The sacking of former Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Mwangi Kiunjuri on Tuesday by President Uhuru Kenyatta brought to an end what has been a strained relationship between the two leaders.
Before his axing, which was a long time coming, Mr Kiunjuri was a marked man. The President had lashed out at him multiple times, sometimes in public.
During a meeting with Kenyans in Windhoek, Namibia, in March last year, Uhuru lambasted Kiunjuri for failing to take notes and ”ignoring Kenyans’ concerns” yet he was a government minister.
‘‘Look at my brother Kiunjuri. He isn’t taking notes. He never bothered to do so when you were raising concerns. Just because you didn’t address his docket (Agriculture), he didn’t see a reason to write,” Mr Kenyatta said as those in attendance applauded.
Months later, during the Nairobi International Trade Fair in October, Mr Kiunjuri was again blamed by the President for the agony of maize farmers across the country.
The President scolded the CS, threatening to sack him over irregular payments made to fictitious suppliers of maize to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) at the expense of genuine farmers. ”I swear before God, you try that again and you’ll see what will happen to you. We have seen what you did and we will follow you. Government money belongs to the people. Pay farmers first,” Mr Kenyatta said in a direct address to the CS.
After his address, a visibly angry President walked over to the minister and confronted him in his mother tongue, saying:
”Mungiriha ni mukuona inyui (pay those cartels and you’ll face the consequences).”
Less than a month later during Mashujaa Day celebrations at Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega County, Mr Kenyatta repeated his remarks.
”Kiunjuri, the time for play is over. You must find out who these cartels are and we will jail them. Lest you pay the price,” the President warned.
While poor performance may have partly motivated his removal from government, it is believed that Mr Kiunjuri was axed for his constant politicking, in open defiance of the President’s orders for all CSs to keep off politics and serve Kenyans.
Even in his address to the nation from Mombasa, the President acknowledged that production at all levels of agriculture had increased.
In October last year, the CS, accompanied by 42 legislators allied to Deputy President William Ruto, told a press conference that he would accept the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report with conditions.
In November, he met 59 elected leaders from Mount Kenya and threatened to boycott presidential functions, alleging perpetual humiliation by the Head of State.
At this point, it was a matter of when, not if, Mr Kenyatta would pull the trigger.
”When I’m quiet, they shouldn’t assume that I’m clueless about what is going on. I know everything. I know who’s politicking,” the President said in Gatundu North during the launch of a dispensary.
He dismissed those gathering behind his back to wage war on the BBI report.
A month later, the President cracked the whip, kicking out the CS, and replacing him with Peter Munya, who will now head the sensitive Agriculture docket.
After his sack, Kiunjuri did not mince his words, saying that serving as a CS in Mr Kenyatta’s government had been a trying assignment.
”The President’s decision hasn’t taken me by surprise,” Mr Kiunjuri said.
‘‘I thank God. I feel relieved.’’
He said he had gone through ”a most difficult year”, adding that this had threatened his energy and resolve.
”Some of you know that I have endured a lot of humiliation and only God and my immediate family know how this made me feel.”
Using a Kikuyu proverb, Mr Kiunjuri said that when he took up the job in 2013, as CS for Devolution, he was ready for any eventuality.
”In this world, we are born with nothing and depart with nothing,” he said.
Kiunjuri also said that power is seasonal. ”We wield power for a time.”