President Kibaki on Wednesday made changes in the Cabinet in a mini-reshuffle that saw Eldoret North MP William Ruto moved from Agriculture to the less glamorous Ministry of Higher Education Science and Technology.
Mr Kibaki also sacked Charles Keter (Belgut MP) as assistant minister for Energy, in a move that analysts said sent a clear message against dissenting voices in the constitution review campaign.
Sally Kosgey, who was in charge of the Higher Education docket, took over at Agriculture minister while Kipkelion MP Mergerer Langat, a key ally of Prime Minister Raila Odinga, replaced Mr Keter.
A statement from the Presidential Press Service said Mr Kibaki made the changes after consultations with Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Analysts said Wednesday's changes largely affected the ODM side of the coalition which has been rocked by disagreements between Mr Ruto and Mr Odinga over policy and political issues.
Mr Ruto, a deputy leader in ODM, is the only Cabinet minister who has rejected the draft constitution and has openly disagreed with Mr Odinga over various issues including reclaiming of Mau forest, the fight against corruption and lately the draft constitution.
Mr Ruto has led about 20 MPs from the Rift Valley in campaigning against the draft constitution and denouncing the government’s efforts to restore the Mau forest by evicting illegal settlers.
In February, Mr Odinga suspended Mr Ruto and Education minister Sam Ongeri from the Cabinet for three months so that they could be investigated for alleged corruption amid growing international pressure to deal with rampant graft in government.
But Mr Kibaki overturned the suspension, saying that the PM did not have powers to remove ministers from office.
Mr Ruto had been implicated in the subsidised maize scam, but survived a vote of no confidence in parliament, while Prof Ongeri’s name was mentioned in the disappearance of funds intended for free primary education.
Other changes included the appointment of Trade minister Amos Kimunya as acting Minister for Transport to replace Chirau Mwakwere whose election was nullified recently by the High Court.
Samuel Kazungu Kambi (Kaloleni MP) was appointed assistant minister for Medical Services to replace Danson Mungatana who resigned in April last year.
North Mugirango MP Wilfred Ombui, who won a by-election against PNU’s Joel Onyancha, was appointed Assistant Minister for State for National Heritage and Culture.
The development is a blow to Mr Ruto and a group of MPs mainly from the Rift Valley who are seen as standing in the way of Kenya crafting a new constitution as they lead the “No” campaign.