Social media twisting facts about Ruto's trip to the US

President William Ruto and the President of the United States of America Joe Biden hold talks at the White House, Washington, D.C. on May 23, 2024. [PCS]

No doubt, social media is here to stay. It is cheap, accessible and ubiquitous. It is also fast, many times, breaking news even as it unfolds. But it also has many downsides. It has spawned what is now known as the post-truth discourse. This discourse involves misinformation, disinformation, alternative facts, conspiracy theories and the general distrust of expert knowledge and official sources of information.

Purveyors of the post-truth discourse bank on emotional appeal rather than facts to influence public opinion. They use social media to whip up unfavourable sentiment especially against public figures or policy. Take for instance, President William Ruto’s recently concluded State visit. Details selectively “revealed” by social media are causing hissy-fits in a large section of Kenyans.

The cost of the trip and the means of travel have become the central preoccupation even as truth takes a backseat and official narratives are lost in the din. It is true that a private jet was hired to fly Dr Ruto to the US. Yet this is not without precedent. Former president Uhuru Kenyatta hired a jet for one of his overseas visits. Opposition leader Raila Odinga was transported back home using the same jet after discharge from a hospital in Dubai.

These are the facts. Because Ruto was on a State visit rather than an official one, his entire stay in the US was sponsored by his hosts. It did not cost the Kenyan taxpayer. Second, tens of Kenyans who attended the State dinner were there at the invitation of the American government. They were not hangers on joyriding at taxpayers’ expense. Rather, they were professionals drawn from a cross-section of Kenyan industries, self-sponsored and engaged in serious business discussions on the sidelines of the visit.


Third, Ruto has come back home with amazing deals for the benefit of the country. Top of the list is the Sh472 billion expressway linking Nairobi to Mombasa. This project promises to deliver value to the entire East African region. And unlike past projects that have been financed by expensive debt, this project will be a public private partnership with details of the contract available to the public in keeping with the Access to Information Act.

Other details lost in the conniptions stirred by post-truth purveyors are a data centre by Microsoft and G42 to be built at the KenGen Green Energy Park at Olkaria. This will run on 100 per cent renewable energy from the geothermal fields in Naivasha. Coca-Cola has also committed to invest Sh23 billion in the country over a period of five years. These deals are just a tip of the overall investments in the coming years.

But post-truth peddlers have focused on the fact that Ruto did not fly Kenya Airways to the US. They deliberately omitted stating that the airline’s planes are fully optimised and that appropriating one for the President’s exclusive use may have caused very costly network disruptions.

If anything, someone seems set to create a fallout between KQ’s management and the government. A position statement, now disavowed as a fake, has been circulated on social media purporting to castigate the President’s choice of travel means. This fake statement reveals the ultimate intention of the post-truth discourse; to create disaffection with the government.

Mr Khafafa is a public policy analyst