What Northern region expects from William Ruto's regime

Newly sworn-in President William Ruto with former immediate President Uhuru Kenyatta at Kasarani Stadium. [PSCU, Standard]

A month ago when the IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati announced election results at the Bomas of Kenya I was thrilled.

The win for William Ruto was a win for the Northern parts of Kenya. In the first place, throughout his leadership journey, William Ruto has been identifying with the pastoralist community. When he formed the United Republican Party, the party that jointly with TNA formed the Jubilee Alliance, Ruto used the horn of a cow as a symbol of the party. For him, that was a party to advocate for pastoralist issues.

He had then pulled most of the pastoralist leaders to his side and consequently many of them became members of the Jubilee alliance. In retrospect, a Ruto presidency means the poor and marginalised have now hope that the exclusion they endured over the last six decades will be outdated. During the debate on the revenue sharing formula n 2019 at the Senate, Ruto supported marginalised counties that would have been disadvantaged by the new proposed formula by the Commission of Revenue Allocation.

Currently, Northern Kenya is experiencing the worst drought in my living memory and the outgoing administration had turned a blind eye to this perennial problem. Many people in northern Kenya are expecting the new president to urgently address issues of drought. An emergency appeal even to the donor community would go a long way. I am happy the president has already acted on his pledges around the campaign time such as the prices of fertilizers and the problems around the port of Mombasa.

The feeling of many people in the north is successive government’s implemented policies that excluded them. Right from independence, the Government adopted various legislations that relegated these poor people to second class status. For example, acquiring a simple document such as ID and passport for this region is a monumental task. Insecurity is a common occurrence and the threat from violent extremist groups is a daily fear. The proliferation of small arms and marauding bandits have made this vast region inaccessible to investors despite huge opportunities for cross border trade. The youth have constantly been a victim of extrajudicial killings and disappearances. 

For Kenya to leap forward and progress towards more sustainable development, the new president needs to make sure that no region is left behind. Right from the start, the people in the arid regions need to be at the table where decisions are made. Whenever a country excludes one section, this weighs down on the overall achievement of such a country. One key priority for the new administration is to plan for a kind of marshal plan for Northern Kenya. Fortunately, there are multiple development partners willing to invest substantively in the north but the political will has been lacking so far. All that is now required is a tweak of the mind in policy and planning to ensure that Kenya can benefit from the huge potential offered by this neglected region.