It's been a grand disaster, says Raila on Ruto's first year

Azimio principales Kalonzo Musyoka, Raila Odinga and Martha Karua address the media  on President William Ruto's year in office on September 15, 2023. [David Gichuru , Standard]

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has slammed President Ruto "for making life unbearable for Kenyans", as his coalition issued a stinging assessment of the Head of State's first year in office.

The Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya leader termed Ruto's presidency a 'grand disaster', highlighting the rising cost of living, marked by high food and commodity prices, and the management of the education sector.

In a press briefing after the coalition held a crisis meeting in Nairobi, Raila accused Ruto of "too much talk with little action" to cushion Kenyans from the current economic strain.

"Kenyans have been treated to loud claims and boasts on how great we are doing as a nation. We have been made to believe that we are first in Africa and that we are beating our quiet neighbours in every aspect of competition and that the future is guaranteed," said Raila as he enumerated the commodities and services that had witnessed sharp increases in cost.

They include fuel, whose cost rose sharply on Thursday. Azimio warned of the resulting effects, such as higher inflation that will certainly drive Kenyans closer to the edge, amid a heavier tax burden.

"As long as the government has not resolved the price of food and fuel, the cost of living will not come down. No amount of fertiliser will lower the cost of food as long as the cost of fuel is unchecked. Diesel is one of the highest costs in farming. Even if you give the citizen a bag of fertiliser but make it impossible for her to plough an acre of land, you have not solved the problem," said Raila.

Azimio also cited the freefall of the Kenyan shilling against the dollar and regional currencies, and the continued borrowing by the government against pledges that such would be halted.

"Given the state of the economy and promises they made during campaigns, Kenyans would have expected that Kenya Kwanza would cut down expenditure and borrowing. It did the complete opposite," said Raila.

He also lamented that the high inflation had rendered small businesses unable to borrow from the local market and many were closing shop.

And he would also fault the government's running of the education sector, accusing Ruto's administration of neglecting it and making it too expensive for Kenyans. He said primary and secondary schools were underfunded and faced delays in the disbursement of funds.

He further alleged that there was mismanagement in the Education ministry and institutions such as the Teachers Service Commission and the nation's examination council.

"Despite the rhetoric, despite the eloquent words and the confusing figures, Kenya Kwanza has been badly exposed on all fronts. As we begin the second year of Kenya Kwanza regime, it is clear we are in reckless race to the bottom," said Raila.

The remarks by the Azimio leaders came on a day government officials faced accusations of insensitivity following remarks they made over the fuel prices hike and ballooning cost of living.

On X, formerly Twitter, Trade CS Moses Kuria promised tougher times, stating that global crude prices were on an "upward trajectory".

"For planning purposes expect pump prices to go up by Sh10 every month till February," Kuria wrote, despite public expectation that the government would tame such rises.

A user by the username Elvis-Localman replied: "Liar, it's now cheaper to fuel a car in USA and UK and even cheaper in Russia than Kenya..."

More Kenyans replied with more ire, some penning unprintable comments.

Dr David Ndii, Ruto's adviser on the economy, was also issuing statements on the country's bleak economic outlook.

"I am not a politician. I don't sell hope. It is going to be painful. And it may not work. Even Oxford and Harvard-trained doctors lose patients," read one of Dr Ndii's tweets.

"It's really hard not to like David Ndii. He is confirming to you that Kenya Kwanza is a 'pata potea' government. That it's all guesswork. 'Doctor' Ruto has no clue what he is doing. Kenya is the patient here..." Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna responded to the tweet.