It was Wednesday, 29th June 2016. It was sunny, but cold outside. In this meeting room within State House, it was suddenly cloudy.
For the team the President had just dressed down, this entire meeting had gone completely out of character. Uhuru Kenyatta was their personal friend. A man, as someone once wrote, from whose cigarette pack you could pick a stick.
But they had forgotten, somewhere around mid-2013, that the man they had helped win the presidency had actually won. That while the campaigns are a rat race with little structure and rules, the presidency is a marathon that demands order, patience, and respect.
In that room, with Uhuru Kenyatta and Manoah Esipisu, sat the top layer of the communications unit.
They all had lofty titles of Senior Directors and Directors of the Presidential Strategic Communications Unit (PSCU). They included Dennis Itumbi, Munyori Buku, James Kinyua, Munira Mohamed, David Nzioka, and Big Ted. For professional communicators, they clearly had not read the mood in the room. Their bosses were quiet; even the man who they thought was the subject of the meeting sat quietly, listening, and taking notes.
And then the hammer fell.
Their bosses had let them run amok with the presidency for long enough.
Without flinching, the President added “You will do what Manoah says. You will send him weekly plans of what you are doing, and weekly reviews of what you’ve done!” He wasn’t asking. By this point, the intrigues within the communications team had become an international spectacle, and the Presidency was in shambles.
“And no more media appearances except with express permission from Manoah!” He added.
In a quickly deleted post on a State House WhatsApp group they used to issue instructions to junior officers, Dennis Itumbi, having not read the signs of the times yet again, took his first aim at Kanze Dena, as he had done for many years, publicly, privately, and covertly, and against Manoah. But State House was reclaiming the prestige of the presidency, and with Uhuru’s second term in progress, and the March 9th 2018 handshake giving him political peace, cleaning house. And it had to begin with the communications unit, which had soiled itself so much in public that it had become a story all by itself, and not a good one.
All the unofficial accounts opened and run by the PSCU unit’s rogue elements were deleted in one fell swoop. In an alert sent to media houses by the Chief of Staff, Nzioka Waita, on Friday, July 27th 2018, their tenure as the president’s communicators was effectively ended. In it, Waita clearly indicated the official State House accounts, ending their six-year chaotic run.
But they were not going to go down without fight. They would either burn the house down, in a communications sense, or be invited back. Even worse, their contracts ran up to 2020, and remained in place at the time of writing, but their access to and work for State House was revoked.
In a series of organized communication and false flag attacks using proxies, they waged war against the Presidency by attacking institutions and people close to the Presidency. This was orchestrated to make it look like communications in State House has been in jeopardy since their exit. In private WhatsApp groups, they organized attacks against the President’s Delivery Unit, whose Head is also the Chief of Staff, because they blamed him for their ouster in August 2018. He was also the one who locked them out of State House while the President was away in June 2016, and set up the meeting where Uhuru banged the table and tried to set new rules.
A second strategy even before the ouster was to seek space in the Deputy President’s campaign machinery at Harambee Annex. The lesson they had learnt was that the campaign process, with its fluid, chaotic, and exciting energy, is where they thrive best. They ensured all their accounts would retweet everything the DP tweeted. In the only channels that they currently manage, like @Nexuske, their content was geared towards the Deputy President. The 36 bloggers, a unit of mercenary writers and online content creators, now have only one mandate, making the DP trend.
Manoah, now perked in a much saner office in London, must have been watching with amusement…..
Ego had checked in long before the meeting on that day in June 2016.
Even to anyone with no access to the hallowed halls of the House on the hill, it was clear the communications team had gone from a mercenary unit to a public nuisance. The trail of evidence in this story is built from tweets, leaked documents and emails, legal documents, press releases, and interviews.
It is the story of how the team that became the Presidential Strategic Communications Unit (PSCU) forgot the first law of the 48 Laws of Power; “Never Outshine The Master.”
Dennis Itumbi made a name for himself as a whistleblower/blogger at the height of the ICC story. The indictment of Uhuru Kenyatta had introduced legal, political, and communications problems for the candidate and his team.
The decision to run for presidency and build an alliance with William Samoei Ruto, another ICC indictee, challenged the status quo of both local politics and the international order of things. Dennis Itumbi, as a young, curious blogger with itchy fingers fit right in with one purpose. To disseminate information online.
Unfortunately, the team that became the Presidential Strategic Communications Unit (PSCU) forgot the first law of the 48 Laws of Power, “Never Outshine The Master.”
Fast forward to 2018, most of the Twitter accounts managed by PSCU were deleted. Chief of Staff and Head of the Presidential Delivery Unit (PDU) Nzioka Waita named four Twitter handles that would only be allowed to tweet for State House.
“Please note that all official communication originating from the President’s Strategic Communications Unit shall be strictly communicated through the aforementioned channels. Operational correspondence by PSCU staff to media outlets will be done through officially assigned “president.go.ke” email addresses,” Nzioka said.
He advised that State House shall not accept any liability or responsibility for any inaccuracies arising from the reliance by a media outlet on communication delivered through any other unofficial means.
For some reason, Itumbi has gravitated towards Deputy President William to whom he has dedicated considerable energy.
Signs that the end for the team was nigh have been all over the place especially because of Itumbi’s conduct.
Itumbi has been a thorn in the flesh of the government with his pro-Ruto rhetoric that has worked hard to portray President Uhuru Kenyatta and his men in government in bad light.
His previous goofs are well known. For instance, on November 26, 2014, he committed a faux pas when he posted pictures of Uhuru returning from a tour of Abu Dhabi as the country mourned victims of a terror attack in Mandera. He later contradicted the then Interior Cabinet Secretary, Joseph Nkaissery, by claiming police officers had lost their lives in the Yumbis attack even though the CS insisted no lives were lost.
He is currently facing criminal charges after he was accused of falsifying a document which the prosecutors say was intended to cause anxiety to the general public.
In the alleged letter, Itumbi had claimed that some of the members of the Cabinet were planning to assassinate Deputy President William Ruto.
The letter claimed that there had been an alleged meeting at Hotel La Mada in Nairobi with the DP as the main agenda.
Itumbi now consults for the Strategic Research Unit (SRU) based at Harambee House Annex under Ken Osinde.