Why Parliament rejected Ruto’s Goma envoy nominee

Charles Githinji Keiru

Goma, DRC Ambassadorial nominee Charles Githinji Keiru before the National Assembly Committee on Defence, Intelligence and Foreign Relations at the County Hall on Thursday April 11, 2024 for vetting.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Previously, consuls-general were just posted abroad without vetting.
  • Belgut MP,  Nelson Koech, said Mr Githinji demonstrated lack of knowledge of DRC affairs.

In a surprising turn of events, Members of Parliament have for the second time rejected a diplomatic nominee citing his suitability to hold the post.

Under the 2010 Constitution, the lawmakers have come under sharp criticism for rubberstamping Executive issues, especially regarding nominees to various positions. 

In 2021, MPs were at loggerheads with the Executive (President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government) for going against their conditional approval for the appointment of Mwende Mwinzi, a dual citizen, as Kenya’s ambassador to Seoul, South Korea. 

The MPs accused Mr Kenyatta of ignoring them and appointing Ms Mwinzi as an envoy, without renounce of her foreign citizenship. 

Now, focus shifts to President William Ruto, on whether he will nominate a new candidate as Consul General to Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to replace Mr Charles Githinji. 

On Wednesday, MPs rejected President Ruto’s Consul General nominee and approved all the 25 nominees to various diplomatic offices abroad.

The approval debate in the plenary passed with ease even as the lawmakers called for regional balance in public appointments.

Specific to Mr Githinji, the Committee on Defence, Intelligence and Foreign Relation chair Nelson Koech (Belgut) sought the members’ indulgence, explaining the reason why he failed the suitability test.

“The nominee for Goma, DRC demonstrated glaring lack of knowledge and the station he is nominated to serve is very strategic to Kenya. Congo, is an anchor and guarantor of regional peace and security,” Mr Koech said.

“Kenya is responsible for fortifying regional peace and security as per the country’s foreign policy. Goma remains a key region for purposeful regional integration,” he went on.

“We must remain in line with the diplomatic workforce. DRC is a member of the EAC and offers hope and trade,” he added.

However, Busia Woman Rep Catherine Omanyo supported Mr Githinji’s nomination terming him a hustler who dared to face learned people despite his not-so-illustrious academic credentials.

“This is the first time a hustler government has rejected its hustler. Even if he could not define GDP, he should have been given a scholarship and represent the hustlers while at Goma because that was your vision,” Ms Omanyo said, leaving colleagues in stitches.

“The young man that I watched has a will and the adage prevails that where there is a will, there is a way. I don’t know where Mr Githinji comes from but he was smart and had the audacity and courage to face the learned people in the committee, that is the hustler that President Ruto chose and we are here to support you” she added.

Mr Koech also referred to the vetting committee’s focus on the Constitution and the statutory law for qualification as head of missions.

“Nominee Vincent Kemosi didn’t turn up for the approval hearing as ambassador to Accra, Ghana and therefore, the nomination lapsed. All the other nominees who appeared before the committee were all Kenyans and did not hold dual citizenship in conformity to the law. All nominees committed not to engage in any other gainful work as State officers serving in their missions as required by law,” Mr Koech said.

He talked about the checking on whether any nominee held a political office, which is a potential conflict of interest.

The chair disclosed that the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) informed the committee it has undertaken investigations against three nominees.

They include former Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi (Ambassador-Uganda, former Law Society of Kenya Vice President Carolyne Kamende Daudi- Ambassador-Canada) and former Baringo Speaker David Kiplagat Kerich (Ambassadors - Washington DC).

“The three are still under investigation but have not been charged and therefore have the right of presumption of innocence until found guilty. The committee could not therefore presume guilty as this is premature judgment on them,“ Mr Koech explained.

He also touched on the requirement of the two-third gender and regional balance.

Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo said Article 132 of the Constitution calls for representation of the face of Kenya in all public appointments, which he said was lacking in the envoys’ list and was never flagged by the committee in its report.

“The list has a serious ethnic imbalance. These positions must now be made competitive and people picked on merit so that we can get the best to represent our country,” Dr Amollo said.

Dr Amollo also faulted the committee on its recommendation on the recalling of previous consuls-general that had not been vetted, saying there is no such provision in the Constitution.

“We have no powers to vet those that have already been appointed. The President can only recall them, cancel the appointments and appoint new ones which then we will vet before deployment,” Dr Amollo said.

Previously, consuls-general were just posted abroad without vetting.

“The committee recommends that henceforth, consuls-general should undergo vetting after their nomination by the appointing authority and that the appointing authority recalls serving consuls-general not vetted for vetting and approval by the National Assembly,” reads the report.

Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah however supported the committee’s recommendation on the recall of those not vetted, warning those that will not come back for vetting will be dropped.

“I support all the recommendations of the committee including the recall of consuls General that were never vetted,” Mr Ichung’wah said.

In approving the 25 envoys, Mr Koech in moving the Special Motion for consideration by the House, said the nominees met the integrity threshold, demonstrated knowledge of topical, administrative and technical issues touching on the positions to which they had been nominated.

“The committee examined the suitability of the nominees based on the criteria set out in the Public Appointments, Parliamentary Approval Act. The committee focused on academic credentials, professional trainings, experience, personal integrity and background,” disclosed Mr Koech. 

Samburu Woman Rep Pauline Lenguris called on the government to ensure that all appointments represent the face of Kenya. She said her community has been ignored in government appointments for jobs. 

“We want to remind the government that we also have competent men and women who have gone to school and can serve in these positions and represent the country well,” she said.