Fact-checking Ruto's claims during Sunday's live TV interview

President William Ruto during the Presidential Roundtable at State House, Nairobi on June 30, 2024. [PCS, Standard]

During his televised interview Sunday night President Wiliam Ruto was hard-pressed to defend the government’s response to days of nationwide protest against the Finance Bill 2024. 

The Standard analysed the claims made by the president to support his arguments and fact-checked some of the key claims he put forth. 

Below is what we found out

“19 people according to the records that I have from the securities agencies are dead.”

When confronted on the loss of life and reports that 23 people lost their lives during the protests, President Ruto insisted that the confirmed number of victims was 19.

There have been conflicting reports on the number of those that died during last Tuesday’s protests.

There is no official statement from the Kenya Police, Kenya Red Cross, and other government agencies actively engaged in the protests.

Several human rights groups including Haki Africa, Kenya National Human Rights Commission, Police Reforms Working Group and Kenya Human Rights Commission put the number of those that died between 21 and 23.

According to Human Rights Watch, although there is no confirmation on the exact number of people killed in Nairobi and other towns, “at least 30 people were killed on that day based on witness accounts, publicly available information, hospital and mortuary records in Nairobi, as well as witness accounts in Nakuru, Eldoret, and Meru.”

The president’s claim that 19 people lost their lives is thus understated. 

“Sh2.4 billion worth of property has been destroyed.”

President Wiliam Ruto claimed that Sh2.4 billion worth of property had been destroyed as a direct result of the anti-Finance Bill 2024 protests witnessed across several towns.

There have been several reported cases of damage to public and private property in multiple locations countrywide.

These include Nairobi where parts of Parliament, the Supreme Court buildings and City Hall were set ablaze.

Protesters are also reported to have damaged offices and private property belonging to members of parliament in Naivasha, Nakuru, Eldoret and other parts of the country.

However, the figure of Sh2.4 billion is difficult to verify and as yet has no official source to collaborate.

Kenya’s business lobby groups including the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, KEPSA and the Kenya Associasion of Manufacturers have both released statements following the protests but stopped short of putting a figure to the property that was damaged or destroyed.

The president’s claim that Sh2.4 billion worth of property was destroyed is unproven.   

“When I came into office I said there will be no extra judicial killings in Kenya and I have made sure that there is no extra judicial killing in Kenya.”

According to Amnesty International, there were 136 cases of extrajudicial executions in 2023 including 57 protesters who died during the Azimio demos against the cost of living crisis.

“Trials of police officers accused of unlawful killings were repeatedly delayed,” explained Amnesty International in its latest report on Kenya.

There were 136 extrajudicial executions during the year. Most of the victims died while in police custody or had last been seen in police custody. Only 28 cases, including from previous years, were subject to judicial proceedings. 

Amnesty International further states that progress towards holding police officers accountable for extrajudicial killings has been non-existent, including in the case of at least 37 bodies found in Yala River, and other bodies found elsewhere in 2022.

The president’s claim that he has put an end to extrajudicial killings is thus false. 

“In 2013 the debt stock of Kenya was Sh1.8 trillion. For 10 years, that increased five times to Sh11 trillion. Today we do not have the luxury to borrow because we have reached the limit. All the money that we borrowed from 2013 is maturing. That is why the biggest challenge we have as a nation is we are spending Sh1.1 trillion every year of taxes we collect from Kenyans to pay debt, and that is interest alone.”

According to documents from the National Treasury, Kenya’s public debt stood at Sh1.894 trillion in 2013 translating to 51.7 percent of GDP. This included Sh1 trillion in domestic debt and Sh843.5 billion in external debt.

As a percentage of revenue, total debt service stood at 18.7 per cent in June 2013, meaning that for every ten shillings collected in taxes, two shillings went to pay the public debt.

As at June 2023, Kenya’s public debt stood at Sh10.2 trillion translating to 70 percent of GDP. This debt stock is comprised of Sh5.4 trillion in external debt and Sh4.8 trillion domestic debt.

Kenya’s debt service costs as at the end of June 2023 was 58.8 percent of revenue, indicating that for every Sh10 collected in revenue, 6 shillings go towards repaying the public debt.

The president’s claim on the country’s debt burden is factual.    

“In 2022 we had 1 million tourists, last year we had 2 million and God-willing we expect to record 2.7 million this year. Call the tourism Sector, they will tell you themselves that all hotels in Kenya today are operating 80 percent upwards which is a new phenomenon in Kenya.”

According to the 2024 Economic Survey from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, KNBS, the number of international visitor arrivals to the country last year stood at 2 million, an increase of 35 percent compared to 2022.

Hotel bed-nights occupancy went up 23 percent from 7 million in 2022 to 8.6 million in 2023 with Kenyan residents accounting for more than half thetotal  occupancy last year.

However, according to the data, the monthly hotel bed occupancy rates for 2022 and 2023 ranged between 21 percent and 32 per cent.

The president’s assertion of hotels in the country recording 80 per cent bed occupancy is thus not true.