President Uhuru Kenyatta is facing a dilemma in addressing the corruption allegations facing two of his pillars of support.
While five ministers are on suspension for alleged corruption, the claims against Deputy President William Ruto and Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru are presenting him with the greatest challenge so far.
How he handles the allegations against the two will either inject momentum into his crusade against corruption in government or hamper the efforts.
Mr Ruto has admitted owning Weston Hotel, which is said to sit on public land that was illegally acquired from the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.
President Kenyatta cannot take action against Mr Ruto without upsetting the populous Rift Valley, whose votes he needs for a second term.
Any move against Mr Ruto would also open a Pandora’s box of all the stolen public land documented in the Ndung’u and the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation reports.
But if he does nothing, his anti-corruption credentials, which he had established through the bold decision of asking ministers named in a corruption report to step aside two months ago, could be dented.
Ms Waiguru’s case also presents a difficult political challenge given the apparent rebellion in President Kenyatta’s central Kenya strongholds over the removal of officials from the region.
The CS has come under pressure to step aside as a number of officials in her ministry are being investigated over an alleged attempt to steal Sh826 million from the National Youth Service (NYS).
Ms Waiguru, whose docket has one of the biggest budget votes, has denied that any money was lost. She said that she blew the whistle by inviting the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to look into the matter.
The Opposition, however, insists that President Kenyatta is protecting Ms Waiguru and that heshould suspend her.
“What is in question is the very shady, murky and extremely unethical procurement procedures at the Ministry of Devolution’s NYS projects, where beans, ndengu, sugar, rice and milk, among other things, are being supplied at inflated prices by shadowy companies, some of which are linked to senior officials in government,” Cord leader Raila Odinga said in a statement on Thursday.
Mr Odinga said there appeared to be two sets of laws governing the war on corruption and that some suspects get presidential protection while others are left on their own.
President Kenyatta has come out strongly in support of Ms Waiguru but he has remained silent over the Ruto affair despite pressure from the Opposition and civil society to act.
On Wednesday, the President, speaking in Mumias, dismissed individuals criticising Ms Waiguru, saying the NYS projects she was implementing were improving the lives of the youth.
A day later, his spokesman, Mr Manoah Esipisu, called a press conference at State House at which he said the NYS investigations had been twisted to meet certain political ends.
The youth projects have emerged as a key plank in the President’s re-election strategy and this may also explain why he is fighting hard to defend them.
It is to be noted that they are mostly being implemented in Kibera, Nairobi, and Kisumu, which are the strongholds of his rival, Mr Odinga.
At the same time, Senate Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki said while President Kenyatta’s forays in the country will bear political capital, the bigger take-home is that he has set the bar of the presidency very high by living true to its role.
“His message has been: You shouldn’t be punished for your political decision; it is your right.”
Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi told the Saturday Nation that his attempts to have the issue about Ms Waiguru discussed in Parliament was thwarted by Majority Leader Aden Duale.
Instead, the minister would be invited before a House committee to answer questions when she comes back from Colombia, where she is on an official visit.
President Kenyatta’s defence of Ms Waiguru while other suspended Cabinet secretaries are still in the cold has rubbed some political players the wrong way. They described it as a tactical error.
Igembe North MP Joseph M’Eruaki said: “The President is watching as his pillars in government are being drowned. He left Charity Ngilu (Lands) and Michael Kamau (Roads) to their own devices yet they are hardworking. All that has been said against Cabinet secretaries are allegations. No concrete evidence has been adduced.”
The case of Mrs Ngilu also presents a unique dilemma due to its political ramifications in Ukambani.
If Mrs Ngilu is found culpable and is forced out, the political landscape in lower eastern Kenya could dramatically change. Already, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, a political nemesis of the suspended minister, has been commiserating with her, including escorting her to court.
The rejection of Ms Monica Juma by President Kenyatta’s allies only compounds the political arithmetic as Mrs Ngilu and Ms Juma are from the same region.
Back home, Mr Kenyatta has also been jolted by the rare rebellion from local MPs, who accuse him of removing people from central Kenya from the government and replacing them with those from outside the region.
The MPs were referring to former Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia from Nyandarua County, Interior Principal Secretary Mutea Iringo from Meru County and Mr Kamau from Nyeri County.
Their stand may also help explain the President’s defence of Ms Waiguru because he cannot move against another big fish from central Kenya after Mr Kamau, Mr Iringo and Mr Kimemia were edged out of government.
On Friday, the MPs dug in, insisting their opposition was meant to help the President.
“We have approved 99 per cent of what the President has brought to Parliament. When we say this one is wrong, we should be listened to because we are doing it in good faith,” said Kandara MP Alice Wahome.
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