A look into Kenyatta’s new cabinet

President Kenyatta has announced 16 of 18 cabinet secretaries in his administration. The list of names has elicited mixed reactions. On the one hand the manner of the announcement – on the steps of State House – was different, and dignified. It was much less pedestrian than what Kenyans had become used to – presidential cabinet appointments via press releases to newsrooms. Six women made the list, including in the powerful Defense and Foreign Affairs dockets. With the exception of Balala and Ngilu, all the nominees so far are not politicians.

But on the other other hand grumblings emerged on the lack of regional (read ethnic) balance in the appointments. Kenya is an ethnically fragmented country, with 11 (out of 42) ethnic groups with populations over 1 million (Kikuyu/GEMA, Luhya, Kalenjin, Luo, Kamba, Somali, Kisii, Meru (part of GEMA), Mijikenda, Turkana, Maasai). For most of the country’s history ethnicity has been a key organizing principle of politics, with people largely voting along ethnic lines for various instrumental reasons.

So what is the ethnic breakdown of Kenyatta’s cabinet so far? Here is my guestimation based on their last names: Kikuyu (3), Kalenjin (4), Somali (3), Luo (1), Meru (1), Kisii (1), Kamba (1), Luhya (1), Arab (1). Two slots remain unoccupied.

Only two groups (Kalenjins and Somalis) are clearly overrepresented in the cabinet appointments in proportion to their relative ethnic group size in the country (Kalenjin 25% vs 13.2%; Somalis 18.75 vs 6.3%). Those groups in the top ten that are underrepresented missed their “objective proportion” of the cabinet by about one slot, on average.

On an aside, historically African presidents have actually been pretty good at ethnic balancing in the appointment of cabinet ministers – as Francois, Rainer and Trebbi show in this paper. They claim to “show that African ruling coalitions are large and that political power is allocated proportionally to population shares across ethnic groups. This holds true even restricting the analysis to the subsample of the most powerful ministerial posts. We argue that the likelihood of revolutions from outsiders and the threat of coups from insiders are major forces explaining such allocations.

If the ethnic composition of the cabinet is anything to go by, it shows the extent to which deputy president William Ruto is more of an equal than deputy to President Kenyatta. His part of the Jubilee coalition dominates the list of cabinet nominees. Or it might just be a case of Mr. Kenyatta, being president, having opted to have his half of the cabinet “represent the face of Kenya” (Kenyatta and Ruto had a 50-50 pre-election appointments sharing agreement at the formation of the Jubilee coalition).

Despite Kenyans’ relief at the end of Odinga and Kibaki’s coalition government, the era of nusu mkate might still be among us.

In related news, president Kenyatta broke one of his campaign promises by not appointing an ethnic Turkana as secretary in charge of Energy and Petroleum. Kenya’s oil discoveries have been mostly in Turkana County. The Standard reports:

Uhuru [President Kenyatta] repeated he will appoint a Turkana to head the Ministry of Energy portfolio should he take over the next Government.

Kenyatta said his Government would give first priority to locals to manage the oil resources that were discovered in the area.

“Our mandate is to ensure that every Kenyan gets equal share of national cake. But locals where such resources are found should benefit more as a right stipulated in the Constitution,” he said.

Deputy President William Ruto also broke a promise he made yesterday. He said at a presser that the cabinet will not have any politicians, yet Charity Ngilu and Najib Balala have been nominated.

Kenyatta’s Cabinet Nominees:

  1. Fred Matiang’i (Information, Communication and Technology) – Kisii
  2. Henry K. Rotich (The National Treasury) – Kalenjin
  3. James Wainaina Macharia (Health) – Kikuyu
  4. Amb Amina Mohamed (Foreign Affairs) – Somali
  5. Adan Mohammed (Industrialisation) – Somali
  6. Ann Waiguru (Devolution and Planning) – Kikuyu
  7. Davis Chirchir (Energy and Petroleum) – Kalenjin
  8. Amb Raychelle Omamo (Defence) – Luo
  9. Eng Michael Kamau (Transport and Infrastructure) – Kikuyu
  10. Phyllis Chepkosgey (East African affairs, Commerce and Tourism) – Kalenjin
  11. Prof Jacob Kaimenyi (Education) – Meru
  12. Felix Kosgey (Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries) – Kalenjin
  13. Prof Judy Wakhungu (Environment Water and Natural Resources) – Luhya
  14. Dr Hassan Wario (Sports, Culture and Arts) – Somali
  15. Najib Balala (Mining) – Arab
  16. Charity Ngilu (Lands, Housing and Urban Development) – Kamba
  17. Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Services (Vacant)
  18. Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government (Vacant)

State of the Presidential Race in Kenya’s 2013 Elections


Since this post went up Musalia Mudavadi joined the UhuRuto coalition. This sets the stage for a real two horse race for the presidency between Raila Odinga and either Mudavadi or Uhuru Kenyatta. It is very likely that Mudavadi will run as a compromise candidate due to the charges Uhuru is facing at the ICC. This development, considering Kenya’s ethnic arithmetic, essentially gives the Uhuru camp a head start ahead of the March 2013 presidential elections. Whatever happens, this promises to be a very interesting and close presidential election.


The presidential race in Kenya’s 2013 elections is beginning to take shape. Yesterday Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto unveiled a political pact that will see them run on a joint ticket, with Mr. Kenyatta at the top of the ticket. Messrs Uhuru and Kenyatta both have pending cases at the ICC on charges that they were behind the post-election violence that rocked Kenya in 2007; leaving 1300 death and more than 300,000 displaced. This has led some to dub their joint platform the “ICC ticket,”  since many see the union of the two as solely driven by their joint desire to earn immunity from prosecution by the ICC once they secure the presidency.


Uhuru Kenyatta

The second big coalition will see former allies turned foes and then allies – Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka – come together. Mr. Musyoka is the sitting Vice President while Mr. Odinga is the Prime Minister. The latter is believed by many to have been the winner of the disputed 2007 presidential election. The electoral commission at the time said it did not know who won the election and declared President Kibaki reelected, sparking two months of violence across the country.

The third potential political grouping might gravitate around Odinga’s former deputy, Mr. Musalia Mudavadi. Mr. Mudavadi has been rumored to be in talks with several smaller parties, including those of Peter Kenneth, Raphael Tuju, among others.

Raila Odinga

Raila Odinga

The latest developments will make for an interesting race moving forward. The ethnic arithmetic involved – Kenyans vote largely along ethnic lines – will make for a very close race (More on this soon). Messrs Odinga and Kenyatta are the clear front-runners, with the former having a slight lead in the most recent opinion polls. The constitution requires the president elect to win 50 percent plus one votes, making it very likely that there will be a runoff between the top two contenders after the first round. The ethnic calculations makes Odinga, a Luo, the likely winner in case of a runoff (Uhuru, a Kikuyu, is the son of Kenya’s first president. The current president, Mwai Kibaki, is also a Kikuyu.) But Mr. Kenyatta might still win in the first round.

The biggest uncertainty moving forward will be the candidature of both Uhuru and Ruto. Following the opening of their cases at the ICC they had to resign as cabinet ministers. Already there is a petition in court seeking to bar them from running in the upcoming elections on grounds that their integrity is questionable. The constitution requires only individuals of the highest integrity to be eligible to run for office (It is hard to see how any Kenyan politician will avoid having at least one strike against their candidature).

The supreme court may eventually bar Uhuru and Kenyatta from running – the talk in the street is that if they are unfit to be mere cabinet ministers then they should also not occupy the two highest offices in the country. Their supporters obviously disagree. In their rallies “UhuRuto” have played the nationalist card, insisting that not foreigners (read the ICC) but Kenyans will decide who will be their next president. It is still unclear what course of action they and their supporters would take were they to be barred from running.

More on this soon.