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Tough test for Ruto as multiple wars threaten to crumble empire

President William Ruto. [PCS]

President William Ruto’s hands are full. He is a man with so many battles to fight and win and limited resources.

The president has to weigh every action he takes for it has a consequence, even as he keeps his eye on 2027 to ensure that he does not make history as a one-term president.

When he assumed office 21 months ago, the president had hoped his Bottom-Up Economic blueprint would inject some potency as he implemented a carefully crafted plan.

The implementation of the plan required money. But in his own words the economy was dilapidated, the coffers were empty and the country was chocking in debt.

His agenda to generate money through taxes appears to make sense only to him and his close allies if the countrywide protests led by Gen Zs last week are anything to read from.

President Ruto had hoped to create some breathing space for his administration to work when he effectively neutered the opposition. First he somehow managed to clip the wings of a fierce opposition after entering into a soft-handshake with ODM leader Raila Odinga.

He incorporated smaller political parties, befriended independent candidates and crippled Jubilee Party. But his own party is now on fire, unsure whether to continue with grassroots elections or not.

Kenya Kwanza, the behemoth he has painstakingly created is facing some anxious moments following a decision to merge UDA with a Amani National Congress leaving other coalition partners in a quandary.      

These developments present his administration with some daunting challenges and have thrown his allies back to the drawing board, albeit with pockets of chest-thumps.

The president is scrambling to put out economic, social, and political flames which have hit his administration, presenting him with another huge task in his second year in office.

The unexpected emergence of an uprising by an enthusiastic, law-abiding, tribeless, disappointed, and impatient Gen-Z has only compounded Ruto’s woes.

Backed by a host of politicians facing a huge backlash over the Finance Bill, 2024, and hostilities in their backyards in their efforts to market Ruto all is not well for Kenya Kwanza.

“The time comes when the honeymoon must end. And even when we don’t want, it ends. The hard knock begins. That happy season is over for the president and his executive,” opines Communication Consultant Dr. Barack Muluka.

Observers believe the president is facing a huge test and how he handles the woes besetting his administration will have an impact on the longevity of his rule.

In the administrative front, the president is facing a huge headache on how to balance resources in the budget to appease disgruntled regions and sectors that are facing reduced allocations.

His administration has proposed to cut Sh178 billion from the Financial Year 2024/2025 budget as rationalization should it run into further headwinds.

On Thursday, he got a big relief after 204 MPs voted to pass the Bill during the Second Reading. However, pressure is still mounting on the legislators to reject it in the Third Reading, while other protests have been planned to push Ruto not to assent to the Bill, should it pass all stages.

His administration, however, is threatening to starve key sectors of funds should the Bill succumb to public pressure and flop, despite its advanced stage.

Those to be hard-hit will be the junior secondary school (JSS) whose confirmation of interns to permanent and pensionable and hiring of JSS - Sh18.9 billion, the Cash transfers - Sh5.5 billion, and Constituency Development fund (CDF) to lose Sh15 billion.

But this is not the only headache the president is facing, in UDA, the move to to merge UDA and ANC has thrown key allies and other Kenya Kwanza affiliated parties into a state of anxiety.

While the president is working to strengthen his relationship with Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, his deputy Rigathi Gachagua appears to be courting Azimio.

His allies, however, appear to believe that muddling through and hoping for the best could be the only solution to overcome the storm that has hit their administration.

According to political analyst and communication’s researcher Dr Charles Nyambuga, the woes in UDA could result into both Gachagua and Ruto competing for presidency in 2027.

He believes the president is struggling to maintain a grip on power.

“You can see him as someone who is struggling to hold onto Raila, hold onto Rigathi by telling MPs not to attack him and trying to reach out to the Luhya community to help him replace the uncertain Mount Kenya region,” says Nyambuga.

Political analysts say the woes in UDA could result into both DP Gachagua and President Ruto competing for the presidency in 2027.

On Saturday, senior Kenya Kwanza leaders told Sunday Standard that the move has further unsettled the DP and claims he could be the greatest loser in the arrangement.

“The president appears keen to craft a new political formation and lineup. We will wait and see the outcome of the merger process but it may have casualties,” said a senior UDA official.

Sunday Standard has established that jitters have hit UDA camp over the possibilities of some officials in the party losing key positions in order to accommodate Mudavadi and his ANC allies.

This is happening at a time when the president is also burning the midnight oil to create and ringfence leadership structures in UDA as part of the preparations for his reelection in 2027.

That process too has run into headwinds as the party struggles to complete grassroots elections for officials and has been forced to postpone some planned elections in some parts of the country.

In parliament, the president is also facing a litmus test to continue enjoying the support of a majority of MPs as the public piles pressure on them over the Finance Bill, 2024.

Although, a majority of them remains defiant and insist they will continue to back him, they are facing mounting hostilities at home, including cyber-bullying by Gen-Zs.

In Nyanza, some of the allies the president had won voted against the Finance Bill and are walking on shaky grounds.

In the last two days, protestors have stormed the offices of at least three MPs over their stand on Ruto’s policies. They include Bondo MP Gideon Ochanda and Msambweni MP Feisal Barder.

Similarly, other MPs supporting his initiatives have also been subjected to mob-heckling in public functions as well as bullying in social media.

It, however, remains to be seen if the pressure will compel the MPs to switch sides and go against Ruto’s wishes.

On Saturday, one of Ruto’s allies, Ugenya MP David Ochieng claimed that he will stick to Kenya Kwanza but vowed to oppose unpopular policies fronted by Kenya Kwanza.

In UDA, the planned merger between UDA and ANC has also presented the president with another dilemma on how to appease other parties that are in the fold.

This week, all eyes are on how the president’s administration will address the planned protests by Gen-Z. The protests have been dubbed “Six Days of Rage”.

Its mobilization is taking place in social media platforms by an organized but leaderless grouping of young people, claiming the president and his administration has duped them.

The Gen-Z group believes Ruto is leading a shambolic administration devoid of an agenda for citizens but laced with leaders who are only keen on their personal interests.

It is a theme that featured prominently in last week’s protests as MPs defied public pressure to endorse the controversial Finance Bill, 2024 during the Second Reading.

On Saturday, as the Gen-Z retreated back to social media platforms to lay down the plans for next week’s protests, analysts claimed the president must take them seriously.

However, analysts believe that Ruto is the architect of his own woes as a result of his huge appetite to overpromise, under deliver, andformulating of controversial policies.

They believe his woes is also compounded by the appetite of his closer circles who have developed elements of arrogance and believe they are part of the presidency.

They claim the mass dissents spells doom for Ruto’s administration and means that he will have to work extra harder to win back the masses he won through the Hustler narrative he fronted in the buildup to the 2022 General Elections.

According to constitutional lawyer Clifford Obiero, Ruto needs to reengineer his strategies and revise his campaign manifesto.

“He must have thrown away the notes after the exams and is doing pathetically in practicals,” says the lawyer.

“Power is derived from the people, and it is all over people’s faces that given a good alternative today, President Ruto will not be elected,” added Obiero.

Yesterday, Minority Leader in the National Assembly Opiyo Wandayi said there is a need for a national conversation with the younger generation.

He believes protests against Kenya Kwanza will only intensify in the coming days.

Separately, Kapserent MP Oscar Sudi, in a statement on Facebook, claimed that the government will involve the Gen-Z in future preparations of Finance Bills and policies affecting them.

“All of us must appreciate and learn from the young generation (Gen Z). They are tribeless and are united towards one course- a better Kenya. Going forward, we must be bold to include their input in drafting of future Finance Bills and policies,” posted Sudi.

Additional reporting by Anne Atieno

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