Rigathi now in charge as Ruto leaves for the Queen’s funeral in UK

President William Ruto

President William Ruto (centre) is seen off by his deputy, Mr Rigathi Gachagua (right), at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi on September 18, 2022. The Head of State departed for London, United Kingdom, with his wife Rachel (left) to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s burial. 

Photo credit: PSCU

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua is in charge of the country after President William Ruto flew out to attend the state burial of Queen Elizabeth II in the UK.

The second-in-command was at the airport on Sunday to see off his boss for today’s burial ceremony. This will be the President’s first official visit, which comes barely a week after his inauguration as Head of State.

Upon arrival, President Ruto is expected to dine with King Charles III, who took up the mantle of leadership following his mother’s passing. He will afterwards join other foreign dignitaries in paying their last respects to the longest-serving monarch in UK history.

“Strengthening ties with the international community will catalyse the transformation of our country. Departed for London, UK to attend Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s burial,” the President said on Twitter yesterday.

After the queen’s burial, the President is expected to proceed to the United States (US), where he is set to meet President Joe Biden and other world leaders for the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (Ungass).

He is also scheduled to meet officials from the American Chamber of Commerce to discuss trade matters on the sidelines of the Ungass, which has been convened by UN Secretary-General António  Guterres.

Social protection

The world leaders will further hold roundtable discussions about climate change, just before the UN Security Council holds talks about Ukraine.

The leaders will also engage on accelerating jobs and social protection and ending the Covid-19 pandemic, before holding a high level plenary meeting to commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on September 26.

But even as the President left the country, a careful balancing act awaits as he prepares to assign roles to DP Gachagua and his Kenya Kwanza Alliance co-principal, Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi, hoping that the mandates of the two powerful offices don’t clash.

The Nation is reliably informed that the two will occupy Harambee House Annex, the building that housed Dr Ruto for 10 years as he deputised former President Uhuru Kenyatta.  

While assigning duties to his two key allies, President Ruto will be hoping that the two, critical to his victory, will work mutually towards achieving the promises made to Kenyans as detailed in Kenya Kwanza manifesto. Mr Gachagua is constitutionally the principal assistant to the President. In the Kenya Kwanza agreement, Mr Mudavadi was to be named Prime Cabinet Secretary, a post similar to a Prime Minister but with limited powers.

During one of his campaign rallies ahead of the August 9 elections, President Ruto pledged to, on his first day in office, sign an executive order outlining the roles of his deputy, which, he said, would include coordinating Cabinet affairs. He made the undertaking to avoid his deputy being subjected to the same experience he went through in the hands of his juniors under Mr Kenyatta, where he didn’t have clear roles and the ones he was given were taken away by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i.

The President also promised to issue an executive order to create the post of Prime Cabinet Secretary and assign the office holder clear duties. Almost a week after he was sworn in as President, the Head of State Ruto is yet to issue the orders as he promised.

Two offices

Governance expert Barasa Nyukuri said the President must ensure that the two offices don’t clash while assigning duties to them.

“The least he can expect in his administration as it takes shape is a clash of roles by two of his most powerful men at this point. He must be clear that the two will work to achieve what they promised to Kenyans,” Mr Nyukuri told the Nation.

While Dr Matiang’i’s role in the Jubilee administration edged out Dr Ruto as Deputy President in the Cabinet, the proposal in the Kenya Kwanza government, according to an official in the alliance who helped draft the agreement, will not “affect or appear to nudge out DP Gachagua”.

“The proposal was well-thought out before it was put to paper. It will in no way antagonise DP Gachagua as happened with Dr Ruto. Mr Gachagua remains the principal assistant to his boss, the President,” the Kenya Kwanza official, who did not want to be named, said.

The creation of Mr Mudavadi’s office will, however, come to pass if President Ruto honours the Kenya Kwanza coalition agreement that was signed by 15 political parties, among them his United Democratic Alliance (UDA), ANC, Democratic Party of Kenya, Ford- Kenya and The Service Party ahead of the General Election.

Article 21 (k) of the Kenya Kwanza coalition pact on sharing national government responsibilities outlines the modalities of crafting Mr Mudavadi’s responsibilities 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 ... shall amend the National Government Coordination 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.

While the position of Speaker of the National Assembly went to Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula as provided for in the Kenya Kwanza coalition agreement, the ANC leader will have to wait a little longer.

“The President of the republic elected under the coalition’s ticket shall accept Ford-Kenya’s nominee to the post of Speaker of the National Assembly,” the coalition agreement reads.

Already lapsed

This is notwithstanding that the process of creating the Prime Cabinet Secretary post was to start within 30 days of the August 9 General Election, a period that has already lapsed.

Mr Mudavadi’s only consolation, perhaps, is that the new Parliament is yet to start its sittings within which the 30 days period of introducing the new legislation is to start counting.

However, the Kenya Kwanza official said, the article of the coalition agreement was erroneously drafted.

“It is a drafting issue. It should have read 30 days upon the start of business of the new Parliament,” the official said.

The National Government Coordination (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.

This is so as to give effect to Article 132 of the Constitution on the functions of the President.

Article 132 (3) (b) of the Constitution stipulates that the President shall be responsible for the co-ordination of functions of ministries, state and government departments.

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 secretaries—the responsibility of discharging any function of the national executive to any person in accordance with the Constitution.

The Cabinet coordinates the functions of the national government at the national level.

Then President Uhuru Kenyatta created the positions of Chief Administrative Secretaries (CAS) just after the 2017 General Election specifically to accommodate his allies who had lost in the poll.

It’s likely that Dr Ruto will go the same way in creating the Prime Cabinet Secretary post.

Mr Kenyatta did this on the strength of Article 132 (4) (a) of the Constitution. The Article provides that the President 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 but is yet to be determined.

‘Big Four Agenda’

Through Executive Order No 1 of 2019, Mr Kenyatta created the National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet Committee and appointed Dr Fred Matiang’i to chair it.

This effectively diminished DP Ruto’s roles in the Kenyatta Cabinet.

The committee was mandated to supervise all government projects including the Jubilee government’s legacy-driven “Big Four Agenda”.

It was also to provide solutions to challenges affecting delivery of various government projects.