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Kenya: Ruto talks tough to his appointees, warns against incompetence

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Kenya: Ruto talks tough to his appointees, warns against incompetence

Ruto has ordered a written explanation from top government officials who were late to a performance contract-signing event at State House in Nairobi on 1 August. An angry Ruto said he would not tolerate what he described as old, incompetent excuses of senior government officials turning up late for state functions and blaming traffic jams.

“If you cannot keep time with your employer, then you have just dismissed yourself,” he said after locking out late officials from entering the venue.

Security minister Kithure Kindiki and his trade counterpart Moses Kuria are reportedly among the senior officials who were locked out for turning up late for the function that was to start at 8 AM. “I will be expecting a written apology and it should not contain matters of traffic,” Ruto told the absent officials.

The president said he is concerned that several of his ministers and principal secretaries are unaware of developments within their ministries and are not properly articulating government policies to the public.

Disappointed constituents

“How do you run a ministry without information? That is the highest level of incompetence,” he said. Ruto’s remarks have had Kenyans talking. George Maina is a taxi driver in Nairobi who voted for Ruto last year. He says Ruto’s appointees disappoint him.

“It looks like Ruto appointed clueless officials. We only see the president talking most of the time,” he tells The Africa Report. Daisy Achieng is an unemployed youth from Kisumu, an opposition political base. She says if Ruto’s ministers are not performing, the president should blame himself.

“I’m not surprised. He appointed his cronies to serve. Why is he complaining now?” she tells The Africa Report.

Minister mishaps

Opposition party ODM communication director Philip Etale mocked Security Minister Kindiki for failing to keep time, reminding him of how he deployed police officers in the early morning to deal with protesters.

Last year, during the vetting of Ruto’s cabinet in parliament, the opposition voted against all the nominees, saying most of them had questionable characters and were not going to deliver to the public. “We have a choice to reject over 60% of these names …,” John Mbadi, an opposition MP, said on the floor of the house.

Ruto’s ministers have been on the spot, clashing with each other in public. In November 2022, Trade minister Kuria announced plans for the government to import maize, but his agriculture counterpart Mithika Linturi came out to refute the plan, saying Kenya did not have a maize deficit. In May, Foreign Affairs minister Alfred Mutua said Kenya had reached an agreement with Canada for massive employment opportunities for Kenyans, a statement the Canadian authorities denounced.

Nairobi-based political analyst Kevin Ochol told The Africa Report that Ruto’s decision to read the riot act to top government officials comes too late but was expected. “Ruto must regret rewarding his political allies, instead of settling on technocrats,” he says.

With political talks between the opposition and government expected to start soon, Ruto might shake his cabinet and appoint technocrats from the opposition side to help him run the government, says Ochol. “Ruto is realising he will be judged harshly by the electorate in 2027 if he fails to deliver,” he adds.

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