Hundreds of diplomatic changes by Foreign Affairs CS Amina Mohamed have escalated into a vicious power tussle with her PS Monica Juma, throwing the critical ministry into disarray.
The details emerged as Amina was facing a historic African Union vote, which she lost to Chad’s Moussa Mahamat, unceremoniously ending Kenya’s diplomatic offensive.
On January 20 – two weeks before the Monday AU election – Amina posted a record 118 staff to embassies abroad in what could have been her last major assignment.
But Juma, a former Permanent Representative of Kenya to the African Union, reportedly declined to approve the changes, forcing Amina to sign them herself.
The memo, sent to all heads of missions, as well as ministry directorates, was also copied to Juma.
Multiple and high-placed sources told the Star that Juma dashed to State House to inform President Uhuru Kenyatta of what she believed were “irregular” appointments.
It is not clear what transpired, but Chief of Staff and Head of Civil Service Joseph Kinyua – one of the most powerful men around the President – revoked the appointments.
“It appears the PS got the Chief of Staff to put the unprecedented mass postings on hold. That means that Amina prepared and issued the posting orders without consulting the PS and her technical officers. Yet the PS is the Public Service Commission’s Authorised Officer by law,” the source said. Amina reportedly hit the roof and was seriously disgruntled as she faced the AU election.
The CS’s backers in the ministry, however, say Kenyan missions abroad are in a mess, grossly understaffed since most personnel whose tours of duty have ended have returned.
The standoff is likely to cause more friction between the two tough career diplomats, even as Amina returns to the ministry after her bid for the AU Commission top job flopped.
Amina has announced she is resuming her job as she questioned the sincerity of the country’s neighbours that reportedly failed to back her. “A good lesson for us moving forward. I’m now going back to my job,” she said.
Government spokesman Eric Kiraithe denied there is any power tussle between the two, but referred the Star to Juma for confirmation on the revocation order. “Not only am I not aware of it [power tussle], it’s not practical. They have very distinct roles and therefore there can’t be any tussle. The nature of their duty and the level of responsibility would not allow it. I dare say even the experience of the personalities involved would not allow that,” he said. The PS could not be reached for comment as her phone was switched off.
The cadre of staff in the controversial postings by Amina ranged from ministers to attaches.
Among those who had been moved include former Vice President Kijana Wamalwa’s widow Yvonne, who was posted to Dar es Salaam as the minister. Yvonne has been serving as a senior officer in the Foreign Affairs ministry in Nairobi.
Others are Lawrence Waweru who will be the Minister in Gaborone, Botswana, Joshua Mugondo will be Minister Counsellor 1 in Abuja, Nigeria, and Washington Oloo, who will be Minister Counsellor 1 in Beijing, China. Rosemary Owino was posted to Kenya’s Mission to the UN Office in New York as Counsellor 1 and Joseph Masila in the same station as Minister Counsellor II.
The officers were set to report to their new duty stations by March 1.
“The officers will serve strictly for a maximum of 48 months. The 48 months will include the period already served on cross transfers from one mission to another,” Mohamed said in the memo.