Ruto to Raila: I’m ready to talk on issues affecting Kenyans, not power sharing

Speaking in Kericho as more than 15 counties witnessed protests called by Mr Odinga to demand that the government address the skyrocketing cost of basic commodities amid an increase in taxes, President Ruto said Mr Odinga should respect that the presidential election was decided by the people through the ballot box and the outcome would not be changed by demonstrations and destruction of property.

Photo credit: PCS

President William Ruto on Wednesday said he was ready to discuss issues affecting Kenyans, as long as it does not lead to power-sharing with Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader Raila Odinga.

Speaking in Kericho on the first of three days set by Azimio coalition for nationwide demonstrations over the high cost of living, Dr Ruto said police must deal firmly with anarchists, criminals and anyone who wants to cause mayhem in the country.

“We told our opponents to engage us in talks (through Parliamentary leadership) on the issues they raised, but they chose to use demonstrations. They should use constitutional and legal avenues to address their grievances, if any,” President Ruto said.

He added that his government has no problem with the constitutional provisions on demonstrations. “But we cannot be a country of chaos, violence ... nobody should use these provisions to perpetrate anarchy. We are a peaceful and democratic country,” the President said after commissioning the Sh1.5 billion Kimugu water project.

“We have no spare parts for this country. This is our only home and we must agree as a people to protect our country and democracy. Our politics must be competitive but free from chaos and criminality.”

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua led MPs in challenging former President Uhuru Kenyatta to stop supporting Mr Odinga behind the scenes and instead come out and lead the country's demonstrations.

Mr Gachagua said the opposition should know that the election period is long over and the people have settled down for the government to implement development projects.

“We would not succumb to the pressure for a handshake that the opposition is pushing for between President Ruto and Mr Odinga. It will not happen,” said Mr Gachagua.

At the same time, the President announced a freeze on imports of food and locally produced goods to create jobs, spur innovation and protect local businesses.

“Those who are importing furniture—beds, chairs and tables—from China, Europe and the United States must know that from now on, we will put a freeze on it as long as it can be made locally... if you must import, be warned that you will be slapped with high taxes,” Dr Ruto said.

The President also announced that the Kericho County government and the national government have earmarked Sh500 million for value addition of agricultural produce to boost farmers' incomes.

To further boost farming, President Ruto announced that the fertiliser subsidy will be strengthened by reducing the cost from Sh3,500 to Sh2,500.

“We will increase the importation of fertiliser from four million bags to eight million bags to boost production and create jobs in the country. We are looking forward to a bumper harvest with the interventions we have put in place,” said Dr Ruto.