Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta fired two cabinet secretaries and moved ministers in the defense and interior docket in a cabinet reshuffle announced Tuesday as he delivered the state address.
The president formally knifed interdicted finance Minister Henry Rotich and confirmed the acting finance minister to the job. Ukur Yatani has been acting in the role since last July after Rotich was arrested on suspicion of financial misconduct relating to the construction of two dams. Rotich’s arrest was an unprecedented detention of a sitting minister for corruption in Kenya. Rotich denied charges.
State prosecutor Noordin Haji told journalists at a news conference in July 2019 that Rotich and 27 others, including an Italian contractor “broke the law on public finance management under the guise of carrying out legitimate commercial transactions.”
“Colossal amounts were unjustifiably and illegally paid out through a well choreographed scheme by government officers in collusion with private individuals and institutions,” Haji said.
The two dams were reportedly budgeted at 46 billion shillings ($446 million) but the treasury borrowed 63 billion instead, needlessly ratcheting up Kenya’s ballooning public debt, which stands at around 55% of GDP.
President Kenyatta who is also laboring to prove efforts against graft said he will not tire and will take a front line role in the fight. He called on the judiciary to support his efforts.
“I seek the indulgence of the Judiciary. And I do so because no administration in the history of this country has prosecuted corruption cases the way I have. From ministers to governors, senior government officers to procurement officers, I have been on the front line,” he said.
“And since I respect the principle of separation of powers, I have no powers of convicting the accused. I have done my part. And I will continue to do so. Now the Judiciary should give us convictions as an indication that we are winning in this war.”
The new finance Minister served a the country’s representative to the United Nations. He also worked as governor of Marsabit County. Yatani also served as as ambassador to Austria before his appointment as labor minister in 2018. Since his appointment to the Treasury, he has won some praise for taking tentative steps towards reining in government spending and a growing debt burden.
Kenyatta also dropped the minister of agriculture from the cabinet and nominated new ministers for health and industrialization. He also moved Rachel Omamo from Defense to Foreign Affairs, Sicily Kariuki from Health to Water, Monica Juma from Foreign Affairs to Defense in the wake of serial terror attacks.
Analysts have dispelled rumor that the recent attacks by Islamist militants al Shabaab in the Somali-border region have informed Kenyatta’s decision to make changes in the defense and interior docket.
George Musamali, a Kenyan security analyst and CEO of Executive Protection Services in Nairobi was quoted by Turkish news agency Anadolu that the reshuffle has “nothing to do with the enhancement of security in the wake of recent attacks that we have from al Shabaab.”
“We are just seeing a cosmetic change, what we can do is reduce the frequency of these attacks and the only way we can do this is having proper intelligence collection mechanisms … al-Shabaab have developed local intelligence networks and they are using this information in carrying out successful attacks, we should also invest in that. Let’s have local intelligence networks as opposed to relying on the National Intelligence Service (NIS)” he said.
Asking Ministers and civil servants to pull their socks, Kenyatta promised to focus on the economy in the next few months, acknowledging that many people have been complaining of severe hardships in recent years.
“Today, I will spell out the areas that my administration intends to focus on over the next few months. The primary thrust of that strategy is economic. And this is because our practice throughout our history has been to pursue the political kingdom as opposed to the economic kingdom. But that focus has been wrong,” he said.
“It is the reason we still have remnants of poverty despite the years of progress we have made.”
Kenya is enjoying a stable foreign exchange rate, low inflation and a reduced current account deficit. But it is still suffering from a sense of economic malaise, concern over mounting debt, sluggish revenue growth, corruption scandals, slowing output and job losses, Reuters reported Tuesday