President Strategic Communication Unit (PSCU) directors, who had been acrimoniously pushed out on Wednesday, were recalled after three days in the cold and directed to not to issue any public statements on behalf of State House or the President.
Deputy Chief of Staff at State House Nzioka Waita reinstated the team, which was caught by surprise by the way, on Friday following what insiders say was a thorough dress-down on operations and practice. But details of the behind the scenes activities that led to their return have emerged, including their desperate appeals to President Uhuru, and a secret plan to eventually kick them out of State House.
According to a State House source, the four frantically reached out to President Uhuru, who was on state visit to Botswana, asking him to intervene and save their jobs. “They told the boss they had nowhere to go,” said a senior government official. “Their boss then asked State House officials to call them back.”
The four directors – Dennis Itumbi, Munyori Buku, Eric Ng’eno and James Kinyua – had been instructed to keep off State House offices on Thursday “until certain conversations are held” once their boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, returned from Botswana.
Uhuru was also prevailed upon by State House insiders and the National Intelligence Service (NIS) to have them back since “they would be dangerous out there.” It was felt they have been privy to State House secrets and critical presidential information, which they would use against the government outside there.
“It is safer to have them back to safeguard state information,” said the official who talked to BT. “It was risky to have people with state information feeling disgruntled. Itumbi and Ng’eno can be very dangerous.”
But State House is not through with them yet. They are expected to be “slowly” redeployed to the Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) headquarters where they will be in charge of political communication and party propaganda ahead of the next elections.
Their return, though, was made to look like a truce, but State House Spokesman had made his point: he is the boss in matters communication. “Whereas the Unit has faced some challenges in the execution of its mandate, it is working to resolve them. The Unit and its Staff team remain intact and fully committed to their duties,” Waita said in a press statement on Friday.
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However, Waita’s statement sold out the very reason for Wednesday’s instructions: “The Unit will continue to improve on the coherency and consistency of messaging in order to keep the public informed of the President’s transformative development agenda.”
Insiders privy to the deal say they are now under firm instructions not to issue any press statement unless with authority of State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu.
Though the affected PSCU directors got into office with pomp and glamour when they were unveiled at State House at a breakfast meeting attended by senior editors, they immediately started cooking their own goose by fighting Esipisu, whom they deemed an outsider who did not play any role in the 2013 presidential campaigns having been fished from the Commonwealth.
They started issuing statements that had not been cleared by Esipisu and gave themselves titles of senior directors, sometimes embarrassing the presidency especially when they ventured into the dirty game of politics.
Itumbi also sought to, almost single-highhandedly, manage the government’s online communications but his bid to get a .go.ke domain was frustrated as the ICT ministry had already established the mygov.go.ke portal. He was denied the domain, something he later blamed on traditional government bureaucracy that was averse to new ways of doing things.
Never one to give up easily, Itumbi, with the backing of his colleagues, set up nexus.co.ke where he posted government information updates and went on to rival both mygov.go.ke and president.go.ke. Many commentators have complained that instead of refined, targeted communication from State House, what was coming out were largely political statements, some of which bordered on propaganda.
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