Wardrobe gone awry: Shirt exposes Ruto's handlers

President William Ruto spotted a shirt emblazoned with marijuana stalks when he commissioned the Tana Delta Irrigation project on July 27, 2023. [PCS]

President William Ruto caused a stir online during his working tour of the Coast when he spotted a shirt emblazoned with marijuana stalks.

For a whole day, the President went about “advertising” the herb in his tours of Kichwa cha Kati fish market in Kilifi, Tana Delta Irrigation Project in Tana River and Mokowe in Lamu.

In Kenya, Cannabis Sativa, also known as bhang, is classified as a narcotic drug, according to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act, 1994. Consequently, the possession, sale and consumption of the drug is illegal.  

Data from a national survey conducted by Nacada in 2017 revealed that bhang is the most widely used narcotic drug in Kenya especially among the youth. Data from the anti-drug abuse agency also shows counties in the Coast are hotspots of narcotic drug abuse.

According to its 2016 survey, 45.2 per cent of residents in the Coast have ever used at least one substance of abuse, with Mombasa leading in terms of current use of at least one substance of abuse at 34.4 per cent.

Mixed reaction

While the president’s choice of dress elicited mixed reactions, a section of netizens created banter while others criticised him.

Fresh leaf of full-grown marijuana. [iStockphoto]

Wangui Munyua, a body language expert, says it is important that his team considers the sensitivities of the president’s office that influence public perception. “The importance of what a person in public conversation wears is significant and what emotions colours evoke in us plays a key role in this,” says Munyua.

“Their dispensing of duties is bankrolled by the public. It is why for instance what the Royal family wears is subject to public scrutiny. Understanding this helps one select from a colour swatch that is appropriate for public life and adheres to a wardrobe that draws attention to the person’s assignment as opposed to their personality.”

The expert further adds that the choice of wardrobe could be misconstrued to pass a message not originally intended by the subject.

“It is a serious issue and in fact, reflects on the power or professionalism of his advisory team. They need to define his dress code and help him adhere to it.”

President Ruto is however not the only public figure who has been at the receiving end of a wardrobe malfunction. His deputy, Rigathi Gachagua, was previously criticised over poor wardrobe choice that got him to comment.


“People have raised questions about how I dress, but I want to tell them that I had no luxury to think about dressing. I was caring about my life and staying safe. But now that it is all over, in another three months, people will like what they see,” Gachagua said.

Barely two weeks ago, Public Service CS Aisha Jumwa was trolled for wearing an Ankara top and black leggings as she received Senegal President Macky Sall at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

Public Service CS Aisha Jumwa. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Netizens criticised her for dressing casually while welcoming a visiting president.

Munyu sees nothing wrong with the outfit but adds: “If it brought attention to her more than on the occasion, then it was an unacceptable choice.”

Other instances have involved dignitaries such as US First Lady Jill Biden. Her dress was blown by the wind as she alighted from her plane at the JKIA on February 24. Her granddaughter Naomi had to help her adjust the dress. Dr Biden had landed in Kenya from Namibia during her five-day tour of Africa.

In November 2022, Machakos Governor Wavinya Ndeti was on the spotlight for a fashion mishap when she put on an oversized suit.

Online users criticised her for going out of her usually well-chosen outfits, forcing her to apologise. “One thing I know now is you love me being smart. I will not disappoint you again,” she said on her social media accounts.