Big wins, high mountains to climb as Ruto marks six months in office

President William Ruto addressed Kenyans after he took the oath of office at Kasarani international Stadium

President William Ruto addressed Kenyans after he took the oath of office at Kasarani international Stadium on September 13, 2022.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto will tomorrow mark six months in office, as he remoulds Kenya, throwing out key appointments predecessor, but faced with problems of skyrocketing cost of basic commodities and a Raila Odinga-led mass action plan.

Elected on a populist ticket that promised to lower the cost of living and offer cheap credit, the President has faced continuous criticism from Mr Odinga and his Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition which this week accused him of removing subsidies that kept prices of basic goods stable, and not doing enough to mitigate effects of drought and inflation.

It has been six months of baptism by fire by the Head of State, with a weakening shilling, and a move by global rating agency Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the country’s credit status from stable to negative, denting prospects of foreign direct investments and the government’s efforts to access cheap loans from the international markets.

And despite having pegged his campaigns on high affinity by the Jubilee administration for loans, President Ruto’s administration is still on the borrowing spree after it emerged that the Treasury has tapped four international banks to arrange for a Sh76.8 billion syndicated loan to plug the 2022/23 budget deficit.

In his first three months in office, Dr Ruto borrowed more than Sh137 billion, according to a report by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) for September, October, and November.

At the same time, despite ordering a joint police-military in the North Rift, the bandits are still running terror in the region, putting the President at loggerheads with legislators from the area.

As the country’s economy continues to nosedive under the watch of President Ruto, drought and famine sweep in various parts of the country, the speed at which the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) withdrawing cases of the Head of State’s allies has tainted the country’s image in the fight against corruption even as he is being accused of entrenching tribalism alongside over-bloated Executive.

“In the history of Kenya, it is the first time our country is facing a two-tribe regime. Kenya Kwanza is a one-sided illegitimate regime that is planting seeds of ethnic hegemony for a future genocide in Kenya. Only two communities are getting appointed to public service,” said Mr Odinga on Thursday, describing it as the “tribalisation and ethnicisation” of Kenya.

Reversed policies

In the same duration, President Ruto has reversed over 20 policies pursued by his predecessor, including restructuring the government, revisiting cancelled multi-billion projects and entrenching populist measures as he fashions his administration.

In moves that appear to send a message that former President Uhuru Kenyatta got things wrong during his tenure, President Ruto has targeted several policies, directives and programmes that were at the heart of his predecessor’s administration.
But for some of his allies, President Ruto was a godsend, the man to right the wrongs of the Uhuru regime, a man they describe as a vindictive president that was out to get them.

President Ruto—opinion seems unusually united—has rewarded all his key allies, keeping promises to those that stood with him during the campaigns, when he faced an angry sitting president who backed the opposition leader, Mr Odinga.
The vote-rich regions of Rift Valley, where the President comes from, and Mt Kenya, where his deputy Rigathi Gachagua hails from, gave Dr Ruto nearly two-thirds of the total votes he received.

In the 10 counties of Mount Kenya — Meru, Tharaka-Nithi, Embu, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Murang'a, Kiambu, Laikipia, Nyandarua and Nakuru — Mr Odinga garnered 848,205 votes, translating to 22.22 per cent of the valid votes, lower than what was the target of 30 per cent, while President Ruto got 3.5 million votes.

Having made promises to Ford-Kenya party boss Moses Wetang’ula and then-Amani National Congress (ANC) party leader Musalia Mudavadi before elections, Dr Ruto has kept his word and now the duo are National Assembly Speaker and Prime Cabinet Secretary to keep Western Kenya happy.

Mr Amason Kingi, the former Kilifi governor, is now Senate Speaker and Mr Salim Mvurya are Mining Cabinet Secretary in a move to show their coastal supporters the fruits of their cooperation with DP Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

In what is geared towards showing UDA supporters in the Ukambani region the benefits of being in the ruling party, Dr Alfred Mutua (Foreign Affairs) and Tourism’s Peninah Malonza were named Cabinet secretaries while former UDA chairperson Johnson Muthama has since landed a place at the lucrative and powerful Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC). 

But as he keeps his promises to others, other Kenya Kwanza affiliate parties have accused Dr Ruto of ignoring them and are now busily pressurising them to fold up and join UDA.

Farmers Party boss Irungu Nyakera said they have been shortchanged in the Kenya Kwanza arrangement, arguing that it would be unfair for them to be asked to dissolve six months after the formation of the current administration yet they have not been rewarded for supporting Dr Ruto.

“Everything is a give and take. When the eight political parties signed the Kenya Kwanza Coalition agreement on April 12, 2022, we had been promised that all our parties would benefit should Kenya Kwanza win the presidential election. Six months later, six of these parties have never been rewarded with anything for being members of the coalition and the only message we are getting is that we should dissolve to join UDA by August or else we cease being in Kenya Kwanza. Surely, anyone would be quite stupid to forgo their party and get nothing in return,” Mr Nyakera told the Sunday Nation.

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi, an ardent supporter of Mr Odinga, yesterday claimed that whatever Kenya Kwanza leaders promised during the campaigns was just meant to hoodwink Kenyans just to gain power.

“It is very clear that the much talked about Plan by Kenya Kwanza was a ploy. Clearly, they have no coherent plan to deal with the country’s problems, including addressing high wage bills,” said Mr Osotsi.

Nyaribari Chache MP Zaheer Jhanda, a Ruto ally, argues that the scrapped subsidies were just political gimmicks.

 “The subsidies were just a mockery and political propaganda and it was a political — not economic — decision to sway the people of Kenya to vote in a certain way. The country was going to lose about Sh25 billion per month and that would mean losing Sh300 billion annually.

All the institutions in Kenya agree GMOs are fit for consumption and there’s no way the President can put millions of Kenyans at risk. The US, and South Africa are consuming 100 per cent GMO and we have never heard any cases that it has affected anyone,” said Mr Jhanda.

Balancing competition

Belgut MP Nelson Koech, another Ruto ally, has come to the defence of the government, saying the Kenya Kwanza regime is committed to balancing the competing interests of reducing the high cost of unga as well as empowering farmers.

“The government has already demonstrated a keen commitment to balance these competing interests by cancelling the unga subsidy and replacing it with the fertiliser subsidy in the interest of long-term sustainability. Let’s be patient with the government as it fixes the high cost of living once and for all,” said Mr Koech.
The beleaguered Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni told the Sunday Nation that the Kenya Kwanza administration needs to explain why it has delayed in fulfilling its campaign promises.

“Inflation is up, fuel and food are all up. They have collected money from August to now hence there is nothing like they found empty coffers. Let them tell us what they have done,” said Mr Kioni.
He further claimed that the first six months of the Kenya Kwanza administration illustrate that Dr Ruto will be a one-term President because of playing to the gallery instead of working for Kenyans.

“This administration is full of talk without implementing anything. They do not walk the talk. Therefore, four years are remaining for them to go home. For instance, the Jubilee administration dealt with the illicit brew in Mount Kenya which used to kill people, now the consumption of such brews has gone up,” said Mr Kioni.

“Ruto has been appointing individuals who were taken to court for failing to pay taxes worth millions of shillings. Why should they collect taxes from us? This administration has lost direction on fighting corruption,”  he added.

Bumula MP Jack Wamboka, another ally of Mr Odinga, said the President and his team are applying double standards when it comes to corruption. “They are messing the Judiciary and very soon, the chicken will come home to roost,” said the Bumula MP.
Nandi Hills MP Bernard Kitur said the President is determined to ensure that Kenyans are registered with the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF).

“President Ruto has extensively discussed his housing, NHIF and NSSF plans with us. He told us how they are key actors in our economy,” he said.