President Uhuru Kenyatta has fired Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri and suspended Treasury counterpart Henry Rotich.
In a reshuffle announced on Tuesday from State House, Mombasa, Uhuru named Peter Munya (Trade) as Agriculture Minister and confirmed Amb Ukur Yatani as Treasury boss, effectively firing the two from his Cabinet.
Munya will be replaced by Betty Maina, whose Trade docket retakes the State Department of Industrialisation.
Water CS Simon Chelugui takes over as Labour CS, a docket previously held by Yatani.
While Rotich is facing graft charges over the Arror and Kimwarer dam scandal, it is the firing of Kiunjuri, a man who has increasingly engaged in politics in the recent past, that made headlines.
It is not a secret that he has backed Deputy President William Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid.
This also comes at a time when the President has become so unpopular in Central Kenya to an extent of cancelling a scheduled meeting over hostility fears based on intelligence reports.
Poor produce prices are at the centre of this hostility, as some farmers have uprooted tea and coffee trees. Milk prices are down from over Sh40 to Sh15.
Then there is corruption in the Agriculture sector.
Kiujuri has been on President Kenyatta’s radar since 2018, when he publicly scolded the Agriculture CS on October 4 over irregular payment of maize farmers’ cash to “well-connected individuals.
“Mungiriha nimukuona (if you pay, you’ll see)” a bitter told Kiunjuri on at the Nairobi ASK show.
“I promise you … and I swear before God, you try that again and you’ll see what is going to happen to you. We don’t want these jokes anymore,” he added.
In what became the Maize Scandal, several National Cereals and Produce Board officials were charged over the payments of millions of shillings to the individuals at the expense of genuine farmers.
Notably, President Kenyatta’s State of the Nation address largely dealt on agriculture and the proposed changes to fix the mess in the docket.
A Twitter spat between the then Trade and Industrialisation CS Peter Munya and Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa on December 14 brought to the fore the blame game on the woes facing the agriculture docket.
“Ichung’wa is a rent seeker. Let him take his rent seeking missions to Kiunjuri. Inspirations from Sugoi will not improve dairy industry,” tweeted Munya.
Ichung’wa had put Munya on the spot over the desperation of dairy farmers in Central, who had resorted to pouring away their milk due to poor prices and inability to access markets following flooding.
Happens Munya takes over the docket from Kiunjuri.
In the Star’s Tuesday edition, the paper reported that the Cabinet is sharply divided between Uhuru and DP Ruto over BBI report implementation.
“At the centre of the fallout is Ruto’s displeasure with his boss’s support for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and the hand of ODM leader Raila Odinga in government,” the Star said.
Those supporting the DP are Kiunjuri, Energy CS Charles Keter, Lands CS Farida Karoney and Water CS Simon Chelugui, who was moved to a less lucrative Labour ministry.
In what could have been the last nail on his coffin, Kiunjuri in November convened 68 MPs and senators from the Mt Kenya region in Embu where they issued a statement supporting the BBI report but opposed round two talks.
President Kenyatta gazetted the 14-member BBI steering committee to oversee the second phase of the initiative on Friday and the announcement made on Monday.
MT KENYA KINGPIN
Talk has been that Kiunjuri is seeking to be the second in command come 2022.
In this regard, his political activities have seen leaders endorse him to succeed Kenyatta after 2022. Former Jubilee vice-chairman says Uhuru is going nowhere.
For instance, leaders from Laikipia, Meru and Nyandarua counties in December Kiunjuri to come out strongly and unite the area under one political party. He is the founder of the now-defunct GNU party.
Speaking during the burial of a relative to Kiunjuri’s PA in Ntugi, Meru, Laikipia Senator John Kinyua, Buuri MP Mugambi Rindikiri, Laikipia Speaker Patrick Waigwa and his Nyandarua counterpart Ndegwa Wahome said the CS was only second to Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi in political experience in the region.
They argued that on this basis, CS Kiunjuri was the best man to take on other national leaders on behalf of the region, the Daily Nation said.
“We urge you to get ready and give us a political party with which we will bargain for power in 2022. We need our own tent. We will judge you harshly if Mt Kenya region loses direction and lacks a political party to guide it in the next General Election,” the Laikipia speaker said.
Nyeri Town MP N=gunjiri Wambugu said, “We know Kiunjuri wants to be deputy president and we will not allow him to bring division in Central”.
He said this when rowdy youth disrupted Kiunjuri’s meeting in Gatitu, Nyeri county, in July last year.
In other changes, the President also moved CSs Rachel Omamo from Defence to Foreign Affairs, Sicily Kariuki from Health to Water and Monica Juma from Foreign Affairs to Defence.
He also made new nominations to the Cabinet as follows:
Mutahi Kagwe – CS Health
Betty Maina – CS Industrialisation
John Weru – PS Trade
Dr Jwan Ouma – PS Vocational and Technical Training
Mary Kimunye – PS Public Service
Simon Nabukwesi – PS University Education and Research
Solomon Kitungu – PS Transport
Enoch Momanyi Onyango – PS Physical Planning