President Uhuru Kenyatta has comfortably taken control of the national government and things are slowly getting back on track like he had envisioned. After tumultuous months of DP Ruto’s internal sabotage, the head of state embarked on a systematic reorganization that saw him streamline the government and take in people who are fiercely committed to his agenda. This also is in addition to Raila Odinga’s valuable advice and support plus bringing CS Matiangi on board to be in charge of all government operations and report directly to the head of state. The outcome? A stable administrative state that is quickly adjusting to the Big Pour agenda.
The recent restructuring of the Presidential Delivery Unit, the Cabinet reshuffles, and the strengthening of information flow from the grassroots is part of this new structure, which is now complete.
Fearing that he would be a lame duck in his final term President and concerned that the political state had become uncontrollable — nay, ungovernable — President Kenyatta started by waging a multi-pronged political war that not only identified avenues of sleaze, but also managed to weaken the political structures left by his predecessor, Mwai Kibaki.
During Uhuru’s first term, the elected politicians — MPs, senators and governors — held sway over him, the provincial administrators and Cabinet technocrats with the governors and other politicos downplaying the role of the new County Commissioners and looking down on the President’s appointees: Cabinet secretaries and the principal secretaries.
Like a man under siege, President Kenyatta was also having a rough time with the Raila Odinga-led opposition which was threatening to make his second term painful and unpleasant.
After a do-or-die campaign, both Mr Odinga and Mr Kenyatta had plunged the country into abyss as riots and political feud reigned.
The president was also losing his cool demeanour and could easily be provoked.
Graft has also threatening Mr Kenyatta’s legacy and with the ruling Jubilee party’s flagship projects — the National Youth Service and the Standard Gauge Railway — enmeshed in scandals, only a clean-up of the system would guarantee him a semblance of legacy.
The best card on the table, his advisors thought, was to bring Mr Odinga on board and persuade him to back the war against corruption and help weaken the political structure, which normally relied on sleaze and business of crime.
On March 9, and in a surprise move that cooled tension, both Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga abandoned their rivalry in a ceremonial handshake outside Harambee House in a move that redefined the Kenyatta succession plan, hitherto seen as cut out for Deputy President William Ruto.
During his first term, and at best, President Kenyatta, his weaknesses notwithstanding, looked like a minion rather than an astute leader and often faded, to his chagrin, in the shadow of his deputy — an always-on-the-road politico whose touch with the grassroots is impeccable.
By waging the war against corruption and scattering cartel networks, President Kenyatta has not only weakened the political system by using administrative and security apparatus but also set loose the state machinery to clamp down the financial structures that financed the rogue political state.
To clean up the political state, the State managed to make swift changes in the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, Police Service, The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and Kenya Revenue Authority.
These are now manned by career intelligence officers and detectives — and this is by design.
Last week, the trio of George Kinoti (DCI), Kenya Revenue Authority’s James Mburu, and DPP Noordin Haji went to the field personally to witness how a multimillion racket within the Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) worked.
The three appear to have the blessings of the President and recently, in Mombasa, Mr Kenyatta said he will not save anyone from these detectives-turned-administrators.
“There are two people who are determined to slay the dragon of sleaze…when they come for you do not call me,” he warned corrupt government officials.
During Mr Kenyatta’s first term, and apart from then-Mombasa County Commissioner Nelson Marwa, most of the 47 commissioners agreed to play second fiddle in a system that gave preference to politicians both at the political podium and in practice.
The new devolved system of government also gave governors more muscle — and they managed to be saluted as “your excellency” —hitherto a preserve of the presidency.
The governors also eclipsed members of Parliament in terms of relevance and political hubris. After all, they had the cake and the knife.
But rather than act during his first term, and afraid that he could jeopardise his re-election, President Kenyatta, according to sources within his structure, decided to strike after he won a second term.
The ongoing war against corruption, money laundering, gun-running, poaching, counterfeits and transnational crimes became the first move to cripple a political system that relied on handouts from cartels to survive.
But the war against drug barons and cartels had been frustrated by the Judiciary, and it forced President Kenyatta to make an executive decision that saw leading drug barons — the Aksahas — extradited to the US where they pleaded guilty to trafficking.
In Mombasa, they had managed to frustrate efforts by the State to extradite them through the Judiciary and President Kenyatta now uses the case to showcase the rot within the judicial structure, where he has no control.
Nine months ago, and with the confidence of a big cat, President Kenyatta made his biggest move in the reorganisation of the administrative state and appointed Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i as chairperson of a newly-constituted National Development Implementation and Communication Committee mandated to supervise the execution of government programmes.
In the Executive Order, whose import was not quickly seen, Dr Matiang’i was to guide a team composed of all Cabinet secretaries, Attorney General Kihara Kariuki, and Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua.
Another technical team was set up, chaired by Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho, bringing together all the principal secretaries and gave them immense powers to supervise government projects.
Already, some governors such as Murang’a’s Mwangi wa Iria have been protesting about Water Principal Secretary Joseph Irungu’s supervision of projects in the county, an indicator of the shift in power to the administration.
Also established under the Executive Order were Regional and County Development Implementation Committees that are now chaired by regional and county commissioners.
Under the new guidelines on standards, procedures and reporting requirements, most of the information flows through the administration structures and that is why the PDU was recently moved from State House to the Ministry of Interior, which is now coordinating “delivery” of all State projects.
With a single coordinating ministry, President Kenyatta has been implementing what is known as “one government approach policy”, through which the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of Government has been working with other ministries in the implementation of key government programmes.
As a result, Dr Matiang’i and Dr Kibicho have become the new faces of the new Uhuru state.
Some of the programmes carried out under the multiagency framework include the delivery of the Big 4.
But politically, it has managed to whittle down the relevance of politicians in the Kenyatta II term.
Also, the former provincial administration has been reorganised to follow a similar pattern.
In his new role, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has realigned the provincial structure to meet President Kenyatta’s new “one government approach policy”.
This structure has been worked out with new roles assigned to the regions and counties which have been strengthened to reflect the new thinking.