And The Nominees Are..
It was quite a wait for the announcements that eventually came and as the new President and Deputy came out of the corridors of state house and stood before the eagerly awaiting cameras and nation at large he said among other things that this was not the government of old where one would hear the announcements on the One O’clock news, where a CV was all that was needed when choosing members of a cabinet. We were minutes away from finding out just how true and –digital- this statement and style was.
First and most apparent was the smart casual way that President Kenyatta and his Deputy dressed, they walked out of the wooden doors of statehouse in matching long sleeved white shirts and red ties sans the stuffy, official looking jackets. The both looked relaxed and jovial.
He introduced each nominee or appointee and gave us his/her biography. Letting us get to know his choices was unheard of before this. His predecessors always held this vital process behind closed doors only notifying the public once he had picked his all too large cabinet complete with assistant ministers. To this end the president said: ‘Unlike the past, when government was very large it is not possible to say that everybody is going to be in parliament.’
The first batch of nominees – there would be two more- was presented on Tuesday 23. This batch had just four names on it:
Dr. Fred Matiang’i –ICT- Aka The man responsible for dealing with the small migraine of (finding ways of) giving all the new standard one pupils with laptops.
Mr. James Macharia – Health
This appointment was greeted with its fair share of discontent from a doctors lobby group: the Kenya Medical Association mainly because Mr Macharia is a Certified Public Accountant and holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration. On hearing and watching this, the doctors made their displeasure known. The nurses meanwhile held a contradictory opinion largely in favour of the appointment.
Mrs. Amina Mohamed- Foreign Affairs. This former Assistant Secretary General at the UN and Deputy Executive Director of Unep is seen as more than capable of handling the docket she has been handed.
And lastly- for that day- was:
Mr Henry Rotich- National Treasury: He was the Deputy Director in charge of economic affairs at the Ministry of Finance.
Parliament refused to vet the four- demanding that the president complete the list before they got to work.
The 24th came and the nation once again waited eager for more of the list. We were in for quite a wait that eventually ended in mild disappointment when the two friends walked out and told the nation that due to the visit from a neighbouring dignitary that ran long.
The president then apologized for the delay and said in explanation that: ‘we were not able to interview the individuals we have in mind.
The two then answered questions from the very patient journalists- who had been waiting since sometime in the afternoon.
On the question of Mr Macharia’s nomination the president said they were searching for someone with management skills; an individual capable of implementing the agenda. He also said: ‘the individuals we have chosen can deliver, they have the capacity to work with doctors or teachers in the sector.’
The president was also asked why the process had taken so long and if power sharing arguments had caused the delays. To which he answered: ‘Power sharing has been the last thing on our minds. We are being driven primarily on the people’s ability to deliver... the delay is occasioned not by disagreement but by the process of talking to the men and women we are interviewing who are somewhere here...’
At some point the president passed the mantle or in this case the microphone or podium to his deputy and here he would do what most people would equate with putting his foot in his mouth. A move that would- just the following afternoon- require some artful spin.
He began well enough: ‘Don’t waste time trying to find out who among the nominees is TNA and URP... we didn’t ask them who they voted for. He then proverbially opened his mouth and firmly inserted his foot by uttering the seemingly harmless statement:
‘I can tell you that there will be two politicians in Cabinet the president and I’. This would have been harmless if the last two names on the second list were not those of ‘ex’ politicians and loyal friends of the two.
Before the two made their retreat back into the hallowed halls of state house the president promised he and his Deputy would deliver more names to Kenyans by ‘9am at the latest’ the following morning, even encouraging the journalists to ‘watcheni virago vyenu hapohapo’ (leave your things right there) and return for them in the morning.
This promise would however stuck to as the two made their appearance 2 hours later than promised- eventually starting at 11:20 am. They would eventually name 12 more nominees:
Mrs. Anne Waiguru- Devolution & Planning
Mr Davis Chirchir- Energy & Petrolium
Ms. Raychelle Awor Omamo– Defence- the countries first female defence secretary
Mr Michael S. Kamau- Transport & Infrastructure
Mrs. Phyllis Chepkosgey- EA Affairs, Commerce & Tourism
Prof. Jacob Kaimenyi-Education
Mr. Felix Kosgey- Agriculture, Livestock & Fisheries
Prof. Judi Wakhungu- Environment, Water & Natural Resources
Dr. Hassan Wario- Sports, Culture & Arts
Loyalty Has Its Benefits:
With his next two and final appointments of the day the President and DPP made a widely expected but talked about and unpopular move by scratching the backs and rewarding the loyalty of two of his most fervent supporters. Najib Balala -Mining and
Charity Ngilu-Lands, Housing & Urban Development. Land is one of the most contentious issues.
With these two appointments would come numerous questions and less than approving chatter. Especially given the previous nights’ comments by the DPP. When he was asked about this the president went into what many would call ‘damage control’ and ‘spin’.
In his spin Kenyatta announced to a very sceptical nation that ‘what the DPP said is true; there are only two politicians. The two are not going to be politicians. They shall leave their political lives and shall not interfere in the politics of the government.’ If his 'spin doctor move showed anything it was that Kenyatta had & has his Deputy Presidents back and that their camaraderie is indeed a real friendship and not just for show.
And with that statement most of the country went ‘yeah right’ ‘a politician can’t help but be just that’ The old adage ‘You scratch my back I scratch yours’ resonated and rang clearly for many a Kenyan sitting before their television sets. Before this the largely TNA/URP parliament had said that they didn’t want any politicians in the new largely technocrat cabinet. Given statements such as these one would thing their appointments would not go too far. We shall have to wait and see.