William Ruto
Caption for the landscape image:

We're slipping back to Nyayo 'Error'

Scroll down to read the article

President William Ruto salutes during the Kenya Airforce 60th Anniversary Celebrations at Moi Base Eastleigh in Nairobi County. 

Photo credit: PCS

It was President Mwai Kibaki who came into office famously pledging an end to “the era of roadside policy pronouncements”. President William Ruto likes to hold up the late Kibaki as his leadership role model but, unfortunately, a lot of what he says and does is the polar opposite.

For instance, we are firmly back to those populist public declarations designed to bamboozle the cheering masses or satisfy the demands of some local potentate, mostly with no regard to the cost and consequences.

The problem is that, all too often, the President making thoughtless public declarations has to go back on his word—and to his own cost, as that only reinforces perceptions of a person who cannot be trusted. This was the case when he, on Saturday, walked back on his proclamation of barely a month before, purportedly lifting height restrictions on buildings in the Eastleigh area.

The commanders of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) must have had a quiet word with the President on the folly of allowing skyscrapers next to the military air base within the bustling Nairobi suburb. He announced the change of mind when attending the 60th Anniversary celebrations of the Kenya Air Force at the Moi Air Base (MAB).

Height restrictions

Yet when President Ruto announced the lifting of height restrictions during a roadside stop in the area just a month ago, he proclaimed his authority as Commander-in-Chief of the KDF. He did not seem to consider at all laid-out procedures for variations or amendments to zoning and other city planning rules. He forgot that governance by presidential fiat went out with one-party dictatorship.

President Ruto was responding to a plea by Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja, who came up with the cockamamie reason that Eastleigh is already crowded and full of traffic jams and, therefore, the military airport can no longer be used for emergency evacuation of the Head of State in times of danger.

First, it is highly doubtful that the airport was built purposely for the evacuation of the President or even the colonial governor before him. Secondly, building restrictions around an airport have absolutely no relationship to easy access; they are about the safety of aircraft flying into and out of the facility.

Dodging apartments

We cannot have air force jets into the air base dodging their way around apartment blocks; just as we can’t have civilian aircraft Into Wilson Airport or Jomo Kenyatta International Airport impeded by skyscrapers.

That Eastleigh snafu was just one example of instances where President Ruto is not following in Kibaki’s footsteps but is more in sync with the Nyayo ‘Error’ of President Daniel arap Moi.

‘Kibakinomics’ is widely acknowledged to have rescued Kenya from two decades and more of wanton plunder and economic ruin and, within a very short time, put the county back on the path of prosperity.

By contrast, ‘Rutonomics’, so far, is seen only as monument to return of the slash and burn policies guaranteed to kill enterprise, as well as slavish devotion to IMF and World Bank Structural Adjustment Programme (SAPs) that enslaved and devastated Africa in the early 1990s.

During President Kibaki’s time, American, British and other Western ambassadors used to rue that their calls to State House were studiously ignored. That was unlike under Moi, who was at their beck and call despite him, at public rallies, forever lambasting their meddlesome ways. Today, envoys of the major Western nations candidly reveal how they have President Ruto on speed dial, ready to jump when they say so.

Harambee meetings

Then there is that return of crass displays of cash at harambee meetings of the kind barred under Kibaki in keeping with the Public Officer Ethics Act.

A clutch of politicians, most notably Kapseret MP Oscar Kipchumba Sudi, are all over the place publicly dishing out humongous wads of banknotes under the guise of philanthropy but, more accurately, buying political support.

In this day and age, nobody giving to a worthwhile cause needs put on primitive displays of hard cash. There are more efficient and secure ways of transferring funds.

A lot of legitimate questions must be asked on the source of seemingly inexhaustible funds that don’t seem supported by any known enterprises.

President Ruto has also trashed the political neutrality demanded of public officers by inviting some favoured ones, in defiance of the law, to participate and officiate in elections of his UDA party.

He needs to take a step back, analyse his actions and consider whether he is taking Kenya backwards to the regime of dictatorial rule and absolute opacity in the management of public affairs.

[email protected]. @MachariaGaitho