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Mercy Wanjau appointed to head the powerful Communication Authority of Kenya

Mercy Wanjau/COURTESY

Communications Authority has appointed Mercy Wanjau as Acting Director General replacing Francis Wangusi.

For the second time in as many years, Communication Authority of Kenya’s (CA) top leadership was in a limbo as a legal dispute exposes a plan to clip the independence of the influential regulator and place it under the control of individuals in government.

In the pasts weeks CA board chairman Ngene Gituku put out a statement declaring the post of director-general vacant in a bid to kick-start the replacement of Francis Wangusi, whose term expires in August this year.

However, stakeholders in the telecommunication sector have faulted the authority for flouting due process by seeking to replace Mr Wangusi while a legal dispute on the CA’s leadership is currently in court.

“We are surprised the authority has begun the process of recruiting a new director-general while the board of directors remains in office illegally,” said Stephen Mutoro, the chief executive of the Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek).

Last month, the High Court blocked the appointment of a new board following a suit by activist Okiya Omtata challenging the appointment process.

The Miscellaneous Amendments Bill, 2018 expunged clauses to the KICA Act, 2013 that mandated the authority to replace the board chairman and director-general through a selection panel.

The panel was constituted by several representatives, including the Media Council of Kenya, Kenya Private Sector Alliance, Law Society of Kenya, Institute of Engineers of Kenya and Cofek, and instead conferred the appointing authority to the Cabinet secretary in charge of the ministry.

This has raised concerns that the independence of the authority will be diluted if the Cabinet secretary chooses to handpick their preferred board members without any oversight.

Wangusi’s exit has been as acrimonious as his tenure, as the authority’s second director-general and highlighted the perennial leadership wrangles that have dogged the regulator since inception.

He assumed office in 2012 after the High Court nullified the re-appointment of his predecessor, Charles Njoroge, by then ICT minister Samuel Poghisio.

The previous board had been dissolved following allegations of corruption in its decision to award the third mobile subscriber licence to Econet Wireless, which later became Essar Communications, operators of the Yu network after a 2009 acquisition.

Five years later, when Safaricom and Airtel Kenya signed an agreement to acquire YuMobile for Sh10 billion, the CA top management once again stood accused of abusing their mandate and causing the taxpayer losses by waiving billions of shillings in licence fees.


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