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Hustlers suffering, says Raila as Ruto puts blame on handshake

 Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga. He is accusing the Kenya Kwanza administration of neglecting "hustlers". [File, Standard]

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has stepped up a gear in his call for countrywide mass action, as President William Ruto accused the 'handshake' government of ruining the economy.

In a rally in Githurai, Nairobi, Raila accused the Kenya Kwanza administration of neglecting "hustlers".

"Kenyans cannot suffer and yet there are those who claim to be in charge of the government," Raila said, urging the return of subsidies. "You can't be in government and oppress Kenyans."

But President Ruto ruled out the return of subsidies, claiming they benefited a few cartels and people who are politically correct in the former government.

Speaking in Mombasa yesterday during the groundbreaking of an Sh16 billion gas storage facility, the President said he had stabilised the economy that was battered by "reckless borrowing" and food subsidies and that his focus was now to lower the cost of living.

"My first assignment for the first four months was to consolidate and stabilise the economy of our country battered by reckless borrowing and unnecessary subsidies."

"Today the economy has stabilised and I'm now dealing with the high cost of living."

Ruto said that his administration will focus on long-term solutions to the food crises in the country like subsidising the cost of farm inputs to enable farmers to produce more maize.

He said that over 4.5 million farmers have already benefited from subsidised fertiliser, and expressed optimism that such efforts to end the perennial hunger problem in Kenya.

"No need for people to threaten us with demonstrations. You had five years of handshake shenanigans and that is why the cost of living is where it is today," he said in reference to the rapprochement of ODM leader Raila Odinga and former President Uhuru Kenyatta.

He warned that planned political demonstration by the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance will derail the economy's full recovery, and distract the government from what is affecting Kenyans.

In reference to the planned demonstration by opposition leader Raila Odinga's Azimio coalition, Ruto said he will not be cajoled or threatened to re-introduce food subsidies.

On Raila's demand that election servers must be opened for auditing, Ruto said that his win was declared by the electoral body and validated by the courts and does not need permission to lead.

 President William Ruto on the campaign trail in Mauche, Njoro, Nakuru County with Susan Kihika (left) on November 25, 2021. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

On Monday, Raila declared the start of a demonstration in all major towns in the next 14 days to protest the government's decision to withdraw education and food subsidies.

Raila said in a rally held at Jevanjee Gardens in Nairobi that the Kenya Kwanza regime should re-introduce the subsidies to alleviate the suffering of the high cost of food and drought.

The ODM leader also demanded that Servers must be opened and audited under the auspices of a reputable organisation failure to which he shall lead Kenyans in national wide demonstrations.

Thirdly, Raila demanded that the ongoing reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) commission must be stopped.

He wants a bipartisan task force formed to restructure the electoral body in a manner that ends with a monolith operation to cure the divisions witnessed in the commission in the last polls.

And yesterday, Raila blasted President Ruto for alleged dishonesty for his assertions that election servers had been opened, as he had at an earlier press conference at the Serena Hotel.

"This is a blatant and shameless lie," Raila said of Ruto's remarks on Thursday that servers had been opened throughout last year's election period.

"We are here to refute claims by Ruto that the servers used by the IEBC in the last year's elections have always been open and remain open. It was a plain, disgusting, and horrifying lie like other many others that he continued to tell the country since the August 9 General election."

The Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya coalition accused Ruto of being untruthful, warning that the president's alleged lies would be his downfall.

"How shameless can a leader be, how disrespectful can the leader be to its citizens? Lies may have got Ruto to where he is today, but lies will not take Mr Ruto beyond here."

"The servers were open when we all went to the polling station and when we all were identified biometrically and each one of us was given a vote to cast," Ruto said on Thursday in Kitui.

"When the counting was done and the results posted in the portal, the servers were open. When the IEBC was tallying the results at the Bomas, when the matter went for validation in court and when the court made a determination of the last general election, the servers were open," the president added.

The former prime minister later told gatherings in Githurai to protest against a government he termed "oppressive".

"When I sound the whistle in 12 days, I want you all to come to Nairobi," Raila said. "We are the majority... no one should intimidate you because we are within the law and within our rights."

But in Mombasa, Deputy President Rigathe Gachagua asked Coast people to abandon ODM and support Ruto's re-election so that they can benefit from government appointments.

"In the last election, your support for Ruto has climbed from 26 percent to 45 percent and we want it to go even higher. Choose development over demonstrations," he said.

Speaking at the Nairobi rally, Raila's running mate in last year's presidential election, Martha Karua, said that resources ought to be used for the benefit of Kenyans and called on their supporters to be part of those who would fix things.

"The Constitution gives you the sovereign power to steer your destiny. Only you can decide your future and whether you want to remain oppressed or approve the removal of this illegitimate government," she said.

Raila will be in Kakamega today to rally the masses behind his push for mass action and will head to Kitale tomorrow.

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