Uhuru sacks powerful minister in latest shocking cabinet reshuffle
NAIROBI, Kenya – Mwangi Kiunjuri, Kenya’s Agriculture minister, was on Tuesday dropped by President Uhuru Kenyatta from cabinet in the lastest reorganisation of government.Also, Uhuru, who has been at the coastal town of Mombasa for the past two weeks, reorganized Kenya’s defense and foreign mission departments.
It was Uhuru’s first cabinet reshuffle since July 2019 when he dropped Treasury minister Henry Rotich, who had been dragged to clandestine scandals.
Uhuru’s shock reshuffling wasn’t anticipated at all, given his frequent threats which have never yielded fruits after all.
Some of critical changes
Kiunjuri, a close ally of Deputy President William Ruto, was replaced by Peter Munya of Trade. Mr. Munya is a former Meru governor.
Mutahi Kagwe, who is a former Senator, was strategically brought into cabinet as a replacement for Kiunjuri from Uhuru’s Mt Kenya region.
Also new to the cabinet is Betty Maina, a little known civil servant who will drive Kenya’s trade and industrialization docket.
Defiant Kiunjuri’s fall from grace
“I have given my best to the assignment that I was given… I leave with my head high,” Kiunjuri told the press, adding that “another door shall open”.
His predicament were however, most anticipated given his frequent appearance in political rallies contrary to the president’s directive.
Last year, a furious Uhuru warned ministers saying “I will not tolerate those politicking. Your work is to deliver for people.”
But the former minister was often seen in rallies organised by the DP Ruto, whose strained relationship with the president has dominated Kenyan media.
Kiunjuri said: “Be confident, don’t not cry for me for we shall overcome… I have faced many challenges but I have courage.”
His removal from cabinet could increase political temperatures within the ruling Jubilee party and probably shape Uhuru’s succession battle, analysts believe.
Changes in Kenya’s foreign mission
Foreign Affairs department will have a third minister within the last seven years, something that could critically shape Kenya’s diplomatic relations.
Uhuru said, “these changes are anchored in the spirit of improving service delivery to our people and international partners.”
Monica Juma, the holder of the office for the last two years, was moved to the Defense department. She was replaced by Raychelle Omamo.
A lawyer by training, Ms. Omamo is now tasked to oversee among others, Kenya’s campaigns to clinch UN Security Council seat in June.
The outgoing minister launched the campaigns in November last year. Kenya is facing stiff competition from Djibouti, local media said.
Also, the new minister will be critical in handling Kenya-Somalia maritime dispute, which is scheduled on June at the Hague.
Inability to negotiate out of court settlement with Somalia was Ms. Juma’s biggest under achievement, journalist Nyambega Gisesa said.
Department of Defense’s changes
At the defense department, Ms. Juma will now confront a new reality on the porous borders of the country and the increasing Al-Shabaab attacks.
For the last one month, the Somalia-based militants have waged eleven attacks on Kenyan soil thereafter sneaking to Somalia, police said.
Calls to withdraw Kenya’s soldiers from Somalia will be some of the tough decisions the career diplomat will face at her new DoD station, analysts say.
Kenya deployed over 2,600 troops to the neighboring Somalia, with the country remaining divided over their continued presence in the country.
Ms. Juma will however oversee only policy implementation as Department of Defense since much work is done by the KDF team.
Uhuru’s race against time
Mr. Kenyatta is running against time in his quest to leave behind a good legacy, something that has seen him working closely to work with opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Uhuru defended his act with Odinga, arguing that he has no intentions to create more positions in the anticipated changes.
“The BBI is not about the creation of new positions for a few individuals. It is about how to have better governance,” he said.
There have been calls from his close allies to change the Constitution and create Prime Minister post which could keep him in office after 2022.