Kenya: President Ruto’s first test with court over appointments

By Victor Abuso

Posted on Thursday, 17 November 2022 12:26
Kenya's President-elect William Ruto speaks after the Supreme Court upheld his win in Nairobi, Kenya September 5, 2022. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

President William Ruto’s new-found cordial relationship with the judiciary is under strain after a Nairobi court temporarily stopped the parliamentary vetting and approval of 51 principal secretaries (PSs) who he had appointed.

The decision of the Employment and Labour Relations Court follows a petition filed by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), which is challenging Ruto’s appointments.

The LSK claims that the list does not respect regional, tribal balance, two thirds gender rule principle, youths and persons with disabilities – rights which are enshrined in the constitution.

Who are the appointees and what is the process  ?

When a new administration comes to power, the positions of PS fall vacant and the Public Service Commission – a body that recruits public servants – announces the vacancies for suitable Kenyans to apply.

In September, more than 9,000 people applied for the PS jobs. 477 were then shortlisted and the names forwarded to the president, according to Article 155 of the Constitution.

Ruto settled on 51 principal secretaries, 13 of whom are from his community in the Rift Valley region.

The people of Kenya will be adversely affected with an executive that does not reflect the face of Kenya

Another 13 are from his deputy Rigathi Gachagua’s Kikuyu tribe in Central Kenya, while the remaining number is distributed among other communities.

Kenya has more than 40 tribes

In their petition, LSK lawyers Stephen Muli and Kevin Walumbe argue that if the nominees are appointed, the public will be affected by service delivery because the appointments do not reflect the face of Kenya.

“The people of Kenya will be adversely affected with an executive that does not reflect the face of Kenya,” they say.

Another petitioner, Stephen Kariuki Maina, represented by her lawyer Sheillah Mengesa, wants the list dropped. She is questioning how one nominee – Sylvia Naseya Muhoro – was included in the final list yet she was not shortlisted.

The names were later forwarded to the National Assembly for approval, an exercise that was ongoing until the court halted the process.

In response to the court order, the speaker of the National Assembly, Moses Wetangula, issued a statement saying: “The vetting is suspended forthwith until further notice.”

Ruto’s test with judiciary?

Ruto’s opponents accuse him of capturing the judiciary after the subsequent appointment of six judges to the Court of Appeal, who his Predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta had refused to appoint over integrity issues.

The president’s promise to allocate over KSh3bn to the judiciary has also been criticised as a way of inclining the judges to favour the new administration.

Ruto hopes that the court rules in his favour to keep the new found relationship

Ruto also praised the judiciary following the Supreme Court ruling, which upheld his win against Raila Odinga in the August 2022 elections,

Edwin Kegoli, a political analyst based in Nairobi, agrees that the case at the employment court is a litmus test for the judiciary as well as Ruto’s ability to make appointments according to the rule of law.

“Ruto hopes that the court rules in his favour to keep the new found relationship,” Kegoli tells The Africa Report.

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