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Kenya’s new finance minister: Positioning for next election?

January 23, 2009

President Mwai Kibaki’s naming of a key ally, Uhuru Kenyatta, as his new finance minister to replace another supporter, Amos Kimunya, does not come as a surprise to some.
Kimunya, who stepped down last July after he was accused of corruption in the handling of the sale of a luxury hotel, has also returned to parliament — replacing Kenyatta as trade minister.
Kimunya was not reinstated even after he was cleared by an official enquiry into the controversial sale of the luxury Grand Regency Hotel in the capital.

The long wait for someone to fill the finance position suggested to some that Kibaki was not comfortable bringing his ally back, given his tainted name.
His appointment to the trade ministry could mean Kibaki did not want to lose him from the cabinet altogether, although some analysts say it was a move to save face.
Pundits also say Kibaki did not have much room to manoeuvre in picking Kenyatta. Many MPs who support the president are parliamentary neophytes without much experience in running a powerful ministry like the treasury.

But the wealthy Kenyatta is an old name in Kenyan politics. His father was an independence hero and the east African country’s first president.
Political analysts think Kibaki could be positioning key allies, such as Kenyatta and Kimunya, for a stab at the presidency in 2012.
Ironically, Kenyatta contested for the top job against Kibaki in 2002. But the finance ministry post will not be easy. Kenya macroeconomic indicators are weak — GDP growth in 2008 is estimated to have halved to 3.5 percent, compared with 7 percent in 2007, and annual inflation in December reached a staggering 27.7 percent.
The budget deficit is yawning and is expected to widen further as the government subsidises food costs for some 10 million Kenyans facing hunger.
The government also faces uncertainty financing its $12 billion budget for the current fiscal year after it was forced to cancel plans for a $500 million Eurobond because of the global economic woes.
This is further exacerbated by tighter revenue flows.
So even though Kibaki may have appointed Kenyatta with 2012 in mind, the difficult job of getting the economy to grow during a global recession might not endear the new finance minister to many in the poor country.
Has Kibaki made a good decision?


Has Kibaki made a good decision?Its the only safe decision he could make . Nobody on his side of government wanted the finance docket. Other more experienced ministers such as John Michuki who held the position on an acting capacity refused the job because it is no open secret that the Kenyan economy will not recover anytime soon.The poor in Kenya are hungry and angry. Mr Kenyatta has shown extra ordinary courage to take up the position particularly now when things will most likely go from bad to worse.Should Uhuru manage the ministry well to the satisfaction of the poor he will have earned himself a shortcut to state house in 2012.

Chance are it will make or break his political career but it was a chance he could not turn down


messr honorable uhuru kenyatta is my role model,i would recomend him for the highest office in kenya.Good luck mheshimiwa.

Posted by michael c macharia | Report as abusive

That article missed one thing: that Uhuru is a suspect in in the infamous Waki list of sponsors of the post election violence in Kenya last year. And according to the pact signed by president Kibaki and PM Raila Odinga, all ministers who are in that envelope should step down once the tribunal is set up until their names are cleared. So who would elect Uhuru even after he is cleared? My two cents.

Posted by Miorimi Mochere | Report as abusive

The Minister of Finance has been a stalwart ally of the President. In fact, he stood down as the KANU Presidential candidate for the President.

The docket clearly requires full time engagement. We have entered a period of unprecedented turbulence in the International Financial markets. Our GDP growth rate peaked at 7.1% in November 2007 and we are now currently running well below par. The Economy needs to maintain a growth rate of at least 6%+ just to stand still and absorb the Young Folk.

Moreover, we have a yawning deficit and the Honourable Minister will need to close the gap between the rhetoric and the reality. Its hardly an enviable docket.

At this moment in our history, there is an enormous premium to be placed on smart policy making. If the Minister gets this right, he puts himself in a strong position.

Aly-Khan Satchu


Uhuru does not have the tecnical capability to steer Kenyan treasury through this treachourous times we are in. Right now we need a technocrat in the money office. My prediction? This move might just be the beginning of his political attrision-he will need to consult heavily to make it…

Posted by Mwaura Alex | Report as abusive

The problem with Uhuru’s appointment is the same as those seen in most, if not all, of the President’s appointment of Cabinet Ministers.

First; — those who hold the docket don’t actually have the skills needed to run it. Most of the time, that’s not an issue, since there are decent technocrats running the place anyway, like Patrick Nyoike over at the Energy Ministry. However; — even with a brilliant technocrat at your side in the form of a Permanent Secretary; — usually, the poltical appointee does not listen to what they say.

Aside from the holder of the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Docket, Martha Karua, few other picks actually align the skills of the person holding the docket, to the demands of the job. Karua is a trained lawyer; — and even if you disagree with her blunt, aggressive, no-nonsense approach to business; — she’s qualified, and she delivers.

In contrast however, observe the apoointment of Margaret Wanjiru to the Housing Ministry. She’s a Televangelist!!! How does the ‘Prosperity Gosepl’ she so dearly espoused at the pulpit connect to efforts to plug a housing deficit of about 150 000 units a year? Most of the development right now is taking place in the dupper end of the market, which incidentally, is exactly where that demand is least intense. Those of us who live in the leafy suburbs of this country don’t need the government to finance our housing needs; — but the millions of voters who live in places like Kibera do!!! Nothing’s been done to change this situation to date.

However; — much as this implies that if a rookie’s placed in a critical docket, chaos results; — this is not always the case. The best case in point perhaps, is that of John Michuki in the Transport Docket. He’s got a solid background in Finance issues; — but he still shook up the industry and instilled a rigid sense of order.

A similar problem therefore confronts one Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta. He’s got some decent technocrats handling his portfolio; — that’s a fact,but if he does not listen to them, no progress is made. Kiraitu Murungi in the Energy docket for example, is a trained lawyer with no background in Energy issues. The politician in him insisted on price controls; — a politically visible move back into crafting a ‘Big Brother’ governemnt –;over and above what the Regulator would prefer; — give Kenyans the information they need to send cash to fuel retailers who had decent prices, as opposed to those who were extorting the public.

Ultimately, Uhuru Kenyatta’s success in the docket is all down to whether or not he’s willing to listen to the technocrats around him.

We need one running that ministry, not some political sycophant. Uhuru got into office with a begging bowl in hand. Let’s hope he leaves office in 2012 [assuming he lasts that long], without it.

Posted by Ramah Nyang | Report as abusive

Here is a big chance for Uhuru to prove himself as competent leader.I know he can do it but many of us are watching him closely this time round, to remove any doubts.

Posted by martha | Report as abusive

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