.1 billion, allegedly without a formal approval of the board. The two have, however, denied any wrongdoing.

Until he retired last month, Mr Karangi had become a visible companion of President Kenyatta, a role that began before the President-elect was sworn into office.

Mr Karangi started off as chaperone of the President-elect, taking him on trips around the country in military aircraft at a time when the declaration of Mr Kenyatta as the winner of the 2013 presidential election was still being contested at the Supreme Court by Cord leader Raila Odinga.

Under Gen Karangi’s watch, there have been concerns about the growing power of the military in civilian life, including through the appointment of retired military officials to positions traditionally held by civilians, like Maj-Gen (rtd) Gordon Kihalangwa’s appointment to head Immigration Department and the announcement by the President of plans that were later shelved to establish a Metropolitan Command.