William Ruto.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga (left) and President William Ruto.


Unsettled political dispute between Ruto, Raila lingers one year on

On this day last year, more than 14 of the country's 22 million registered voters cast their ballots to decide a tight presidential contest between then Deputy President William Ruto and Opposition leader Raila Odinga.

The two leading candidates made lofty promises of creating jobs and lowering the cost of living. Dr Ruto was declared the winner but the vote that was meant to settle the political contest between the arch-rivals instead sparked a political dispute that’s still raging one year on.

The impasse has plunged the country into an unending post-election crisis, polarising the nation and leaving a dysfunctional Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Today, the Bomas of Kenya, where the results were declared, will offer a venue for negotiations initiated by former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo between the ruling Kenya Kwanza Alliance and the Opposition outfit; Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party.

The high cost living, audit of the 2022 presidential election results and restructuring and reconstitution of the IEBC are the main items for the talks envisioned to end the post-election crisis triggered after Mr Odinga denounced President Ruto’s administration.

Street protests

Although Dr Ruto’s win was confirmed by the Supreme Court, Mr Odinga called for street protests. Scores have died, many others maimed and properties destroyed following weeks of nationwide street protests.

“The election has concluded and it is over. Ruto is the legitimate President of Kenya. What we are having is post-election politics. The two are basically trying to cut a deal,” history and international relations lecturer Macharia Munene told Nation.

In his ongoing tour of the Mt Kenya region, Dr Ruto has ruled out any power sharing deal with Mr Odinga. He assured locals that his administration was working to bring down the cost of living.

“We have a plan; part of it is through affordable housing that will reduce youth unemployment,’’ Dr Ruto told residents.

Jubilee Deputy Secretary-General Joshua Kutuny says the Opposition has to accept that Dr Ruto won. Mr Odinga, he adds, should instead focus on the 2027 General Election.

“There are some leaders who are still in denial about the outcome of the last poll. They have to accept the outcome so that the country can move forward,” says Mr Kuttuny, who has declared his support for Dr Ruto.

“Those elected and are in office also need to focus on serving the country. Some are still in election mood and keep on taunting their opponents. They should not be mocking those who lost,” he adds.

Three former IEBC commissioners — vice-chair Juliana  Cherera and commissioners Francis Wanderi and Justus Nyang’aya — resigned while commissioner Irene Masit was fired for disputing the presidential outcome. Former chairman Wafula Chebukati and commissioners Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu retired.

A selection panel appointed by President Ruto to recruit new commissioners has been in office for the past five months. Their work is in limbo as the political class continue to haggle on how to reconstitute the body.

“Electoral reform is still an elusive dream. The over-emphasis on winning the presidency, takes the focus away from building free and fair electoral systems that are acceptable to all,” says political analyst David Monda.

He argues that some political players have made it appear as if the elections are fair only when they are declared winners.

“This perpetuates a zero-sum-game for candidates looking to win by any means necessary. More civic education is needed to inculcate a culture of accepting election results,” adds the professor of political science at the City University of New York.

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta has also found himself on the receiving end with the current administration over claims that he has been financing anti-government protests.

Mr Kenyatta, who fell out with his then deputy following his rapprochement with Mr Odinga, is fighting over control of Jubilee. His allies believe the takeover has been sponsored by Dr Ruto over his links with Mr Odinga.

The government also appears to be targeting his business empire, including Brookside Dairy Ltd, which enjoyed monopoly during his 10-year tenure.

Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni terms as puzzling the fact that officials in the new administration were still bitter with Mr Kenyatta.

“They are still insulting Uhuru one year since they came to office. They have refused to move away from Uhuru’s shadow,” says Mr Kioni.

“It is surprising that they are back in Mt Kenya campaigning for the 2027 election when they have not fulfilled many of the promises they made to Kenyans. It is now that his ministers are signing performance contracts when they should be telling us of their scorecards,” he adds.

At the same time, some of Dr Ruto’s campaigners and loyalists are still waiting in the wings for possible government appointments one year after delivering a victory for their candidate.

He had appointed some of the loyalists to serve as Chief Administrative Secretaries (CAS) but the High Court declared the positions unconstitutional.

The President had sought to use the 50 slots to reward his campaigners and reach out to regions that did not support him with an eye on his re-election.

For millions of Kenyans, life has become more expensive after President Ruto pushed through new tax measures that have made the cost of basic commodities skyrocket.

In the run-up to the August 9, 2022 elections, President Ruto promised to improve the living standards of the downtrodden through his bottom-up approach. But with the Finance Act, 2023, Kenyans are paying high fuel prices, with salaried Kenyans having reduced take-home pay beginning July 1.

Dr Ruto says the policy decisions by the National Treasury, such as the removal of food and fuel subsidies that cost the country Sh15 billion a month during the Kenyatta administration, will stabilise the economy.

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi says Kenyans are currently worse off than they were before the elections last year.