Why Ruto men want Uhuru envoys recalled

President William Ruto

President William Ruto exchange greetings with Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua during the president’s departure for Kampala in Uganda.

Photo credit: PPS

The recalling of Kenya’s ambassador to China Mary Muthoni has shone a spotlight on the ongoing silent axing of former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s envoys by the Kenya Kwanza administration.

The Sunday Nation understands the major purge of Jubilee administration diplomats is set to hit hard those who were appointed just months to the 2022 August General Election in what could give President William Ruto another chance to reward his close allies who have missed out on the Cabinet and Principal Secretaries’ appointments, and those likely to miss in the Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) post whose interviews are ongoing.

While confirming the recalling of Ms Muthoni, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary, Dr Alfred Mutua, said they are currently doing the clean-up in all Kenyan missions abroad but refused to give the names of those affected apart from Ms Muthoni.

“Ms Muthoni was recalled sometime back and she is not the only one affected. We will make an official announcement after next week. We are trying to realign them because our diplomatic policy has changed,” CS Mutua said.

He added: “It is no longer just about rewarding people but we have to realign properly because now we are focusing on business, trade, development, Visas and scholarship.’

Sources within the Presidency have intimated to the Sunday Nation that they intend to recall all the country’s envoys while noting that those who were appointed months to Mr Kenyatta’s exit should not have been picked.

“Most of our ambassadors being recalled now are those who were appointed by Uhuru when he was almost leaving office. There is a general feeling in the camp that it was not done in the right manner and the former Head of State was only interested in appointing people without any meritocracy,” said a senior member of President Ruto’s inner-circle.

In April 2022, Mr Kenyatta appointed 24 new ambassadors and high commissioners with some of them after being approved by the National Assembly representing their credentials to the host countries in December.

In case President Ruto heeds the push by his allies to recall all the envoys appointed in April last year, he will have reshuffled the entire country’s embassies and missions since the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently disclosed that there are around 30 envoys whose tenure have come to an end while others have attained the retirement age.

“An Ambassador serves a maximum of 48 months. There are about 20 who have exceeded this period and will be recalled. Ambassadors over 60 years old, having attained retirement age, unless in exceptional circumstances, will be recalled. There are about six in this category,” said Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary, Dr Korir Sing’oei, in an earlier interview with the Sunday Nation

But in what could be interpreted as a plan by Dr Ruto that could see a clean sweep in all Kenyan missions abroad, Dr Sing’oei said the envoys, after all, serve at the pleasure of the President.

“Ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the President and so it is possible some who may not fit the two criteria above, could be recalled,” Dr Sing’oei, who served as Dr Ruto’s legal advisor when he was DP, said.

Ex-President Kenyatta appointed former Clerk of the National Assembly Michael Sialai (Namibia), former ICT Principal Secretary Bitange Ndemo (Belgium) and Mary Mugwanja (Vienna, Austria).

Others are Muthoni Gichohi (Beijing, China), Gathoga Chege (Cuba), Salim Salim (Djibouti) and Major-General A.G. Matiiri (Egypt).

Also on the list are Clement Kiteme (Angola), Galma Boru (Indonesia), Paul Ndung’u (Mozambique), Major-General Andrew Ikenye (Nigeria), Margaret Shava (Netherlands), Amina Abdalla (Sultanate of Oman), Nyambura Kamau (Pakistan), Boniface Mwilu (Qatar), Ms Michale Oyugi (Spain), Major-General (Rtd) Thomas Chepkuto (Somalia), Mr Leonard Boiyo (Turkey) and Major-General (Rtd) George Owinow (Uganda).

Some of the Ambassadors and High Commissioners whose term is almost coming to an end are those who were appointed in 2018 and still in office to date.

They include Cleopa Mailu (Switzerland, UN), Prof Judy Wakhungu (France), Willy Bett (India), Mohammed Shidiye (Botswana), Ms Phyllis Kandie (Unesco), Lt-Gen (Rtd) Samuel Thuita (Israel), Mr Nicholas Peter Ogego (Saudi Arabia), former DCI boss Ndegwa Muhoro (Malaysia) and Lazarus Amayo (Washington), among others.

In 2020, Mr Kenyatta appointed Dr Martin Kimani to be Kenya’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York, Tom Amolo (Berlin), John Tipis (Canberra), Immaculate Wambua (Canada), Catherine Mwangi (South Africa), Jean Kamau (Ethiopia), Lemarron Kaanto (Brazil), Daniel Wambura (Burundi), Benson Ogutu (Russia), Tabu Irina (Japan), Linday Kiptiness (Thailand) and Joshua Gatimu (Iran), among others.

For a long time, presidents have used ambassadorial roles to reward key allies, with often big fights over big postings seen as allowing influence in foreign countries.

Some of President Ruto’s allies who played a key role in his election but have been shortlisted for the CAS job are optimistic that in case they do not succeed to be picked, the appointment will spill over to the ambassadorial postings.

Key figures in Kenya Kwanza who are being touted for ambassadorial jobs include long-time political advisor of the President, Dr Joseph Magut who once served as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Germany, Dr Irene Asienga, Dr Robert Muriithi, Dr Crispin Bokea, former Tourism CAS Joseph Boinet, Odoyo Owidi, Moses Lessonet, Martin Otieno Ogindo and many Kenya Kwanza politicians who are yet to land any state job.

With ambassadorial posting being the only lucrative job remaining, there is serious jostling going on with some Mount Kenya leaders insisting that they have to be given slots commensurate to their votes.

“Compilation of ambassadors is going on and it will be concluded anytime, but there is a big problem. A lot of friction is going on because our region feels sidelined in the latest appointments. We want leaders to be lined up based on how heavy their contributions were to the boss (Dr Ruto’s) campaign kitty,” said one of the leaders from Mount Kenya.