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The people who will shape Kenya in 2019

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President Uhuru Kenyatta

He has the biggest load to carry as the hopes and aspirations of the nation fall squarely on his shoulders. Special focus will be on Uhuru, especially on his determination to secure his legacy. The President had identified the Big Four –– food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and affordable healthcare –– as the priority areas in his second and final term in office.

But he has also helped make national cohesion through the Handshake a central area of focus. The President’s commitment to the peace deal with Opposition leader Raila Odinga and how he will navigate his succession politics will also be riveting.

The war against corruption and impunity is another area of focus. He did virtually nothing in his first term, even said he had done everything possible and criticised the Eurobond probe. But then, he wanted a second term. Will he now sustain the momentum despite the storm ‘his’ war has generated? What happened to those promised polygraph tests and complete transparency in tendering?

Deputy President William Ruto’s allies have openly claimed the anti-graft war is aimed at obstructing the DP’s path to State House.

Deputy President William Ruto

An astute politician, a warhorse, hard worker and unlike many politicians a teetotaler, Ruto will shape his State House race this year. Ruto has the herculean task to conquer new territories, especially with indications that the Mount Kenya vote bloc is having grave second thoughts about his candidature. It will be interesting to to watch how Ruto handles the fallout in Jubilee, with a section of party officials openly opposed to his candidature. Can Ruto kick off a campaign against his boss President Kenyatta ? Can the DP bolt out of government?

Ruto’s eventual stand on the referendum which is increasingly becoming plausible will also be interesting. President Kenyatta has himself hinted that a plebiscite could be in the offing to eliminate “a winner takes it all system of government”. In fact, nearly all opposition leaders back the referendum calls.

Raila Odinga

Tinga, as he is commonly known to his supporters, will be a man to watch, especially in his new role as African Union Special Envoy on Infrastructure Development. Can the ODM leader leave an indelible mark on the continent?

Locally, the former Prime Minister’s moves will be significant. Will the former Prime Minister eventually hang up his boots or will he make a fifth stab at the presidency? His close lieutenants are promising that his name will be on ballot in 2022. In fact, they hope the State machinery that Raila has often accused of rigging the polls will this time round be on his side. The Handshake could help. Raila has, however, remained tight lipped on his game plan, and repeatedly stated he is disinterested in talking about 2022.

Musalia Mudavadi

The ANC leader has given the clearest indications that unlike his Nasa co-principals Raila and Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, he will not take up any state appointment. He has sustained strong attacks on the Jubilee administration and declared that he will run for President in 2022. Lately, he has been courting Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, a man who supported him in the 2013 polls.

But more significantly, Musalia is hobnobbing with a section of the Kikuyu elite, sending signals that some of the region’s leaders could be looking up to him as a possible successor to President Kenyatta. In 2013 a similar support from allies of ex-President Mwai Kibaki backfired. Musalia came a distant third for President.

Chief Justice David Maraga

The Judiciary under Maraga’s leadership will be one of the institutions to watch. Firstly, the apex court is seized with several pending cases challenging the victory of some governors and MPs. The rulings, some of which will trigger by elections, are due anytime in January.

Secondly, Kenyans are watching how the courts will handle the many graft cases presented before it. Already, both President Kenyatta and the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji have complained that suspects are being let off the hook with ridiculously low bail and bond terms.

Maraga’s Deputy, Philomena Mbete Mwilu has also been charged in court over impropriety and abuse of office. A Queens Counsel from the UK has been called in to prosecute the case. How the court will handle this case is a matter of overwhelming public interest.

Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji

The man has breathed life into the office of the DPP within nine months of taking over. Haji, a former Deputy Director at the National Intelligence Service, has already promised a bigger roller coaster ride in 2019. In his own words, 2018 was “a mere curtain raiser”. Haji has called t the level of financial rot in government is shocking. Kenyans will be watching to see if he will be able to sustain high-octane war on corruption and secure convictions the public has been clamouring for.

Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti

Kinoti took over quietly in January this year when the office was virtually moribund. He immediately swung into action and arrested high- profile suspects, beginning with top NYS top officials. The arrests did not stop there. The purge moved to Kenya Power, Kenya Pipeline, NCPB, NHIF and the Government Advertising Agency among others. Like the DPP, Kinoti has pledged that the crackdown will continue unabated. Will graft lords be having sleepless nights? Surely they must be a bit worried. Or are they certain they will triumph again?

New Ethics and Anti-Corruption CEO Twalib Mbarak

For many years, the EACC has been seen as the weakest link in the war against corruption. In fact, the DCI who has a wide mandate over other general crimes is seen as the de facto crime buster in Kenya. However, Kenyans are watching if Mbarak, a former military intelligence officer who was unanimously approved by Parliament, would re-engineer the agency. Mbarak is said to be a man of integrity. But will he spearhead internal reforms that could reposition EACC as an effective anti-graft watchdog?

Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji

He chairs the Building Bridges Initiative Task Force. His team is conducting public hearings on nine key issues that Uhuru and Raila identified after their historic handshake. The hearings will continue in the new year and Kenyans are expected to continue pouring their hearts out, especially on the system of government they would prefer. The Haji team is likely to determine whether Kenyans will have a referendum before before the 2022 elections.

Fred Matiang’i

The Interior and Coordination of National Government Cabinet Secretary will be on everyone’s radar. The CS has laid down an ambitious plan to reform the security sector, including introducing the new uniform for officers. The no-nonsense, many call him brash, CS will also be keenly watched as he seeks to ruthlessly implement the Michuki rules to restore order on the roads.

This year Matiang’i plans to roll out and implement radical reforms for the boda boda sector. It will be interesting to see how he intends to achieve this to rein in on lawlessness on our roads. He has also declared that he will take back thousands of guns fraudulently issued to well-connected individuals. Some gun holders are already fighting back. Matiang’i is also planning to ‘sweep clean’ the issuance of passports, including cancelling diplomatic passports fraudulently issued to hundreds of influential persons, including some politicians.

James Macharia

This Cabinet Secretary is among those entrusted with delivering the the Big Four agenda for President Kenyatta. The Transport, Housing and Infrastructure docket is such a big portfolio that domiciles most of the components of the Bit Four. The CS will be closely watched, especially how he drives the affordable housing component. President Uhuru Kenyatta promised to deliver affordable homes countrywide but it is not clear how the plan will take off after the Court slammed brakes on employee contributions of 1.5 per cent of salary to the scheme. Is he ingenious enough to deliver?

Sicily Kariuki

Affordable healthcare is a big part of the Big Four. The Health docket under CS Kariuki will be key in driving universal healthcare. Piloting the programme is ongoing in select counties and the President launched the project in Kisumu this month. Delivery will be in Kariuki’s hands. The CS will work with governors to turn around healthcare. She will be part of the President’s integral team driving the Jubilee agenda, especially to ensure healthcare projects are corruption free. Governors have complained that most of the national government projects in the health sector are delivered at exaggerated costs, including the high-end equipment to Level 5 facilities across the country.

Mwangi Kiunjuri

The Agriculture CS has been under intense pressure to resign throughout the 2018. He has been on the receiving end with the President’s tongue-lashing over corruption allegations at his ministry, especially involving the National Cereals and Produce Board. However, the CS remains instrumental in delivering the President’s food security agenda. With farmers up in arms against the government’s lower maize price order, Kiunjuri will have to navigate the tense and unsettled sector and deliver sufficient food to avert famine. A section of farmers from the Rift Valley has openly protested that the sector has been infiltrated by cartels selling maize to the NCPB at abnormal prices at their expense.

Homeboyz flyhalf Johnstone Olindi

A rising star. Olindi announced himself at the World Sevens rugby series events in Dubai and Cape Town early this month, scoring 43 points which included seven tries and four conversions.

Coach Paul Murunga rates him highly and says he’s a player who is keen to improve his craft despite a stellar year.

Mathare United’s Cliff Nyakeya

He has been inspirational for Mathare United last season, scoring 14 goals and providing 10 assists, an achievement handsomely feted when he was crowned midfielder of the year.

Two years after launching his professional career at Mathare, the winger who has two goals against his name in the new season, has come of age. His services have been on demand locally and beyond. He has however chose to stick with the slum boys. making him a player to watch this season.

Read: From resistance movement leader to AU envoy, Raila remains mysterious

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