Trouble in paradise: Rigathi, Kuria feud puts Ruto in a fix

Moses Kuria

President William Ruto with Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua during the funeral service of Pauline Nyokabi Kuria, sister to Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria, Gatundu South, Kiambu County. 

Photo credit: PCS

What you need to know:

  • Mr Kuria has in the last couple of days fired a series of tweets perceived to be in response to Mr Gachagua.
  • The Deputy President has reprimanded Mr Kuria, alongside other senior government officials, for arrogance.

The war of words between Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria escalated yesterday, exposing a simmering power struggle within President William Ruto’s administration.

Mr Kuria has in the last couple of days fired a series of tweets perceived to be in response to Mr Gachagua — who reprimanded him alongside other senior government officials for arrogance — in an unprecedented infighting that poses a dilemma to the President on whether to crack the whip to please his deputy or risk straining his relationship with him.

The current palace wars have been ongoing — according to sources in the government circles—and are linked to local Mt Kenya supremacy political battles.

When CS Kuria and his Interior counterpart Kithure Kindiki were recently barred from State House for turning up late for a meeting, Mr Gachagua took on them publicly. It was after Mr Gachagua’s riot act to the two that the President also took cue and demanded that they explain why they were late for such a crucial meeting.

“I saw some were late, and I looked the President in the eye and realised that there would be trouble for them. You can’t arrive at an event when the President is already seated. Why would you come late? How do you explain that?” said Mr Gachagua.

Mr Kuria yesterday told the Nation that he is not in any fight with DP Gachagua. In reference to DP’s remarks that State officials should empathise with Kenyans struggling with the current high cost of living, Mr Kuria said he is currently opening business parks across the country.

The CS said what his ministry is doing is beyond “mere empathy” since it will put money in the pockets of Kenyans.

The current drama and infighting has, however, cast a spotlight on his growing troubles at the ministry in what could put him on the edge in Dr Ruto’s year-old government.

His current exchange also adds to his recent troubles when US official Katherine Tais refused to meet him when she visited Kenya. Mr Kuria did not accompany the President for the US-Africa Business Roundtable where former Trade CS Adan Mohammed was introduced as “Cabinet Secretary and Economic Advisor.”

“I have not had an exchange with the DP or anyone. Where have I mentioned him in my tweets? I have today said that issues to do with fuel should be directed to the CS in charge of the Energy docket. Am I minister for Energy? I am not going to die telling the truth,” said Mr Kuria.

Moses Kuria

European Commission Executive Vice-President and EU Trade Commission Valdis Dombrovskis (seated right) and Cabinet Secretary Investments, Trade and Industry Moses Kuria (seated left) sign a declaration of intent on economic partnership agreement as President William Ruto and Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua look on at State House Nairobi on June 19, 2023. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Mr Gachagua had reprimanded Mr Kuria and Economic Advisor to the President Dr David Ndii to stop their arrogance while addressing Kenyans who put them in office by voting in the Kenya Kwanza administration.

“I have noted with concern the exchanges between public servants and the People of Kenya. I want to call upon fellow leaders, particularly those that our President has given the privilege to serve Kenyans, to exercise caution in addressing their employer — the people of Kenya. It is insensitive to talk down on the People,” said Mr Gachagua. 

“Kenyans, like the rest of the world, are going through difficult economic times and leaders should address them with sensitivity and empathy,” he added.

What followed the remarks was a series of tweets from Mr Kuria that were perceived to be targeting his boss, the DP. 

“As minister responsible for private sector mine is to advise business based on science not truthful voodoo,” read one post. 

In another, which he deleted moments later, Mr Kuria tweeted: “Inferiority complex and misplaced insecurities will kill you nani. Relax!”

Yesterday, he sarcastically apologised to Senate Majority Leader Boni Khalwale and his ‘master’ over his remarks that fuel prices would continue going up by Sh10 every month until next February. 

“I have since been advised by people like Dr Boni Khalwale and his master that the statement was incorrect, insensitive and arrogant. I am made to now understand that the price will come down,” said Mr Kuria. 

The Nation has also since learnt that Mr Kuria has been moved from the posh Two Rivers Mall, where he had set up his ministry offices, back to the official ministry headquarters at the NSSF Building. 

Head of Public Service Felix Koskei is said to have issued orders for his relocation.

Mr Kuria yesterday declined to comment on the matter, stating: “That is none of your business.” 

He referred us to Mr Koskei.

The ministry had in a letter dated November 7, 2022 cited lack of space in making the decision to move him to the shopping mall.

“…the ministry’s size has increased with the creation of State Department for Investments Promotion apart from the State Department for Trade and the State Department for Industry. Even before this, the current space was insufficient for our needs and efforts were already underway to acquire more space, which had not borne fruit since the current seat at NSSF building was fully occupied.” 

“We have engaged the State Department for Housing to guide in the co-location of the entire Ministry of Investments, Trade and Industry. This process is underway. In the meantime, we request KDC to host the Office of the Cabinet Secretary and support offices, at the Two Rivers Office Complex in Nairobi as discussed,” adds the letter by Principal Secretary Kirimi Kaberia.

In a recent interview, Mr Kuria said he chose the location so as to offer investors world class ambience.

He added: “This is about how we treat investors. I go to the US, Europe and know the kind of ambience that investors are treated with.”

Moses Kuria, William Ruto, Rigathi Gachagua

President William Ruto shake hands with Cabinet Secretary for Investments, Trade and Industry Moses Kuria in the presence of Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua (left) and European Commission Executive Vice-President and EU Trade Commission Valdis Dombrovskis and at State House in Nairobi on June 19, 2023.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

It has also emerged that Mr Kuria has hired more than 10 advisors, above the recommended two per Cabinet Secretary.

A document by the ministry titled ‘delivery agenda’ has listed 15 individuals in charge of various dockets. This is on top of four personal assistants. 

Dr Ruto has since convened a crucial meeting of all United Democratic Alliance (UDA) elected and nominated leaders in the face of infighting in his new administration. 

The meeting comes at a time some senior members of the ruling party have called for a Cabinet reshuffle due to the high cost of living worsened by the rising fuel prices and weakening shilling. 

Several Cabinet Secretaries (CSs) have in the last couple of weeks become targets of senior UDA lawmakers, who accuse the President’s appointees of non-performance.