Controversial Sports, Culture and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Rashid Mohamed Echesa is a man under siege.
Less than six months since he was appointed to the Cabinet,his clout as a CS has taken a beating after two key parastatals were removed from his docket through an executive order by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The two parastatals — the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) and the Kenya Film Commission (KFC) — were moved to the Information, Communications and Technology ministry under Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru.
Sources at the Sports ministry have intimated that Echesa has been lobbying hard for the two parastatals, and in particular KFCB, to be returned to his docket.
When the President nominated him to the Cabinet, questions quickly arose over his academic qualifications as he has no formal education beyond primary school.
In the past, the CS had been embroiled in altercations with ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala and former Kakamega County police commander Tito Kilonzi.
On June 28, supporters of Mr Echesa and those of Mr Malala engaged in a violent confrontation at Mayoni market in Matungu constituency. Several people were injured and vehicles damaged during the fracas.
The fight was triggered when Malala had challenged the CS to write a proposal to President Kenyatta asking him to intervene and ensure the ailing Mumias Sugar Company receives additional bailout cash to restart operations.
“But if the CS has a problem writing the proposal, I’m prepared to write one for him so that he can present it to President Kenyatta,” said Mr Malala, in remarks that were considered demeaning to the CS by his supporters.
A similar incident had unfolded a month earlier, on May 12, when Mr Mudavadi and Mr Oparanya attended the homecoming party of Lusheya-Lubinu ward representative Elly Keya in Mumias East constituency.
A brawl erupted at the function after Mr Echesa, who was in attendance, accused Mr Oparanya of failing to deal with a Kisumu-based miller who had set up a weighbridge at Shikunga market in Butere constituency.
“I have checked the documents and established that the Kakamega County government licensed Kibos sugar miller to construct the weigh-bridge. I’m telling Governor Oparanya to shut down the premises by Monday and if he fails, I will storm the place and close it down,” said Mr Echesa.
More drama unfolded after Mr Echesa said his elevation as CS had catapulted him to a senior position in the Luhya community and therefore deserved the respect of politicians from the region.
“My appointment … has made me the senior most government official in the region. I want to make it clear that other leaders from the region seeking an appointment to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto should do so through me,” said Mr Echesa.
He further told Mr Mudavadi to forget his quest for the presidency in 2022, claiming that the former Vice President could not marshal the resources for successful campaigns.
“If my brother Mr Mudavadi cannot raise Sh200 billion for presidential campaigns in 2022, let him forget it. We are tired of being in the cold because of our support for the opposition,” he said.
In November 2016, Jubilee supporters in Mumias town, led by Mr Echesa, blocked Mr Odinga and Mr Oparanya from addressing victims of police brutality at the Shibale market.
The chaos erupted after Mr Odinga and Mr Oparanya drove to the village to visit families beaten up and injured by officers from the General Service Unit during an operation to recover seven guns and 184 bullets stolen from the Booker Police Post.
Mr Echesa, accompanied by MPs Benjamin Washiali and Emmanuel Wangwe, cautioned Mr Odinga against politicising the issue. “Where were you when police were beating our youths and raping our women?” Mr Echesa told Mr Odinga. A fight then broke out between the supporters of the two leaders.
In a separate incident related to the Shibale crackdown, Mr Echesa had confronted Kakamega County police commander Tito Kilonzi, accusing him of allowing the GSU officers to beat up residents.
Mr Echesa had gone to Mumias police station to demand the release of suspects. But Mr Kilonzi warned him to stop inciting residents and threatened to have him arrested if he continued interfering in the probe.
The CS fought back by calling for the transfer of the police chief, whom he accused of siding with the Nasa coalition to intimidate Jubilee supporters in Kakamega County.
Mr Kilonzi has since been transferred to Nairobi headquarters.