Is President Ruto serious on fixing our challenges?

When President William Ruto held a meeting with a section of Luo Nyanza leaders at State House, Nairobi on March 13, 2023. [PCS]

During the campaigns in last year's presidential election, those sympathetic to then-candidate William Ruto's pitch admired his demonstrated seriousness about campaigning.

Relative to his main competitor and the incumbent, he showed a willingness to sweat the details and leave nothing to chance.

His messaging around the bottom-up economic model signaled a serious appreciation of the structural problems facing the country.

And above all, at a personal level, the fact that he is a teetotaler also made many believe that once elected he would combine his attention to detail with an intrinsic motivation and self-discipline to great effect.

Six months later, Kenyans now have some data points to work with and can ask themselves: Is President William Ruto serious about fixing our structural challenges?

That the answer to this question is not readily apparent is cause for a preliminary warning to the President. Kenyans expected that once sworn into office, he would take himself, his office, and the public's concerns serious.

They wanted a serious approach to fiscal consolidation, not the appointment of 50 Chief Administrative Secretaries each costing more than a million shillings a month.

They wanted lower cost of energy (power and fuel), not the coddling of vested interests that continue to bleed consumers dry.

They wanted serious attention to real issues affecting real Kenyans - such as food prices, the debacle that is CBC in our schools, cost of healthcare, et cetera, not a senseless dabbling in culture wars and bad faith attacks on marginalised citizens.

In short, they wanted a serious President focused on solving our collective problems.

Kenyans are not naive. Of course, they understood that the President does not live in a vacuum and had to attend to various political interests that helped him get elected.

They also understand that some of our problems originate from global shocks outside of our control. For both reasons, they want a government that takes them and the challenges they face seriously.

That said, projection of seriousness from State House will be vital as the country faces mass demonstrations from election deniers.

If the President and his team want to win the narrative wars, they must credibly show that they are the serious adults in the room. Otherwise, disgruntled Kenyans will be tempted to actively or tacitly support the demonstrations as a way of punishing the incumbent.

The writer is an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University