Deeply entrenched interests may have forced President Uhuru Kenyatta to directly appoint a substantive director general for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
Through Executive Order No. 4 of 2019, President Kenyatta installed Brig John Waweru as the director general. The appointment came after several false starts by the KWS board to recruit a new director general, many of which have resulted in job adverts being cancelled and started afresh.
In an unprecedented move, and perhaps to send a warning to the external forces and civil society groups that have always wanted to make the call on who runs KWS, President Kenyatta bypassed the law and appointed a career military man and a diplomat to head the troubled KWS.
Section 11 (1) of the amended Wildlife Management and Conservation Act (2013) provides that “There shall be a Director-General of the Service appointed by the Cabinet Secretary in consultation with the Board”. There is no direct reference to the President.
On the same day, the President named career intelligence officer and immediate former Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet the Principal Administrative Secretary for the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, under which the KWS falls.
The appointment of retired Brig Waweru came in the middle of the latest attempt to recruit a director general. KWS had re-advertised the position in February and applicants had until February 25 to submit their applications. At the time of the announcement from State House, the Board of Trustees chaired by Dr John Waithaka, through a consultancy firm, Hawkins Associates, had called for an interview on Thursday.
The appointment of Brig Waweru was announced on Wednesday, just hours before the scheduled interviews.
The candidates shortlisted in the now moot process include former senior KWS employees Ms Sharon Kisire (ex-human resources manager) and Mr Tom Sipul (ex-kws surveyor). There were also the acting director of biodiversity Dr Patrick Omondi, acting director general Charles Musyoki and a fifth person whose name was not immediately established.
One of the candidates shortlisted for the job expressed his frustrations at the way things unfolded. “Those people really disappointed us,” the candidate, who requested not to be named as he was still awaiting communication from the board, said.
According to the candidate, it was by luck that he was in Nairobi on Tuesday when the call inviting them to the interview came through. He had travelled from his rural home where he spends most of his time the Sunday before as he was preparing for a foreign trip.
“If the law allows the President to make a direct appointment, then why did the board initiate the process of recruitment?” the man posed.
Some insiders our source had spoken to believe the move by President Kenyatta may have been informed by the behaviour of a cabal of NGOs and former senior managers and board members, who have previously been accused of being used by private lobbies headquartered in Western capitals who maintain a tight control on management of wildlife in Kenya, to have their preferred candidate.
“These people (local conservation NGOs and former senior managers and board members) are the ones messing up the organisation,” our source stated.
Before KWS staff could digest the new developments, Brig Waweru swooped into KWS headquarters in Lang’ata, assumed office from the acting DG, Mr Musyoki, and held a meeting with all eight regional directors from across the country on Friday, whom he had summoned the previous day.
The entry of two career security men, Brig Waweru and Mr Boinnet, is being viewed as the latest intervention by the President to stabilise a largely rudderless KWS, which has been stumbling from one leadership crisis to another.