Raila's exit will bring much needed political stability

President William Ruto and Raila Odinga at Nyayo Stadium. [PCS]

In the early days of the Kenya Kwanza (KK)administration, President William Ruto publicly proclaimed his priorities. Two of them were the stabilisation of the country politically and economically.

Following fractious and divisive presidential elections, it was clear that the country was deeply fissured with many disenfranchised by the electoral outcomes. It was also patently clear that the outgoing administration had made a hash of the economy through profligate public debt.

Two events occurred last week that reveal the President’s efforts to be bearing fruit. The first was Raila Odinga’s decision to run for chairmanship of the African Union Commission. The second was the rather delightful news that the Kenya shilling had reversed its downward spiral against major currencies, rapidly clawing back ground that it had ceded from last year.

Raila’s announcement to step up to continental leadership has been deemed by political pundits to be a retirement from local politics. It is the swan song of a leader who has bestridden opposition politics like a colossus. Raila has been the face of resistance against the excesses of successive administrations. His ability to marshal support amongst the rank and file is unparalleled.

Last year, the former PM led countrywide demonstrations against the KK administration. These were ostensibly to protest the cost of living and perceptions of skewed public appointments. These demonstrations, although sanctioned by law, were disruptive, costly and led to a loss of lives. They were only called off after both sides of the internecine conflict agreed to sit down to talks through the National Dialogue Committee (NDC).

The NDC has made several recommendations. However, some members of the opposition feel their concerns are yet to be addressed. They threaten to go back to the streets in a new wave of demonstrations. But with Raila moving on from local politics, it is doubtful that others may step up to the plate; that they may have the gravitas to marshal countrywide support on the same scale as Raila.

That Raila has the approbation of the KK administration reveals the sleight of hand that has, with one fell swoop, defanged the opposition and pacified Raila’s restive support base. It brings about the much-needed political stability that is a prerequisite for Ruto to execute his agenda.

Kenya has borne the brunt of a combination of onerous public debt and global events that have decimated the global economy. At the start of his term, Ruto was resolute that he would make tough decisions for the ultimate good of the country. He removed fuel and food subsidies that had become conduits for graft. He also instituted painful fiscal and monetary measures that were greatly resisted by the opposition.

It is apparent that these measures are working. Kenya has not gone down the slippery slope of debt-default like Ethiopia, Ghana and Zambia. Nor is it facing forex challenges and shortages of essential commodities like some of its neighbours. That the shilling is now stabilising heralds an end to the pain inflicted by headline inflation. Kenyans, especially “hustlers,” having been through many vicissitudes, now have reason for a brighter future.

Mr. Khafafa is a public policy analyst