Kenyan President Reshuffles Cabinet as Chasm With Deputy Widens
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta made changes to his cabinet that include the dismissal of a key member considered an ally of his estranged deputy, while placating his voter base by announcing a raft of economic policy changes.
Kenyatta dropped Agriculture Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, who is said to side with Deputy President William Ruto. He confirmed Ukur Yatani as Treasury Secretary, effectively sacking former finance chief Henry Rotich, who is facing graft charges in court.
Ruto’s relationship with the East African nation’s leader has deteriorated amid succession battles for 2022, when Kenyatta is bound to leave office.
“This is meant to pass a message to Ruto,” said Herman Manyora, a political analyst at the University of Nairobi. “We expect to see more of these realignments. It is now more about politics than performance.”
A delicate alliance between Kenyatta and Ruto, who joined forces to contest 2013 elections, has degenerated since the president’s rapprochement with arch-rival Raila Odinga in March 2018. Odinga, who has failed on four attempts to win the presidency, is seen as the biggest threat to Ruto’s stab at the top seat.
Kenyatta’s and Odinga’s so-called handshake deal undermines an arrangement in which the president was supposed to rally his support base to back Ruto’s bid at the next vote. The deputy has also raided the president’s backyard and enjoys the support of many lawmakers who would traditionally back Kenyatta.
“I find it unfortunate that in the process of unifying Kenyans, people feel like they are being left out,” Kenyatta said in a televised speech while announcing the changes, referring to the deal with Odinga. “I am not against anybody. I am for 47 million Kenyans.”
Kenyatta also made a raft of policy change announcements for tea, coffee and milk production and marketing that are meant to appease his key support base, according to Manyora.
He imposed a 16% tax on milk imported from outside the regional East African Community bloc and ordered a probe into governance challenges, buying methods and an opaque dividend policy that have “bedeviled” the tea industry, he said. Kenyatta also announced a 3 billion shilling ($30 million) fund to protect coffee farmers from delayed payments.
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