State House has hired veteran Citizen News anchor Kanze Dena as Deputy Spokesperson in changes that have seen the creation of a new archival division under the President’s Strategic Communication Unit (PSCU). Ms Dena, who will double as deputy head of the PSCU, has been positioned to succed State House Spokesperson Manoah Esipisu.
“As part of diversifying the voices from the Presidency, focusing the concept of messaging with purpose, President Kenyatta has appointed seasoned television news anchor Kanze Dena, 39, as Deputy State House Spokesperson and Deputy Head, PSCU,” State House said in a statement released by Mr Nzioka Waita, the Chief of Staff and Head of the President’s Delivery Unit.
Mr Waita said Ms Dena, a Kiswahili anchor on Citizen Nipashe news bulletin, will take leadership of the core communications teams, including digital, messaging, research, branding and press. With expansive newsroom leadership experience, Ms Dena has been tasked to focus on the President’s brand positioning, media relations and messaging with respect to the delivery the Big Four agenda.
This is a blow to Royal Media Services, which has been strengthening its TV crew by poaching from rivals to improve the quality of its programming and prepare for a new 24-hour news channel it plans to launch. Kanze Dena’s role at Citizen TV is likely to be taken up by Jamilah Mohamed, who moved from NTV last month.
Two months ago, President Kenyatta mourned the death of Kanze Dena’s father, Harry Kitao Stephens, a covert signal that State House had already reached out to her and perhaps struck a deal. Kanze Dena has interviewed Uhuru before.
It is with grief and a deep sense of loss that I learnt of the death of Mr Harry Kitao Stephens and I convey my deep sympathies and heartfelt condolences to his family, relatives and friends. The late Mr Stephens was father to Kanze Dena, anchor of “Nipashe” on Citizen TV.
— Uhuru Kenyatta (@UKenyatta) March 11, 2018
Meanwhile, Director of Press at State House Munira Mohamed, has been promoted to deputy head of the PSCU and Head of the Presidential Library. The presidential library will safeguard and preserve the work and words of Kenya’s and will be managed under the newly established division, The Presidential Library, Museum and Exhibition Centre. The library will initially focus on the legacies of founding President H.E. Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Second President H.E. Daniel Toroitich arap Moi and Third President H.E. Mwai Emilio Kibaki, according to the statement.
In addition to talking charge of all broadcast and media production, Ms Mohamed, a former KTN anchor, will lead a team to design and develop the library; develop storylines and themes for both permanent and temporary public exhibitions, carry out research work and collect material relevant.
In this new role Ms Mohamed will work closely with the families of the first three presidents as well as the State Department of Heritage, “to decide on important speeches, papers, books, artworks, artifacts and other materials to preserve and exhibit.”
President Uhuru Kenyatta believes the two women leaders will bring diversity, dynamism and infuse new energy into the PSCU while improving overall media relations with external stakeholders.
The appointment of deputies signals the first step in succession planning at the PSCU, even though the statement clarified that “leadership for the Presidential Communications remains with Manoah Esipisu, the State House Spokesperson.”
The move adds a new reporting line for other directors including Munyori Buku (public communications), Eric Ng’eno (messaging), Dennis Itumbi (digital communications and diaspora), James Kinyua (branding and events) and Munira Mohammed, who will now be answerable to the two deputies.
There has been tension at the PSCU over the past few months, with talk of it being disbanded. At some point it was alleged the directors had been kicked out of State House as the cold war with some State House leaders intensified.
After the announcement, Mr Itumbi congratulated his new boss. “Welcome to PSCU, Madam Kanze Dena,” he wrote on Facebook. “You have our support and we are happy that your appointment makes the team stronger. With your entry communicating The Presidency just became easier and I’m sure more effective. Karibu sana.”