Kenya’s Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua has been demoted as controversy rages over plans to deploy police to Haiti to fight gangs.
Main opposition leader Raila Odinga was the latest to oppose the move, saying the deployment would risk the lives of Kenyan police.
Mr Mutua’s demotion to tourism minister was part of the first major cabinet reshuffle by President William Ruto.
In August, the president criticised some of his ministers as clueless.
Mr Ruto took office in August last year with the promise to improve the economy and better the lives of lower-income earners.
But he has faced a series of opposition-led protests over the high cost of living and tax hikes.
The president said in a statement late on Wednesday that the reshuffle was meant to “optimise performance and enhance delivery as set out in the administration’s manifesto”.
On Tuesday, the president cracked down on government spending and foreign travel, ordering ministries to cut their spending by 10%.
Mr Ruto re-assigned Mr Mutua to the tourism ministry and put the foreign affairs ministry under the office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary, which falls under his close ally, Musalia Mudavadi.
The move is seen as an attempt to give Mr Ruto’s inner circle more influence over diplomatic affairs.
A senior member of the ruling party, Senator Kiprotich Arap Cherargei, said the changes were “necessitated by performance”.
“The writing is on the wall for the non-performing cabinet secretaries and those who perpetuate corruption and lethargy in their ministries,” Mr Cherargei posted on X, formerly Twitter.
As foreign minister, Mr Mutua was a vocal supporter of a Kenyan-led peacekeeping mission to Haiti.
He recently said that about 1,000 police would be deployed “within a short time”.
The UN Security Council approved the deployment of the force on Tuesday.
Mr Ruto welcomed its decision, but did not mention when the police would be sent.
Some Kenyan MPs have demanded parliamentary approval before the deployment.
The defence and security ministers, who have been quiet about the planned Haiti deployment, were not affected by the reshuffle.
If deployed, the Kenyan police would help tackle gangs that have have taken control of large parts of Haiti, killing hundreds and disrupting public services.
Mr Odinga, in an interview with privately-owned KTN News, said the situation in Haiti was too dangerous for Kenyan police.
“When coffins start arriving here, that’s when we shall regret [it]. Haiti is dangerous and there’s a possibility our police will encounter problems there,” the opposition leader said.
In another notable change in the reshuffle, Trade Minister Moses Kuria was moved to the public service portfolio.
He has been replaced by Rebecca Miano, who was the minister in charge of relations with the East African Community (EAC).
Mr Kuria was snubbed by US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, who refused to meet him during her visit to Kenya in July.
Ms Tai apparently objected to foul language Mr Kuria had used against the Kenyan media and opposition.
Mr Kuria was also involved in controversy over the operations of a popular Chinese-owned shop near Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
The shop was temporarily closed after Mr Kuria accused it of taking away business from local traders by selling goods too cheaply.
Other key cabinet changes include:
- Water Minister Alice Wahome moves to the land and housing ministry
- Aisha Jumwa from public service to gender and culture
- Tourism Minister Peninah Malonza moves to the Ministry of the East African Community
Mr Ruto re-deployed several permanent secretaries and foreign ambassadors. He also appointed former Senator Isaac Mwaura as government spokesperson.
Source : BBC