Uhuru Kenyatta
Caption for the landscape image:

Revealed: Ruto, Uhuru bad blood worsens as retired president denied funds

Scroll down to read the article

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta addressing the press from his son's home in Karen, Nairobi, on Friday July 21.

Photo credit: File| Nation Media Group

After handing over power to newly elected President William Ruto on September 13, 2022, retired President Uhuru Kenyatta retreated to his residence on Nairobi’s Dennis Pritt Road next to State House where a cold reception to life in retirement awaited him.

He had hoped for a quiet retirement at this imposing address, popularly known as Caledonia House which had been under construction towards the final days of his 10-year presidency to host his diplomacy missions, particularly his peacekeeping role in East Africa.

This residence has been transformed into a fortress with a high-security perimeter wall mounted with closed circuit television cameras and the entrance is secured with an automated steely black sliding gate manned by General Service Unit officers.

The magnificent gate opens into a vast compound with well-manicured hilly lawns, with outdoor lamps, the cabro-paved driveways leading up to the storeyed building with fine finishes that serves as the office of the third retired president, at least in Mr Kenyatta’s view.

But a dramatic incident here soon after the 2022 transition shattered the calm atmosphere and was a rude jolt to his life out of power— a development that also pointedly set the tone for the frosty relationship that persists between him and his successor.

Officials of the new administration, including officers from the elite presidential escort, which had provided him round-the-clock security for the 10 years he was the Commander-in-Chief, stormed the residence.

Their mission. To seize four high-end State vehicles that the former president had left with from State House.

And those who witnessed the fracas— there is a retinue of staff at the facility including cleaners, gardeners and administrators — describe the drama as the four vehicles were driven out of the compound.

While lately there has not been much in the public about the two friends-turned-foe, it has since emerged that their bitter relationship has grown worse, with the office of the retired president crippled with budget freezes that Mr Kenyatta’s staff attributed to the politics of retribution.

The Sunday Nation has established that for the last 20 months, despite parliamentary approval over two financial years of more than Sh1billion, the office has been without funding, with the former president forced to finance its operations, including his foreign and local travel.

Multiple interviews and documents seen by the Sunday Nation reveal that so bad is the situation that Mr Kenyatta is forced to pay aides, including State-assigned bodyguards, accompanying him during local and foreign trips because requests to government for facilitation are consistently ignored.

The former president usually travels with a delegation of at least 14 — including security officers, a medic, press team and accountant.

Mr Kenyatta had to dig deep into his pockets twice last year during official trips to Nigeria and Ghana.

The former president’s Chief of Staff Kinuthia Mbugua had submitted a request to State House— which holds the budget of the retired president — last May to facilitate air tickets, daily subsistence allowance and a temporary imprest of $14, 200 (Sh1.9m) to enable Mr Kenyatta travel to Nigeria as a guest speaker at the inauguration of Mr Bola Tinubu as President.

Outgoing president Muhammadu Buhari had sent Mr Kenyatta the invitation to deliver the inauguration lecture on May 27 and attend subsequent ceremonies.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto

President Uhuru Kenyatta welcomes President Elect William Ruto to State House on September 12, 2022.

Photo credit: PSCU

But State House reportedly never facilitated the travel. A similar request for facilitation including $13, 500 (Sh1.8m) temporary imprest for Mr Kenyatta and his entourage’s travel to Ghana in May for an African Leadership Forum was similarly ignored by the government.

Sunday Nation learnt that it’s on the backdrop of such ignored requests that Mr Kenyatta in January this year, flew to Kinshasa aboard a Uganda Airlines aircraft for the inauguration of Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi.

It emerged that Ugandan President Museveni’s intervention was instrumental to airlift Mr Kenyatta and his delegation.

The plane carrying Uganda Vice President Jessica Alupo flew to Nairobi to pick up Mr Kenyatta. Social media photos of Mr Kenyatta disembarking from the Uganda Airlines flight on January 19 in Kinshasa sparked controversy.

During the inauguration ceremony at Kinshasa’s Martyr’s Stadium, Mr Kenyatta sat behind President Ruto.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto sagana lodge insults

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

“State House has declined to honour any of our requisitions pertaining to air tickets, daily subsistence allowance and even temporal imprest for delegation accompanying his excellency the third retired president,” Mr Mbugua writes in a brief titled ‘office performance update.’

As a pointer to the broken down relationship with State House, the brief to the retired president by Mr Mbugua, who is also the officer with authority to incur expenditure, lists the numerous requests that had been rejected.

In the letter dated February 22, this year, Mr Mbugua tells Mr Kenyatta that whereas section 9 of the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act provides for provision and accounting of the expenses for the administration of the benefits of the retired president, “the funds have been withheld.”

Mr Mbugua also writes that State House has “declined to approve lease for office space to establish the office for the third retired president contrary to section 5(e) of the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act.”

The section stipulates a retired President shall, during his lifetime, be entitled to “suitable office space, not exceeding one thousand square metres, with appropriate furniture, furnishings, office machines, equipment and office supplies, to be provided and maintained by the Government.”

On January 25, 2023, Mr Mbugua wrote to State House Comptroller Mr Katoo ole Metito to notify him that Mr Kenyatta had chosen the premises off Dennis Pritt road as his official office.

The letter requested him to facilitate the department of Lands and Housing to value the property for the purpose of leasing it and to enable other administrative processes to commence.

In the 2022/2023 and 2023/2024 financial years, Sh20 million was approved each year for “rentals of produced assets” under allocations for the retired president- suggesting an initial consideration to lease his property before the decision was rescinded.

Sunday Nation established that the former president has never received the money. The provision has been scrapped in projected estimates for 2024/2025 to 2026/2027 financial years.

But the government has reportedly asked Mr Kenyatta to take over the Nyari office that was assigned to the late President Kibaki but the former president has questioned why he is not allowed to select suitable premises as stipulated in the law.

Mr Kenyatta has questioned why he is being discriminated against yet other beneficiaries of the retirement perks including his predecessors, former vice presidents Kalonzo Musyoka and Moody Awori as well as former Prime Minister Raila Odinga picked offices of their choice.

Mr Kenyatta also cites his elaborate secretariat given his role as facilitator of the EAC-led DRC peace mission.

State House, according to the document, has also refused to procure official vehicles for the former president and ignored the office’s procurement plan for the 2023-2024 financial year.

The Act provides for two new cars of the retired president’s choice, replaceable every three years, each having an engine capacity not exceeding 3000cc as well as two four-wheel drive vehicles each having engine capacity of 3400cc.

The office had submitted requests for purchase of the four cars in February 24, 2023, but was advised to wait for the supplementary budget that had an allocation of Sh140 million.

The budget was approved, the procurement plan submitted for the purchase of two Mercedes Benz S 500, a Ranger Rover and Land Cruiser but to date there has been no action.

Mr Mbugua also writes that State House “has refused to fuel all vehicles officially assigned to the office,” as well as “to repair/service vehicles assigned to this office.” By June, last year, there were 12 vehicles attached to the office, according to an inventory.

On staffing, the office protests postings without consultation and ignored requests for hiring professional staff.

According to the Act, a retired president is entitled to a maximum of 36 staff including guards at all residences, drivers, gardeners, cooks, housekeepers.

“The professional and other staff required to be provided for a retired president shall be public officers, but no person shall be appointed or posted to serve on such staff except with the concurrence of the retired president and such staff shall, in the performance of their duties, be responsible only to the retired president,” the Act states.

The office has 34 staff although some have still been awaiting contract renewals nearly two years later. Ms Kanze Dena, who served as President Kenyatta’s spokesperson and is now the designated secretary, communication, is among those whose contracts have never been renewed, and hence she has been without pay since September, 2022.

Ms Dena has reportedly complained her contract was due to expire in June, this year. Mr George Kariuki, who was designated as secretary, administration, also did not secure a contract renewal.

Among the senior officials in the office are Mr Mbugua, Constance Gakonyo (private secretary) and Winfred Gathuku (director, office administrative services) who are on contract.

“We cannot make our budget returns since State House is unwilling to avail to us budget absorption report for the financial year ending June 2023 for our reconciliation purposes,” Mr Mbugua writes.

“The lack of support from State House, as evidenced above is despite the fact that Parliament did approve this office budget and the same is reflected for both 2022-2023, and 2023-2024 financial years,” adds the letter.

Out of a budget of Sh655m in the 2022/2023 financial year, the office says only Sh28.5 million in payments for travel to Ethiopia and Burundi to attend the Heads of State and Government summit and domestic travel between November 2022 and June 2023 was received but there has been no support since.

In the 2023/2024 financial year, the office’s budget is Sh503 million but the approved estimates show Sh443 million. The funds have not been provided.

Mr Mbugua complains that State House has failed to respond to various correspondences from the office.

State House Comptroller, Mr Metito, is the accounting officer and all correspondence from the office of the retired president is addressed to his office. Mr Metito and State House spokesperson Hussein Mohammed did not respond to Sunday Nation’s inquiries about these developments by the time of publishing this.

Last year, the former president had the most publicised run-ins with the Kenya Kwanza administration yet during a dramatic raid on the Karen home of his son, Jomo.

Mr Kenyattat had to drive to the house on the night of July 22 to protest the action for the police in unmarked cars, who reportedly wanted to ransack the premises for illegal guns, to leave.

On live television, Mr Kenyatta dared President Ruto’s government to stop hounding his family and instead go after him personally.

This was the first time that the retired president was openly daring the government after months of sustained attacks from the ruling coalition’s politicians including accusations that he was sponsoring opposition anti-government protests.

At one point, a mob had invaded the Kenyatta family’s vast Northlands farm along the city’s eastern bypass, stolen many sheep and cut down trees. The attack came after senior figures in government had warned during the opposition protests that the former first family’s property was not sacred.

This had marked a dangerous escalation of an onslaught against the former president and his family that had initially started with claims that some of their enterprises had tax arrears. No evidence was provided to either show that the former president was behind opposition protests or of tax arrears owed by firms linked to the former first family.

The latest development surrounding operations of the office of the retired president highlights the deteriorating relationship between Mr Kenyatta and his successor, whom he had mistreated as his deputy and unsuccessfully campaigned against in the 2022 presidential elections.

As the Deputy President, Dr Ruto endured humiliation from the government that saw at one point his elite GSU security withdrawn from his official residence in Karen.

Against all odds, Dr Ruto trounced opposition leader Raila Odinga, who was Mr Kenyatta’s preferred successor, to become the country’s fifth president.

'Police raid home of ex-President Uhuru's son'

During the inauguration of President Ruto and Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, which the outgoing president attended to hand over the instruments of power, the two leaders condemned weaponisation of the State during Mr Kenyatta’s tenure and promised a break from the past politics of retribution.

Earlier in 2013, Mr Kenyatta and Dr Ruto had teamed up in an unlikely alliance that, despite International Criminal Court indictments, beat Mr Odinga to the presidency in 2013, and again in 2017, before President Kenyatta struck a deal with the opposition leader that estranged his deputy for much of the second term towards the 2022 elections.