William Ruto
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President Ruto: Why government won’t hire CASs, fund First Lady’s office

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President William Ruto during an interview with top editors at State House, Nairobi, on June 30, 2024.

Photo credit: PCS

The government will not fund the offices of the First Lady and the spouse of the Deputy President in the financial year that starts on Monday, July 1, 2024.

President William Ruto will also not hire Chief Administrative Secretaries and has expressed an intention to ban fundraisers across the country.

These are among the measures the President has taken to cope with the growing anti-government sentiment that led to Dr Ruto annulling the Finance Bill, 2024 that would have informed revenue collection and expenditure from Monday.

In an interview on Sunday evening interview with top editors to discuss the recent wave of anti-government protests and the government’s response, a largely defensive Dr Ruto announced the budget cuts and also said he was ready to engage Kenya’s young people on whatever platform they prefer. Some have been calling him to an X-Space to address their grievances.

Below is a summary of some of the issues discussed in an interview where Dr Ruto, who remarked that “I am happy that we have a crisis”, refused to address questions touching on his deputy, Rigathi Gachagua, and where he noted that his Cabinet “could have done better”.

1. Deaths and destruction from the anti-tax protests

Information from civil society is that 24 Kenyans have died due to police attacks over the protests. President Ruto insisted that they were 19 and said there was no blood on his hands.

“I am sure the police have a record and an explanation for every incident that they were engaged in,” he said.

Dr Ruto tore at the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) for giving alarmist reports about the death toll in Githurai.

Noting that a BBC investigation had shown that there was no massacre, he blasted KNCHR as “an organisation that is as reckless as to say there was a massacre when there was none”.

The President also claimed that peaceful protesters were infiltrated by criminals out to steal and attack others. He noted that the youths who attacked Parliament on June 25 went after the armoury.

“There will be an investigation … on how these people knew there was an armoury in Parliament,” said the President.

Dr Ruto also seemed to wonder why most people aren’t concerned that part of the Chief Justice’s office and Parliament were torched.

He noted that businesses in the country have lost a total of Sh2.4 billion due to damages caused by attacks against their premises.

Regarding the use of Kenya Defence Forces to deal with protests, he said the army will not be on the streets during Tuesday’s planned protests unless order breaks down.

“They come as a last resort. If the demonstrations will be peaceful, I promise you, the police will be there to protect the demonstrators,” said Dr Ruto.

2. Abduction of government critics

The President failed to directly point an accusing finger at police over reports that at least 39 people have been detained and held incommunicado by police. He argued that there are constitutionally allowed timelines for detaining an arrested person and if they had not been defied, then the police are in order.

He also defended the government's strategy of using plain-cloth police to effect arrests.

 “When a police officer comes to you and says ‘this is my ID, I am a police officer, you are under arrest for the following reasons that are legitimate’, you cannot tell me that because they were in civilian clothing, then what they did was wrong,” said the President.

The interview happened as social media was abuzz with a video of the abduction of former Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter by people believed to be government agents. He denied sanctioning the arrest.

“The police have said why they arrested him. It is not because of me. I didn’t give any instructions,” said Dr Ruto.

He warned the anti-government brigade to be cautious of the direction they want the country to head.

“Countries have gone in the wrong direction, and we must be careful. I don’t want to be the leader who took the country in the wrong direction. We must be measured. We must be careful,” he said.

3. Aftermath of Finance Bill shelving

Saying the abandonment of the 2024 Finance Bill takes Kenya back by two years, Dr Ruto said Kenya will have to borrow close to Sh1 trillion in the financial year starting Monday because of the deficits.

“We are going to borrow Sh600 billion plus Sh346 billion. That is close to a trillion,” he said.

He also announced that various budget cuts would take effect from Monday. They will touch on the spouses of the Executive.

“Those offices, from tomorrow (July 1), with the new budget starting tomorrow, they will not be part of our equation,” he said.

“Many other spaces are going to be trimmed down to reflect the new reality especially after the Finance Bill was taken down.”

The President admitted that his office did not do enough to explain to Kenyans what the Finance Bill was, insisting that it had many good things for the country. 

​"Maybe, we failed in explaining to Kenyans what the finance bill was all about," he said, exuding confidence that Kenyans would have agreed with him if he explained himself. "We didn't explain ourselves better, maybe my communication team ... failed."

4. Engaging Kenya’s young people

In line with an olive branch he extended to Kenya’s young people on Wednesday, Dr Ruto said he was ready for an engagement on whatever platform, expressing willingness to heed the calls to attend a Space on social media platform X to iron out matters.

 “Are we meeting on X Space? I am ready for that Space. I am waiting to see the suggestions that Kenyans have. I don’t want to prescribe any suggestions, but when I give out a suggestion, I expect feedback. I expect people to say maybe ‘this is okay’, ‘this is not okay’, and then we agree,” said Dr Ruto.

Noting that he has young people in his house, the President noted that he knows a thing or two about what affects the youth.

He also noted that some of his programmes like affordable housing were meant to be for the benefit of Kenya’s young people.

“When I pushed the housing programme, it was not about the houses; it was about the jobs,” said Dr Ruto.

5. People in power avoiding flashiness

Moved by the numerous complaints about government officials and his key allies living large, Dr Ruto said there would be changes in the way his inner circle operates.

“The display of insensitivity is a statement that has come to me, and you will see something very different going into the future,” said Dr Ruto.

In the same vein, he expressed a desire to do away with harambees, which entails the contribution of funds to help causes like church construction, and school construction, among others.

“We must stop harambees because it is occasioning and it is breeding, if I may say, corruption,” he said.

On a viral video where Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi was seen donating Sh20 million for a fundraiser, Dr Ruto said: “That is fundamentally wrong. And that is why this conversation is necessary so that we can stop it.”

Still, in his inner circle, Dr Ruto was asked whether he has confidence in his Cabinet, what with the corruption scandals and other controversies around some of the members.

“The Cabinet that I have maybe could have done better,” said Dr Ruto. “I am going to do soul-searching on how we need to move forward.”

6. On Ruto’s perceived insincerity and his ‘Zakayo’ moniker

The editors reminded Dr Ruto that he has a believability problem because some Kenyans perceive him to be a man who does not keep his word. He, however, took the chance to narrate some of the things he has done to create jobs, noting that he believed his tax policies are justified.

Insisting he planned to make Kenya have a balanced budget within three years and noting that the country faces a debt crisis given that loans borrowed from as far back as 2013 are maturing, Dr Ruto said there are tough choices to be made.

“Many people expected Kenya to be among the eight (African countries that defaulted on debt). I carefully managed the economy of Kenya. Kenya is not among the countries that have defaulted,” said Dr Ruto.

“When I came into office and I assessed the situation, and it was no longer possible for us to borrow money, I had to be honest with the people of Kenya,” said Dr Ruto.