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Courts press pause on President Ruto's administration

Civic activists mount legal challenge to President's appointments on grounds of gender and regional balance

After his cabinet secretary nominations sailed through parliament despite integrity and competence questions over many of them, President William Ruto faces a roadblock to his plans to reward loyalists in his Kenya Kwanza alliance with the next layer of government jobs. This will test Ruto's stated support for an independent judiciary, which had faced heavy pressure under his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta.

Three petitions, including one from the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), have been filed, challenging the composition of the 51 nominees for posts as Principal Secretaries (PS) over their lack of gender, ethnic and regional balance.

The Labour court Justice Nzioki wa Makau has intervened to halt the vetting of the nominees until a case filed by the LSK, slotted for 21 November, is heard (AC Vol 63 No 22, A different kind of cronyism).

The LSK argues that 'On the impugned list of 51 interested parties, 13 are members of the Kalenjin community from Rift Valley region, 13 from Central Kenya region to the detriment of the other 40 tribes and communities in Kenya.' The Rift Valley and Central Kenya are the political bases of Ruto and Deputy President Rigathi Gicheru respectively and the planned appointments would give their areas over half of the PS posts in the country.

The Law Society's petition adds that the list of nominees was the result of 'disregarding and ignoring other 426 candidates who were qualified, and some would have been nominated to meet the constitutional dictate for regional balance, gender and national values and the principles under Article 10 of the constitution.'

One of the campaign promises which Ruto appears have ditched is his commitment to a 50-50 gender balanced government. Only 11 women made the list.

Nakuru based human rights activist, Magare Gikenyi, in his petition, argues that 'the establishment of political reward offices goes against article 201 of the Constitution on prudent use of financial resources.' He adds that Bernice Sialaal Lemedeket's position of Principal Administrative Secretary for the National Police Service does not exist in law.

In a bid to pacify the loyalists, Ruto wants to increase the number of state departments to 49 while two of the PS posts will be allocated to the Office of the Deputy President. This compares to the 42 PS posts in the Uhuru Kenyatta administration which was seen as bloated a decade ago when public finances were far stronger.

Among the Kenya Kwanza politicians nominated for PS slots include former Laikipia West MP Patrick Mariru to the State Department for Defence department and former Langata MP Nixon Korir to Lands and Physical Planning. Phillip Kello Harsama who unsuccessfully vied for Marsabit governor on a UDA ticket has been nominated to the Crop Development department.

Also on the list is former Senator Cleophas Malala's running mate in the Kakamega governor's race, Beatrice Inyangala to the Higher Education and Research. MP and party's National Treasurer Timothy Bosire, Former Turkana Water, and Irrigation CEC Beatrice Askul, former Shinyalu MP Justus Kizito and Mohammed Diriye (Wajir)

The Public Service Commission has also come under fire following claims that two of the nominees did not apply for the positions.

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