What Mt Kenya residents expect from President Ruto's tour

William Ruto

President William Ruto (second right) during the burial of Mary Kario, mother-in-law of Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wah (right), in Nyeri County in 2022. Also accompanying him are DP  Rigathi Gachagua and MPs Ndindi Nyoro and Njuguna Kawanjiku.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Observers say the tour is strategically timed for President Ruto to strengthen ties with Mt Kenya voters as he strives to deliver on the campaign promises.  
  • Mr Gachagua has vowed to ensure that the two Kenya Kwanza turfs are united and fully behind President Ruto.

  • In Kirinyaga, local leaders want President Ruto to address the issue of stalled projects.

Residents of Mount Kenya are expecting development goodies as President William Ruto begins a three-day tour of the region on Wednesday amid growing concerns over unfulfilled promises made during the 2022 election campaign.

The visit comes four days after Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua hit out at his Kenya Kwanza rivals during a funds drive in Kigumo, Murang'a County on Saturday, asserting his authority as the region's undisputed political kingpin.

The region is crucial to the Kenya Kwanza administration since the residents overwhelmingly voted for President Ruto and Mr Gachagua in the August 2022 polls.

However, there has been unrest in the voter-rich area due to the high cost of living, unstable agricultural produce prices, a proposed crop tax and a crackdown on illegal bars and businesses. According to President Ruto's handlers, the tour will cover Kiambu, Murang'a, Kirinyaga and Nyeri counties.

"The itinerary includes visits to Lari and Kangema constituencies on Wednesday, followed by Gatanga, Maragua and Othaya on Thursday and concluding in Mathira and Gatundu South on Friday. Specific projects to be launched include roads, markets, the Kenya Medical Training College and water and irrigation projects in various constituencies," said a brief on the visit seen by the Nation.

Irrigation projects

In Lari, the Mau Mau road and the Soko Mjinga Economic Stimulus Programme market are expected to be launched. Other projects in various constituencies include the inauguration of a medical training college, water and irrigation projects, roads, healthcare, and access to clean water.

Observers say the tour is strategically timed for President Ruto to strengthen ties with Mt Kenya voters as he strives to deliver on the campaign promises.  

The row between DP Gachagua and Kiharu MP Ndidi Nyoro over control of the area ahead of the 2027 polls had threatened to portray the region as divided at a time when the Kenya Kwanza government is struggling to implement its key development agenda.

The Ruto administration has been sued over the implementation of the Affordable Housing project, the Social Health Insurance Fund, the requirement school fees for national schools should be paid through e-Citizen and plans to deploy police to Haiti.

The unity of President Ruto and Mr Gachagua's key bases - Central Kenya and the Rift Valley - is seen as crucial for them to implement their development agenda.

Mr Gachagua has vowed to ensure that the two Kenya Kwanza turfs are united and fully behind President Ruto.

"We don't want anyone to divide us. Anyone who wants to divide us is our enemy. I will do everything possible to ensure that no one divides us and consolidate our support for President William Ruto," Mr Gachagua said in Kirinyaga last Friday.

In Kirinyaga, local leaders want President Ruto to address the issue of stalled projects.

"Most of the road projects in the region have stalled and we want them revived. The President should tell us what the government is doing about it," said Kangai Ward Representative James Wambu.

The leaders said the Sh20 billion Kenya Medical Research Institute in Mwea has stalled and the President should tell residents when more money will be allocated for its completion. 

Important project

"This is a very important project for us and the government should prioritise it," said Mr Wambu.

Kerugoya MCA Eric Muchina said the President should address the high cost of living.

"Our people are suffering because of the high prices of food and fuel," Mr Muchina said.

He also lamented that the National Treasury takes a long time to release funds to the counties, making it difficult for the county governments to carry out meaningful development.

"The President should assure counties that the National Treasury will disburse funds to counties without delay," he said.

In Nyeri, a vendor, Mr David Kitonyo, told the Nation that the President's visits were meaningless because his government had yet to fulfil many of the promises it made to locals during election campaigns.

"Most of the projects he claims to be launching were started by the previous regime and are just being rebranded. He should show us the ones he has started," said Mr Kitonyo.

The opposition has also accused President Ruto of relaunching projects, especially roads that he had previously launched during his visits to Mt Kenya or those initiated by former President Uhuru Kenyatta.

DP Gachagua, who is seen as the main defender of Mt Kenya interests in the Ruto administration, has been pushing for reforms in the coffee sector to weed out cartels and ensure that farmers get better prices for their produce.

On Tuesday, the DP met the Kenya Tea Development Agency to push for an increase in tea earnings for small-scale farmers in response to the weakening of the Kenya shilling against the US dollar.

The DP says since KTDA sells tea in US dollars, farmers' earnings should not be static.

Mr Gachagua was responding to concerns raised by Gatanga MP Edward Muriu, who said tea farmers' incomes had fallen despite the high exchange rate of the dollar.

"I agree with Mr Muriu that if the dollar exchange rate is high, this should be reflected in farmers' incomes because the crop is traded in USD. I will convene a meeting with KTDA and see how we can improve the income. We cannot have a fixed payment rate, the price should be paid at the prevailing dollar rate on the day," said Mr Gachagua.

At the end of the week, the official exchange rate of the Kenyan shilling to the US dollar was Sh162. Farmers currently earn between Sh20 and Sh25 for every kilogram of green leaf tea they deliver. They also receive a bonus on tea sold, usually on an annual basis, which also varies depending on the quality of the tea sold, among other factors.

On milk, the DP said dairy farmers were set to earn more following the government's swift intervention to deal with a milk glut.

 The DP said the government had intervened by allocating Sh900 million to the New Kenya Cooperative Creameries to buy the milk to stop prices from falling as a result of the extra production.

As a result of the intervention, milk prices will rise from Sh45 to Sh50 per litre from March 1, 2024. The deputy president said the government aims to raise prices to over Sh60 per litre in the coming months.

He said the government's crackdown on illegal breweries was not targeting legitimate businesses.

Additional reporting by George Munene