In North Rift, residents avoid Azimio demos but decry high cost of living

nairobi protests

Azimio leader Raila Odinga's supporters clash with police officers in Kibra, Nairobi, on March 20, 2023, during protests against President William Ruto's administration.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

North Rift counties are faced with a tough balancing act of supporting the Kenya Kwanza administration led by their son, President William Ruto, and voicing their concerns about the rising cost of living.

North Rift residents have given the opposition rallies — called to, among others, pressure the government to bring down the coast of living — a wide berth. The region is the home turf of President Ruto, and his United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party enjoys fanatical support there. 

Kitale remains the only North Rift county to have reported demos.

However, the county leans more towards the Azimio coalition.

Many admit, however, that the country is facing a socio-economic crisis and have called for dialogue between the government and the opposition in resolving the difficulties.

They say dialogue, and not protests, will solve the current challenges.

“What we want is the President and opposition leader Raila Odinga to embrace dialogue, regardless of their political stance, and address issues affecting Kenyans. The country is indeed in a serious economic crisis,” said Mr Daniel Chesire, an Eldoret town resident.

Most North Rift residents strongly believe that President Ruto was legitimately elected to lead the country and the opposition — which insists he was not — is capitalising on the rising cost of living to destabilise his government.

Cannot start issuing demands

“The current government is only six months in power and the opposition cannot start issuing demands, including demonstrations. They should give it more time,” Ms said Janet Sitienei, the Turbo MP.

Legislators from the region, the majority of whom were elected under the Kenya Kwanza Alliance affiliate party UDA, are pleading with the opposition to allow the government to reorganise itself and give it time to lower the cost of food.

They blame the administration of former President Uhuru Kenyatta for the rising cost of basic commodities through the subsidy programmes that have since been abolished by Dr Ruto.

“The economic hardship facing Kenyans is as a result of a mess arising from the handshake between former President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga and the current administration should be given time to fix the problems,” said Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago.

Some residents have called on the government to consider reintroducing subsidies to cushion Kenyans from the high cost of living.

“The government has no option but to reintroduce subsidies and save Kenyans from the skyrocketing cost of basic commodities,” said Mr Samuel Maina from Eldoret.

While traders in opposition-dominated areas are counting losses resulting from the destruction that happened during Monday’s running battles involving demonstrators and security agents, it is business as usual in the North Rift, despite the high cost of basic commodities, including maize flour.

Come up with measures

“The President comes from here and he needs our support as he reorganises his government to come up with measures that will help lower the cost of living,” said Mr David Kosgei from Sergoit, Uasin Gishu County.

The cost of flour has risen above Sh200 per 2kg packet as a result of the acute shortage of maize.

A 90-kilo bag of maize is selling at Sh6,200 while most millers have suspended operations due to the maize shortage.

President Ruto has in the past maintained that his government will not reintroduce subsidies, but instead support farmers to increase crop productivity and attain food security to help lower the cost of living.

“Our focus is to promote production and save the economy colossal amounts of money by removing subsidies,” declared Dr Ruto.

But like previous regimes, the Kenya Kwanza administration has introduced a fertiliser subsidy to lower the cost of the vital farm input from Sh6,800 to Sh3,500 and motivate farmers to increase the acreage under crop production.