President Uhuru Kenyatta reshuffled his Cabinet for the first time since he began his second term, and this one had a ‘first’. A cabinet secretary was sacked from his position as opposed to the usual reassignment to other posts, causing a buzz. Rashid Echesa, now former Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Arts was shown the door after a lack-luster tenure of almost 2 years.
But his replacement wasn’t one that was received well by Kenyans, especially those taking keen interest in Sports. The President reassigned Ms Amina Mohamed from the Education Ministry to the Sports docket. This raised concern given her experience does not align with the docket and her previous performance at the Education Ministry caused many to doubt her commitment to empowering youth.
While in the Education docket Ms. Mohamed issued the directive to arrest Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) loans defaulters, which most Kenyans termed as inconsiderate and inhumane given the current unemployment rates. The matter was even brought up in the Senate, with most members calling out the government for hypocrisy since this approach hasn’t been taken with regards to major corruption scandals. Not only did she issue the harsh directive but she also had hiccups while rolling out the Competency based curriculum giving conflicting communication that forced the President to step in and reassure parents about the curriculum being implemented in schools.
Her latest appointment brings to question the criteria the President uses in appointing cabinet secretaries for youth-focused ministries. For a government that claims to articulate youth issues, they have had a dismal performance on implementing the same. Echesa’s predecessor, Hassan Wario alongside his Principal Secretary Richard Ekai ran down the sports ministry with incompetence and corruption. For instance, Kenya lost an opportune moment to host the 2018 African Nations Championship because of inadequate preparation with blame tossed between the Ministry and Federations.
As if that was not enough, while our athletes were busy flying the Kenyan flag high at the Rio Olympics in 2016, funds were being misappropriated. The dark cloud of corruption charges following Wario did not stop his appointment to the Austria Embassy. To recycle people whose integrity has been in question is to treat Kenyans with contempt and foster a culture of impunity.
The government is failing youth who depend on functional systems to make a living for themselves. If we are trying to have a level playing field for every young Kenyan, then the we need to have an education system that nurtures all-round individuals, a solution to the unemployment headache and frameworks that let youth exploit their talents to maximum potential.
It is a disservice to treat the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Arts like an afterthought that does not deserve a qualified individual who will elevate a country that boasts of natural sporting talent to the next level. The government should focus on implementing the promises they made while running for a second term, which to be honest are attainable.
Kenya should borrow a leaf from Malaysia who appointed 27-year-old Syed Abdul Rahman for the Sports and Youth Ministerial job. Wouldn’t it work in the government’s favor to actively tap into youthful zeal to attain the Big 4 Agenda? With a very youthful population like ours, youth empowerment will guarantee development on all fronts.