Uhuru Kenyatta’s top brass speak about life after Cabinet
They wielded raw power only weeks ago, drove high-end fuel guzzlers and had armed bodyguards at their beck and call.
Their word was law when published in the Kenya Gazette. Busy highways were cleared to allow them to beat the traffic as they crisscrossed the country, with miniature national flags flapping on their shiny official convoys.
After the almost fairytale lifestyles fully paid for by the taxpayers, former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s top men and women now have to start slow, at times lonely and powerless lives as private citizens.
No more long working hours in air-conditioned, expansively furnished offices and countless evening cocktails.
This fast-paced life ended on Thursday as Cabinet secretaries in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration officially relinquished power.
In multiple interviews with the Sunday Nation, some of the now-former powerful individuals on the land say they have retreated to their quiet, private lives, moving away from public service that came with both lucrative perks but also unforgiving public scrutiny and pressure.
“I have settled down quickly and I am okay with my new status as an ordinary citizen and I don’t have any problems with it because you cannot be there (public service) forever. It is all about how you accept life,” said former Agriculture CS Peter Munya.
“I am now a full-time farmer. I am doing coffee and dairy. I also recently started doing tea farming. Here there is no pressure. It is a slow but very satisfactory life; almost opposite of what happens in government offices where there is a lot of pressure and public scrutiny,” Mr Munya told the Sunday Nation.
He still misses public service, which he started at the age of 32 when he was first elected as MP.
“I will definitely miss my job as a minister because I enjoyed offering solutions to national issues. My proudest moment was in the Agriculture docket when I led major reforms in the coffee and tea sectors,” he notes.
After straddling the corridors of power at Harambee House for years, immediate former powerful Interior CS Fred Matiang’i says he has retreated to his Manga Farm in Nyamira County.
Dr Matiangi became President Kenyatta’s right-hand man at the height of the former President’s fallout with his then deputy William Ruto, now President.
“For now, Dr Matiang’i is resting and farming at his Manga Farm,” said Mr David Onyancha, a former aide to the CS.
A source close to Dr Matiang’i said that after taking “a good break”, one option he is considering is taking up an international job.
He has previously worked for regional programmes of the State University of New York and also as a lecturer at the University of Nairobi.
Former CS Joe Mucheru says he will now have enough time with his family since the exit means less pressure and fewer phone calls.
He indicated that he will be spending most of his time on his farm after leaving the Ministry of Information Communications Technology (ICT).
“Right now it is family and rest time. Definitely, life is easier, fewer calls and of course, reduced responsibility,” says CS Mucheru.
“I am grateful and appreciative that I got a chance to serve Kenyans. I'll know what next after January, for now I will spend quality time with my family.”
Former Water CS Sicily Kariuki, who resigned from the Cabinet to run for Nyandarua governor, says the issue of flags and privileges that were attached to her former office does not bother her much.
She says she will spend most of her time doing activities that she suspended due to the fast-paced life that comes with joining the cabinet.
“I didn’t allow my stature as a minister to alter my way of life. I would be lying if I said that I miss life in the cabinet,” she says.
She says that public service is at times unforgiving as you find yourself working for long hours but still end up being blamed for mistakes committed by other people.
“If you don’t put on a thick skin, it becomes unbearable. Public officers are abused and called all manner of names. People end up being put together and labelled as “thieves” even if it is something done by a few individuals,” she said.
“I will be doing everything that I had suspended, some consultancy work; I will also have enough time for the family. I will also reconnect with old friends and do some community work here and there. I have had a great experience and I will be into leadership coaching as well,” she adds.
Immediate former Defence CS Eugene Wamalwa told the Sunday Nation he will be retreating to his law profession even as he strategises on how to vie for presidency in 2027.
Although he is going back to practising law, Mr Wamalwa says he will remain active in politics through his Democratic Action Party of Kenya (DAP-K), which is an affiliate of Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition.
“Yes, I am going back to practising law and politics but waiting to hand it over next week. My party will stand strongly shoulder to shoulder with other Azimio affiliates in the opposition to check this administration. If there’s a time Kenya ever needed a strong opposition, it is now,” says Mr Wamalwa.
The immediate former Treasury CS Ukur Yatani, while outlining the achievements he has made in the Ministry of National Treasury, said his loyalty will remain to the former Head of State even as he said he is taking a rest from the public.
He said he is now not under any pressure unlike before, noting that after handing over he can sleep up to 8am.
"Now I feel immensely relaxed and under no pressure to meet any timeliness. Today I slept up to 8am and felt greatly refreshed. I will take a few days' holiday and embark on a plan to attend to my personal matters including attending to my camels which have suffered the severe drought and lack of proper attention and care," said Mr Yatani. Ms Amina Mohammed, immediate former Sports CS, did not share much about her next move but highlighted her privilege for having served in the cabinet.
“I feel extremely privileged to have served my country in the various ministries and departments. I am very grateful to my compatriots for the unequivocal support and advice freely given throughout my journey in national and international public service,” she says.
“My future as my past are in God’s hands. I hope my future will be as exciting and fruitful as my past,” she adds.
Immediate former Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua will also be retreating to a private life having spent at least 42 years within government circles, where he rose to become one of the most powerful bureaucrats, a key cog in the wheel that kept the country running.
While handing over to the newly appointed Head of Public Service Felix Koskei, he said his retirement gave rise to a new generation of civil servants.
"I hand over the mantle of coordinating the public service to a new generation of civil servants. I thank you and your predecessors for according me the privilege to serve in four successive administrations, notably the second, third, fourth and in your administration," Mr Kinyua said on Thursday at the swearing-in ceremony of the new cabinet.
It will be the same quiet and private life for Mr Kenyatta after retirement. Although he has taken a mediator role in Ethiopia's Tigray conflict, he is largely living a slow life after power.
He was recently spotted driving himself in a grey double cab pickup with some passengers riding with him in the car. In the video, Mr Kenyatta is seen slowing down to have a chat with some motorbike riders, showing the extent of his freedom outside public life.
For many of the former powerful CSs, the experience of former ICT PS Bitange Ndemo (now an ambassador) after he left office in 2013 could soon become a reality.
“The day I left the office, my phone literally ceased to ring. My ‘friends’ had moved on. I found myself checking my phone to establish if I had inadvertently put it off. The phone was fine,” Dr Ndemo said.
“Prior to my departure from office, receiving 30 calls an hour was not unusual. Although most calls were work-related, there were many social calls from many old and new friends, people you would expect to keep in touch with you even when you left high office. Strangely, such calls cease until you establish a new kind of relevance,” the former permanent secretary in the Kibaki administration added.
Additional reporting by Ruth Mbula, [email protected]