Thirty-two years ago, Kamukunji grounds were inaccessible, sealed off by ardent security forces determined to block pro-reform leaders from accessing the venue for a political rally.
But when Deputy President William Ruto took his city campaigns to the iconic grounds yesterday, they were rapt; bursting from the seems with a sea of humanity. The script was different compared to July 7 1990- the fateful day that marked the struggle for political pluralism in the country. The columns of security guards present were there to protect not to oppress and the crowd was there to celebrate not to protest.
The grounds, which are akin to a shrine for the struggle for the second liberation, were the location of choice for the Second in Command to officially launch his campaigns just hours after getting the nod to vie for Presidency by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Years back, it would have been unimaginable that the duo of Ruto and his running mate Rigathi Gachagua- who were loyal KANU members- would one day return to Kamukunji grounds championing for liberation given that KANU had immensely contributed to the notoriety of the grounds.
And when Ruto arrived yesterday garlanded by his lieutenants, he walked in to the “sipangwingwi” anthem. “Maisha ni yangu, we shughlika na yako …sipangwingwi”, the speakers belted out. An anthem that seemingly signalled Kenya Kwanza’s defiance to the State and the Azimio brigade which they have severally accused of “oppressing” them. When Ruto took to the stage, he promised a re-stitching of Kenya’s economic fabric, lowering the high cost of living, instituting new policies to reform healthcare in the country and turning around the fortunes of Jua kali artisans.
But before outlining Kenya Kwanza’s manifesto, he took a moment to relish his clearance to contest for the presidency by IEBC. Amid cheer and applause from the crowd, he said his clearance was proof that anyone – irrespective of their background- can lead the country.
“Today is a very important day, every mother can now believe that their children can one day become Kenya’s President... Today we have started the journey to liberate the country from a few individuals who believe we are squatters in our own country,” said Ruto.
The DP observed that he would make it his mission to fix the economy and address the inequality alternately chiding the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya for allegedly having misplaced priorities ahead of the polls.
“Kenyans are not ignorant, they are educated. Kenya’s problem is the trickledown economics that are creating a few billionaires at the expense of others. This year we are voting to change this,’’ he said.
He went on to pledge that his administration would set aside Sh100 billion to make sure the youth secure jobs in manufacturing and value addition by tapping into their talents. The Second in Command further took on the issue of capital intensive projects by the Uhuru administration, promising to revert to a labour-intensive infrastructure project model should he clinch the presidency. He further promised to lower the cost of living by investing in Agriculture.
“We will change the mode of doing enterprise in Kenya. We will stop the borrowing spree and ask our friends to invest in our country and all resources shall be targeted towards labour-intensive programmers,” stated Ruto.
His allies took issue with the country's debt status and the recently completed Nairobi Express Way. ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi accused the Uhuru administration of inflating the cost of the development project.
“When the plan to construct Nairobi Express Way was first mooted, it was estimated that it would cost Sh27 billion but it ended up costing Sh89 billion. As Kenya Kwanza we want to make sure we address this and the debt issue,” said Mudavadi.
Garissa Township MP Aden Duale lauded his sentiments simultaneously warning the Chinese companies involved in the construction of the highway.
“We know the owners of that road. We are telling the Chinese government that we will hold it and its companies to account…any government that gives loans and debts in the next two months is violating the Constitution,” he remarked.
Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwa told off the Azimio brigade over its clamour for debt accusing it of burdening Kenyans through endless borrowing.
“Those on the other side thought Ruto will not be on the ballot because they believed that Kenya was their dynastic Kingdom where they would hand over leadership from one dynastic family to another. The people of Kenya have liberated themselves and an ordinary Kenyan will be elected president come August,” he said.
Ford Kenya party leader Moses Wetangula said, “This is where we had our first and second liberations and today we are here on a mission for economic liberation for the country. We are here to focus on the future by addressing issues that will change the lives of Kenyans.”
Other leaders present included Senator Johnson Sakaja, Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, Kipchumba Murkomen, Ndindi Nyoro and Moses Kuria among others. Earlier, Ruto took his campaigns across various parts of Nairobi City immediately after being cleared telling his rival Azimio la Umoja counterpart Raila to prepare for a battle of his life as they in the contest to take over from President Kenyatta whose second term comes to an end in August.
He cautioned Kenyans against electing Raila as their President since his first project will be to spend billions of shillings to change the Constitution to create a job for Wiper Democratic Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka and other influential individuals.
“You heard that Kalonzo has gone back to Azimio la Umoja after being promised a non-existent job, the first assignment to be done by Raila after being elected will be to spend billions of shillings to change the Constitution to create jobs for his friends,” said Ruto.
The DP who made several stopovers said that his administration will avoid heavy borrowing which is creating a huge debt for the country since the greatest problem at the moment is the high level of poverty which has crippled a major segment of the economy. Ruto said that his number one priority once elected will be to reduce the high cost of food in the country by supporting the agriculture sector since most Kenyans at the moment we're having challenges getting basic needs such as food which should not be.