Monica Juma third time lucky as Ruto rewards her with top job

Monica Juma

Energy and Petroleum Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma who has been named cabinet-level adviser on national security.

Photo credit: File

The gods have been on former Energy and Petroleum Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma’s side for the last two decades.

Dr Juma was third time lucky after President William Ruto picked her as a Cabinet-level adviser, having served in all governments since the Mwai Kibaki era.

This is despite her husband, Prof Peter Kagwanja, openly campaigning for Azimio la Umoja One Kenya presidential candidate Raila Odinga.

In Kibaki’s administration, Dr Juma was Kenya’s ambassador to Ethiopia, Djibouti, the African Union (AU), Igad and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

She was also principal secretary in the ministries of Foreign Affairs between January 2016 and February 2018 Uhuru Kenyatta’s first term as President.

Monica Juma

Monica Juma during the swearing-of Principal Secretaries at State House in Nairobi, June 27, 2013. The event was witnessed by then President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Photo credit: File

Before that, she served in the same capacity in the ministries of Interior and Defence.

Cabinet-level appointment

On Tuesday, President Ruto appointed Dr Juma as national security adviser, a Cabinet-level appointment.

Before Tuesday, Ms Juma was Energy and Petroleum CS, a position she had held since October 2021 after its holder, Charles Keter, quit to join politics.

Dr Juma had also served as Cabinet Secretary for Defence and for Foreign Affairs in the previous government.

In Mr Kenyatta's government her star would have shone brighter from 215 but Members of Parliament (MPs) voted to reject the president's nomination of her for appointment as the Secretary to the Cabinet.

While her colleagues like Interior Cabinet Dr Fred Matiang’i, Peter Munya (Agriculture), Joe Mucheru (ICT), Keriako Tobiko (Environment), Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution), Mutahi Kagwe (Health) and Raphael Tuju (CS without portfolio) openly campaigned for Mr Odinga, Dr Juma did not drag herself into politics.

Prof Kagwanja was policy and governance adviser in the Kibaki government. He sought the Murang’a senator seat but failed to clinch the Jubilee ticket. He then joined the Democratic Party.

Jubilee gave Kembi Gitura the Senate ticket in last month’s elections, but he lost a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) candidate.

As a close ally of Mr Kenyatta, Prof Kagwanja campaigned for Mr Odinga, only to change tune after Dr Ruto was declared winner.

Handshake between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga

He later revealed that he was in Azimio only because his wife was in the Cabinet. It had also emerged that he was one of the technocrats behind the March 9, 2018 handshake between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.

Monica Juma

Late President Mwai kibaki is received by Senior Ethiopian Government officials and the then Kenya Ambassador to Ethiopia, Dr. Monica Juma on arrival at Bole International Airport in 2010

Photo credit: File

“The point made by President William Ruto that there are some people in Azimio who were coerced is absolutely true. Some of us were in Azimio because we could not go into the opposition,” Prof Kagwanja said recently in a TV interview.

“My wife was in the Cabinet and I did not want to break my family because I'm in the opposition.”

When Dr Ruto met outgoing CSs at State House on Tuesday before announcing his new lineup later in the afternoon, he courteously greeted Ms Juma, spending more time with her than the rest.

“Mama, how’re you?” the President asked her during the brief encounter.

In the Kibaki era, Ms Juma played a key role when she was at the AU, engaging in shuttle diplomacy when six Kenyans faced charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.