Ruto in campaign mode as economy strains hustlers

By Biketi Kikechi | Aug 27, 2023
President William Ruto during a virtual meeting with Tik Tok CEO Sho Zi Chewu at State House Nakuru. [PCS]

As President William Ruto continues with his whirlwind tour of the country, debate is going on over the value of such extensive visits that will probably take him to all sub counties across the country.

He has so far gone to all counties in the Coast, Rift valley, some parts of Nyanza, the entire Mt Kenya in a matter of days and this weekend the western region of the country.

The president has launched and opened road projects, commissioned water projects and bus parks, attended church services, laid foundations stones for church projects and walked around towns to high five the people during his visits.

Local leaders have trooped to the president’s functions in large numbers after mobilsing residents to attend and asking for development projects while praising the President for issuing land title deeds and launching roads.

Politics has generally dominated many of those meetings instead of the development agenda contained in the Kenya Kwanza county development economic forum reports gathered last year.

In Busia yesterday, where President launched the Mulukhoba fish landing site, area MP Raphael Wanjala of ODM was among those who welcomed the president and used to the opportunity to request for the upgrading of the stadium in Port Victoria.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua caused laughter at the well-attended meeting when he demanded that area MP Raphael Wanjala writes a letter committing that roads will not be destroyed and the stadium vandalised by opposition supporters during protests.

The president tweeted that leaders present included Mary Emase (Teso South), Dan Wanyama (Webuye West), Omboko Milemba (Emuhaya), Catherine Wambilyanga (Bungoma), Erick Muchangi (Runyenjes) and Fred Kapondi (Mt Elgon).

Others were John Bunyasi, Mwambu Mabonga, Chris Wamalwa, Petronilla Were, Bonface Otsyula, Wesley Korir and Benjamin Washiali.

Critics claim colossal sums of money that can be used to equip dispensaries or build libraries and laboratories are spent by the president and his entourage at each of those meetings.

They say it is imprudent for him to traverse the country issuing title deeds and launching all manner of projects, which can be done by his juniors. 

President William Ruto addresses Nyamasege residents in Bomachoge Chache, Kisii County on August 25, 2023. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

“Instead of buying medicine for hospitals or improving the power grid and equipping school a lot of money is spend paying for fuel, per diems for drivers and aids. They also go with personal assistants for the large entourage that accompanies the president on the week long regional visits,” says Prof Gitile Naituli of Multi-Media University.

Political pundits compare Ruto to President Daniel arap Moi who also visited many parts of the country on weekends, opening projects, meeting school children, conducting fund raisers and attending church services while also attacking the opposition and others opposed to his government.

“He worked with President Moi for many years and so you will continue seeing that in his leadership style over the next four years,” political analyst Martin Andati told The Sunday Standard last week.

After one year in office, his narrative remains the same - mixing politics and his development agenda - while also blaming the opposition for allegedly creating an economic mess in the country after Raila Odinga’s handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta in March 2018.

He has now embarked on the regional tours where the message is largely the same - telling audiences that he will not share his government with the opposition as he also launches and opens some projects like markets and water pumping stations.

On Friday, the president again dwelled on the subject in Kisii, telling residents that the opposition caused chaos to get a share of government from Moi, Kibaki and Uhuru but there will be no handshake this time.

At all meetings so far held at the Coast, Mt Kenya, Nyanza and now western the president has repeatedly claimed that Raila Odinga is leading protests and demonstrations against the government because he wants a share of the government, a claim the opposition leader again dismissed on Friday.

“I do not want anything with this government. I have served as Prime Minister and other top positions all we want the government to do is listen to issues like reduction of taxes and the cost of living,” said Raila in Nyandarua.

Ruto grows into darling of the west

And so there is no let off in the exchanges between the government and the opposition but is the message making any sense and resonating with the public or it is becoming boring music to the ears of Kenyans especially the millions of jobless and restless youth.

Prof Masibo Lumala, the Director of School of Information Sciences at Moi University, thinks Ruto’s continued attacks against the opposition is more about his leadership style and his past relationship with Kenya’s second president Daniel arap Moi.

“William Ruto is a student of Daniel Arap Moi, who visited every hamlet of this country. There is no place where Moi did not go and so I see a bit more of Moi in Ruto than in the third president Mwai Kibaki who sat back and allowed technocrats to work after taking office,” says Prof Lumala.

He agrees that the protests spearheaded by Raila could have forced Ruto into responding to Azimio la Umoja One Kenya by also going around the country to enforce his influence and stamp his authority.

Coupled with the ongoing dialogue talks at the Bomas of Kenya between Kenya Kwanza and Azimio la Umoja, the don thinks all that has created a wrong impression among Kenyans that the last presidential was conclusively dealt with.

“I agree that because of maandamano on the Azimio side and the talks by bipartisan committee that is attempting to create dialogue between opposition and government, there is a feeling among Kenyans that we did not come to the end of electioneering, which is not very good,” adds Lumala.

And so it has created a situation where the president is being compelled to respond to Raila on a day-to-day basis, which is not a good thing because he has a bigger task of delivering the many promises his Kenya Kwanza administration made last year.

Another school of thought is that his style of leadership has been largely influenced by the individuals he is works with in his government like Gachagua.

They say Gachagua having served as a district officer was trained to give orders in the provincial administration.

 “The type of people the president is working with has an influence because he has to show that they are reading from the same script,” says Prof Lumala.

President William Ruto during the official opening of The Maa Cultural Festival at the Sekenani Gate, Maaasai Mara, Narok County. [PCS]

Prof Naituli thinks the president should in his first three years be spending more time in office instead of appearing to be campaigning because he has to deliver on a lot of promises he made to the people of Kenya.

Those sentiments were echoed by Lumala who urged President Ruto not to make more promises at public rallies when he already has enough on his desk.

 “We don’t need him in rallies and churches every weekend because it is also eating into government resources. Remember he went around and created economic blocks in all counties that are all awaiting action,” said Lumala.

He called for the prudent use of the limited resources in the country and also asked the President to operate from his office and better the country.

The dons also requested the presidents to conduct his business from an academic perspective and ensure that research informs his policies.

 “Let us see more of research in his speeches through statistics which will show that there is some serious thinking informing his messaging,” says Lumala.

The pundits, however, cautioned that repeated attacks against Azimio and the nusu mkate narrative is a tired story.

They likened the noise to a stuck stylus on a vinyl record which must be jump started for the music to continue which becomes rather annoying to the dancer.

Asked why the Kenya Kwanza leaders continue talking about it when Azimio says it is not interested, Lumala pointed at the international community and other interested parties who could be pushing that narrative.

“The pressure of this nusu mkate thing could be coming from out there and that is why you people like Senator Chris Coons here and other players like the African Union,” added Lumala.

 “But the focus should no longer be on the opposition because as it is, that continues to be the main agenda, instead of implementing their manifesto,” added Lumala.

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