Kenya: Kuria Welcomes Matiangi's New Role - Wants Constitution Reform to Mainstream Changes

23 January 2019

Nairobi — Gatundu South lawmaker Moses Kuria has welcomed the appointment of Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi as supervisor of government projects terming the designation "the first constitutional change before a referendum."

Kuria who has recently emerged as a key proponent of an expanded national executive with a Prime Minister and two deputies said on Tuesday Matiangi will assist President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto effectively run the government, amid reports that the move was a deliberate effort to curtail Ruto's influence in government.

"Exactly what I had in mind when I proposed a Prime Minister and two Deputy Prime Ministers appointed by the President to assist the President and the Deputy President in these important roles," Kuria said after details of an Executive Order signed by Kenyatta on Monday emerged outlining Matiangi's new role.

"The first constitutional change has taken place without a referendum," he added.

The legislator who represents Kenyatta's home constituency had Sunday called for the fast-tracking of a popular vote to include the three new positions in the national executive days after submitting a memorandum to a national taskforce seeking public opinions on how to tackle divisive politics in the country.

"Once we agree on what we're going to change we're going to work but also we shall go around the whole country preparing for 2022 elections. What we want is we come up with a common understanding of the needed constitutional reforms then from there we start forming our own formations," he said.

Kuria who has declared interest in running for the presidency in 2022 openly defied President Kenyatta's call for an end to early campaigns saying politicians were free to form coalitions.

"Each formation is not only going to present a presidential candidate and a running mate but a Super Five ticket which includes a Prime Minister and two deputies so we can't wait, we're itching to go," the second-term parliamentarian who recently retracted accusations that President Kenyatta had neglected the vote-rich central region said.

Matiangi's appointment to chair the National Development Implementation and Communication Committee which draws membership from the entire Cabinet except President Kenyatta and his deputy has been seen as a move to weaken Ruto's power and influence as principal assistant to the Head of State.

While the Executive Order issued on Monday could be seen as an affirmation of the mandate of the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government headed by Matiangi, the secrecy with which it was handled raised eyebrows.

The order did not receive much publicity, even by President Kenyatta's own press service, the media only learning of it when the Head of State directed regional and county commissioners to chair weekly meetings to monitor the implementation of government development agenda.

The regional and county security chiefs are part of an elaborate monitoring mechanism established in the Monday Executive Order with has National Development Implementation and Communication Committee as the ultimate supervisory team.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich was delegated as Vice-Chairperson of the committee comprising all Cabinet Secretaries, Attorney General, Kihara Kariuki, and Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua.

President Kenyatta also named a technical committee comprising all Principal Secretaries to be chaired by Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho deputized by his National Treasury counterpart Kamau Thugge.

Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen who is seen as Ruto's right-hand man commended the newly named superintendents of the Cabinet Committee in a brief tweet Tuesday night.

"Congratulations to President Kenyatta for the Executive Order 1 of 2019 and to my friends CSs Matiangi and Rotich for the additional responsibilities. We look forward to a more coordinated service delivery and greater accountability to the people of Kenya. God bless you William Ruto," the Elgeyo Marakwet senator remarked.

The Monday appointment could further escalate tension within ruling Jubilee Party where to camps have recently emerged over a 2013 pre-election agreement that would see Kenyatta back Ruto for presidency in 2022.

Although President Kenyatta repeatedly affirmed his commitment to the deal in the period leading to the 2017 presidential election, he has insistently warned against politicking his March 9, 2018, truce with his main opponent in the presidential polls, Raila Odinga.

On May 30, 2018, President Kenyatta sparked debate on souring relations with his deputy when he apparently described Ruto as a "loitering young man."

"Let's all Jubilee members, including those who want to join us, get ready. We shall all submit ourselves to primaries and whoever losses should accept defeat. I'll support whoever defeats me in a democratic primary process the same way I expect those who lose to me to support me," he had said during a stopover shortly after issuing 50,000 title deeds to landowners at Jacaranda Grounds in Embakasi East where he had announced the allocation of Sh4 billion for construction of roads in the area.

Kenyatta later repeated the remark on June 2, 2018, during the burial of Virginia Ciarùnji Njoka, mother to National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi in Embu.

"I've heard that there's an institution here where Speaker Muturi schooled that has no laboratory. I want the Education Cabinet Secretary to make sure that the laboratory is constructed so that while William is touring and 'loitering' around here, he can check that it is complete," he remarked at the time.

Ruto in a quick rejoinder made light of Kenyatta's comments saying: "For the permission you gave me, and the order, I want to report that the Mathathari-Shiakago-Ugweri road has been completed."

Kenyatta has refused to be drawn into the debate on whether or not he will back deputy with who they merged over twelve parties including The National Super Alliance and the United Republican Party through which the coalesced in 2013 to clinch the presidency.

The succession debate has caused schism in the governing party recently forcing its Vice Chairperson David Murathe to quit after publicly denouncing the existence on any election pact between Kenyatta and Ruto.

The crisis forced Ruto to wade into the debate saying the Jubilee Party did not have an automatic presidential candidate but rather, primaries will be held to determine its 2022 presidential flag bearer.

"We need to be very clear. No one owes another anything. When the time comes, Jubilee Party will hold primaries for all positions including presidential nominee and we shall all meet in the ballot," the DP remarked when met a section of leaders at his Sugoi home in Eldoret on January 3.

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