raising eyebrows

Kenya: Ruto accused of ‘tribal and political’ bias in state appointments

By Victor Abuso

Posted on May 25, 2023 09:00

 © Photo: @WilliamsRuto
Photo: @WilliamsRuto

President William Ruto is facing heavy criticism from the opposition and a certain religious leaders, who accuse him of ethnic favouritism and rewarding political allies when making key state appointments.

In the latest appointment made this week, Ruto has nominated Mary Wanyonyi, wife of former electoral commission chairman Wafula Chebukati, to lead the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA). The mandate of the agency is to share revenue between national and county governments.

Martha Karua, who was Raila Odinga’s running mate in last year’s presidential elections, has described the appointment as a reward for those who helped him get power.

“It’s payback time,” she said on Twitter.

During the presidential elections in August last year, the opposition  accused Chebukati – who has since retired – of permitting irregularities during the polls, leading to a win for Ruto over Raila.

‘Tribalism and cronyism’

Bishops from the Anglican Church, led by Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, have also criticised Ruto’s appointments warning that if the trend continues, it will lead  towards disunity amongst ethnic groups in the country.

“There is glaring tribalism and cronyism in public appointments. This inequality is not acceptable,” says Archbishop Ole Sapit.

According to Article 10 of the Kenyan Constitution, all government appointments should ensure that there is inclusiveness, equality, ethnic diversity and regional balance to foster stability of the country.

Ruto comes from the Kalenjin tribe, while his deputy Rigathi Gachagua is from the Kikuyu community. The two tribes are Kenya’s largest. For decades, Kenyans have been known to vote along ethnic lines, except for the 2022 elections where the dynamics slightly shifted, according to analysts.

After assuming power last September, the majority of Ruto’s appointments have been considered tribal, rewarding the two tribes that gave him the majority of votes.

The latest appointments that have raised concern include:

  • Caleb Kositany: chairman of the Kenya Airports Authority
  • Rashid Echesa: chairperson of the Kenya Water Towers Agency Board
  • William Ruto: managing director of the Kenya Ports Authority
  • Kamau Thugge: governor, Central Bank of Kenya
  • Moses Cheboi: chairperson of the Advocates Complaints Commission
  • Joseph Gitonga: chairperson of the Board of the Nyayo Tea Zones Development Corporation

We are also Kenyans…

Despite the criticism, Ruto’s allies have come out strongly to defend his appointment. On numerous occasions, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has said that Ruto will only appoint those who supported his presidency.

“[The] government is a company, some Kenyans are majority shareholders, others have none,” he said back in February.

Senator Aaron Cheruiyot, another confidant of Ruto, dismisses the criticism, saying Ruto’s tribe also has the right to serve in his government, as long as they are qualified.

“We are also Kenyans, we have not arrived from Rwanda or Tanzania. Why should it be a problem when [we are] appointed [to] public offices,” he said.

If Ruto continues with this trend, the gains that were made to ensure state appointments reflect the face of Kenya, will be lost, says political analyst Brian Wanyama.

“Ruto should ensure his appointments are balanced to keep the country united,” he tells The Africa Report.

Wanyama also says, though qualified to serve in the position, it was wrong for Ruto to appoint Chebukati’s wife, whom the opposition accuses of helping him to get power.

“Such an appointment confirms the opposition’s criticism of rewarding political associates,” he says.

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