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Ruto should halt foreign forays, put house in order and govern


President William Ruto joins Moi Air Base Nursery School pupils for a jig during the Kenya Airforce 60th Anniversary Celebrations at Moi Base Eastleigh in Nairobi County. [PCS]

President William Ruto knows why he went to Korea, in spite of himself. He must know the merits of 48 African leaders travelling to Asia, to listen to one Asian individual.

The Kenyan leader was among 27 heads of State and Government from the continent attending the 2024 Korea–Africa Summit. Some 21 other countries had lower representations. In African capitals, and elsewhere, footage of Dr Ruto’s earlier moral outrage against meetings of this kind went viral. The President was accused of inconsistency, and regrettably even hypocrisy, on important issues, at home and away.

For, Dr Ruto spent much of last year lambasting his foreign counterparts, who invite African leaders to their countries to belittle them. He regretted that they were sometimes bused around like children.  

To restore their fast-eroding dignity, he said, the African Union had decided that, henceforth, African heads of state and government would no longer attend such meetings. They would, instead, be represented by the AU Commission, and chairs of Africa’s five regional economic commissions.

For this noble and dignified stand, Dr Ruto drew loud admiration at home, in South Africa, Addis, and in many other places. 

But the Kenyan leader has since attended meetings of this kind, in Italy and now Korea. Others are in the offing. The big question is, what changed? Why has Kenya’s Number One quietly eaten humble pie? The President’s handlers owe the country and Africa clarity. Why does the President seem to have dropped his earlier principled and dignified positions on issues, both at home and away?

Early in this presidency, Dr Ruto berated the World Bank, the IMF –  and the West, broadly – for treating Africans like children of a lesser god. He made declamatory remarks against Africa’s adversaries, at every opportunity. Yet, is the Kenyan leader beginning to look like the blue–eyed boy of foreign capital interests in Africa? Does Dr Ruto risk cutting the image of the beloved poodle in the foreign lap? Is he beginning to be seen as serving not his country and continent, but portentous offshore interests?

His swirling about in President Biden’s official chair in the White House, two weeks ago, was clearly impolitic. It conjured schoolboy-like images that Dr Ruto has previously been unhappy about. But is inconsistency increasingly becoming the definition of the Ruto presidency? If it is, is it by default or by design? At home, the management of the economy flies in the face of earlier positions.

Dr Ruto justified unprecedented hyper taxation as the route out of borrowing from foreigners. But he has since borrowed, in under two years, nearly half of what his predecessor borrowed in ten years. And he is not yet done, even as taxation spirals out of control. What is the logic? 

Separately, his Bottom–Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) sought to uplift up the bottom millions, generically referred to as the Hustlers. But the Ruto government has so far only undermined the bottom, while also dismantling and throwing the middle class into Hustler ranks.

The taxation regime has accelerated the impoverishment of the Kenyan middle class than anything else has ever done before. It is at once bringing down this class, through loss of income and sending enterprises into foreclosure, liquidation, and closure.

Foreigners who cannot wait for these painful options are relocating to more business friendly environments. The pledge to fight corruption has vaporised. Top government types broke 24 months ago are now billionaires. It is difficult to convince sensible people that they have earned their billions through labourious activity and prudent investment. The pledge not to weaponise the war against corruption has been aborted.

So, too, has the pledge to support an independent Judiciary. For its part, the Legislature is now hostage to the Executive, once again contrary to promises during election campaigns. If these contradictions have been deliberate and strategic, Dr Ruto should rethink them. The latest research findings by Infotrak should jolt State House. Kenyans are disappointed and restless.

The Executive fills them up with fear, sadness and despair. 63 per cent say the country is collapsing. Only 19 per cent think we are fine. The rest are unsure. The contradictions and failings in government call for reflection at the very top. Unending forays into foreign lands need to pause. These happy-go-lucky holiday-like activities need to end.

Dr Ruto should take time off his offshore avocations; sit down and begin governing. Kenya needs a working government. It’s time for Daktari to bid his domestic friends in government goodbye, constitute a proper meritocratic Executive; put his feet on the ground, stop politicking, and start governing. 

Dr Muluka is a strategic communications advisor. www.barrackmuluka.co.ke

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