Sat. Mar 23rd, 2019

Echesa got knocked out of Cabinet

A week before his sacking, Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa confided in a close friend that he was staring at an imminent transfer from the docket.

And on Wednesday, an embattled Echesa opened up to a journalist about his fears for his job, saying even if he was dismissed, he would forever remain grateful to the Jubilee administration for having accorded him the honour of serving in the Cabinet.

“I have achieved a dream I never thought of and I will forever remain thankful to God. The title will remain because people will be referring to me as a former Cabinet secretary,” Mr Echesa said.

His fears were confirmed Friday when President Uhuru Kenyatta sacked him, just one year after his appointment to the Cabinet.

Going by behind-the-scenes happenings at the Cabinet level and outside, Mr Echesa knew his boss was not happy with his conduct at all.

He is even said to have sought Deputy President William Ruto’s intervention in a last-ditch effort to salvage his job. It was too late, it turned out.

It is not clear whether the DP interceded for him but given Friday’s announcement, it would appear such intervention was too little too late.

Mr Echesa’s phones were switched off for the better part of Friday.

The first sign that his continued stay in government was no longer tenable was when President Kenyatta publicly took him on at the mausoleum of the late opposition leader Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in Bondo last year. The President made it clear that he was unhappy with the condition of the tomb whose maintenance falls under the department of Culture, in Mr Echesa’s Sports docket.

Eyewitnesses said Mr Raila Odinga, who also attended the event, had to intervene to save Mr Echesa from the President’s wrath.

Mr Echesa became the first minister to be outright sacked by the President. In the past, Mr Kenyatta has relieved ministers of their duties by asking them to “step aside” or re-deploying them.

With the move, Mr Kenyatta appeared to have partially heeded calls to effect changes in his Cabinet by many who are demanding to see heads roll in the face of runway corruption in high places.

It was not immediately clear whether the axing of Mr Echesa had anything to do with the war on graft.

His sacking immediately elicited condemnation from a section of politicians from Western Kenya, led by Majority Whip in the National Assembly Ben Washiali, who said Mr Kenyatta had shown that their support to him no longer mattered.

“It was tough selling the Jubilee agenda in Western but Mr Echesa was among the people who went out of their way to create inroads for Mr Kenyatta to access the region. We are not happy with this decision. Mr Kenyatta has shown that he doesn’t value us,” the Jubilee MP said.

The CS has had endless gaffes, the most notable one being his public spat with Mr Odinga.

It would appear Mr Echesa had failed to read the signs of the time after his boss embraced the former Prime Minister following the March 9 political truce at Harambee House.

On that occasion, he dared Mr Odinga to go ahead and sack him if he thought he was the appointing authority. While the truth is that Mr Odinga has no such powers, the former CS may, however, may want to reflect back to see where the rains may have started beating him.

“We have one government led by Uhuru and William Ruto and those are the only people I will pledge my priority to and not to you, Raila Odinga. I want to dare you Raila, if you are the appointing authority, come and sack me,” he said.

And recently when Mr Kenyatta warned his Cabinet members to concentrate on working and stop politicking, the CS was believed to be one of the targets.

“During today’s Cabinet meeting I reminded our Cabinet secretaries that there are many young Kenyans who are willing and ready to work if they felt they are not up to task. Those who have chosen to keep politicking instead of serving the people should be ready to give way,” President Kenyatta said on January 31.

Mr Echesa was known to address political rallies in western Kenya.

At one point Mr Echesa, a staunch supporter of Mr Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid, asked ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi to forget about 2022 presidential ambitions as he could not raise Sh200 billion to finance a campaign.

Mr Echesa has been embroiled in a number of violent exchanges in western Kenya in the past, most notable being a face-off with Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala where scores were injured and vehicles damaged in Mayoni.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya has also come face-to-face with Mr Echesa’s confrontational brand of politics.

At one point last year, he accused Mr Oparanya of failing to deal with a Kisumu-based miller who had set up a weighbridge at Shikunga market in Butere constituency.

Against swirling claims that he may have been involved in some inappropriate conduct and that the Directorate of Criminal Investigations was treating him as a person of interest in an ongoing investigation, the former firebrand ODM youth leader warned that he would seek legal redress.

“I will sue anyone who accuses me of money laundering,” he said.

Another embarrassing moment for the CS came when eight Pakistani club dancers were arrested for being in the country illegally.

The defence lawyer Evans Ondieki told Senior Principal Magistrate Kennedy Cheruiyot that the girls, who were arrested at Balle Balle Club in Parklands, Nairobi, were in the country legally with full permission of CS Echesa.

In their supremacy fights with Senator Malala, Mr Echesa was accused of manufacturing nude photos allegedly of the lawmaker which were circulated online.

Last October, police at the KICC station summoned Mr Echesa after three journalists who had been arrested in connection with the matter linked him to the saga.

“KICC police station have a reason to believe you Hon Rashid Echesa have information that may assist in investigation of alleged offence of Cyber Crime Act of 2018,” read the summons.

In August last year, Mr Echesa was caught up in a near-fistfight with Alego Usonga MP Samuel Atandi at Kisumu Airport.

The MP was reported to have started the argument with Mr Echesa over the CS’s comments linking Mr Odinga to an alleged plot to kick him out of the Cabinet.

After the incident, some of his colleagues complained that he was an embarrassment to the Cabinet.

At the ministry level, reports abound that he had poor working relationship with juniors.

Sports PS Kirimi Kaberia was at some point forced to fight back claims that he had fallen out with the minister.

“I enjoy the best relationship with my CS because we are both tasked and determined to improve the state of sports in the country,” he said.

For the one year he served in the Cabinet, Mr Echesa and controversy have been almost synonymous.

During his vetting, some MPs felt he was not the right man for the job. His humble education background was also subject of heated debate.

Mr Echesa has also been embroiled in turf wars with his ICT counterpart Joe Mucheru over the Kenya Film Classification Board, with the former at one point ignoring a presidential directive that the agency fell under the ICT docket and going ahead to appoint its board members.

Meanwhile, for ICT principal secretary Fatuma Hirsi, Friday’s sacking was the second time she was being shown the door in less than a year. In June last year, the Head of State sacked her as PS for Tourism.

In a letter dated May 30, 2018, Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua informed her that her contract was not renewed.

“Your employment contract has been terminated forthwith,” Kinyua told her. “You will be paid your salary up to June 30, which will be your last working day.”

However, a month later when the President effected a mini-reshuffle in the Cabinet, he appointed her the PS for Broadcasting.

Prior to her appointment as PS for Tourism in 2015, Ms Hirsi worked in the United Nation’s Universal Postal Agency.