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Opinion: Better times lie ahead - look at what Ruto has done in a week

President Dr William Ruto signs an Executive Order at State House, Nairobi, on September 2022. [PSCU]

No doubt William Ruto is the master of the political sleight of hand.

With all cards stacked against him, he pulled an almost impossible feat by becoming Kenya’s fifth president. And even when a surfeit of naysayers criticised his choice of running mate, in picking Rigathi Gachagua, he was bang on the money.

It is still early but all indicators point to a presidency that is committed to putting right egregious abuses of State power. For starters, six judges whose careers were held in abeyance on account of Executive caprice have now been sworn in.

Second, funding for the Judiciary has been enhanced even as the Inspector General of Police is given full financial autonomy. This is to preclude these important institutions from being in the thrall of a recalcitrant Executive.

Then there is a departure from the past when coalitions partners were denuded of their positions for whimsical reasons. The Ruto administration has engineered Ford-Kenya’s Moses Wetangula’s election as Speaker of the National Assembly. Amason Kingi is similarly Speaker of the Senate. This is in keeping with pre-election pacts and signals a departure from the tremendous trust deficits suffered by previous administrations.

Gachagua amplifies these commitments. He speaks passionately about the circumspect use of constitutional powers. If he raised some hackles during his inauguration speech, it was because he has had a first hand experience of heavy-handed State reprisals.

Certainly, anyone who has suffered the indignity of being frog-marched by State agents in their undies would give an earful to their detractors.

President Ruto is currently out of the country and the DP is temporarily in charge. So far, he has not departed from the common script in articulating their joint position on national issues. If anything, the DP’s ideations are straight from Ruto’s hymn sheet. In a recent television interview, Gachagua spoke of a responsible and responsive government in touch with the people at the grassroots and their issues.

He talked of elitist projects like the Expressway, out of reach for the vast preponderance of Kenyans, or the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) which he accused of taking away jobs from those at the bottom of the pyramid. The DP attributed the mooting of these projects to out of touch technocrats. He promised that the selection of Cabinet secretaries would, henceforth, be done along lines of those who had a proper grasp of the bottom-up economic model.

But it is the determination of the Ruto administration to deal with “State capture” that has won the hearts of many Kenyans. This capture is blamed for the predations of the political elite on the economy through crony capitalism. It has led to the privation of most Kenyans as the nation’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of the minority.

Gachagua promises a new era of accountability. Regarding public contracts like those of the SGR, he says, “Kenyans will be entitled to know the details”. He also assures the country that nobody will be censured for holding contrary opinions and that citizens are free to criticise the government without fear of reprisals. Importantly, he calls on a vibrant opposition to offer necessary checks and balances and to hold the Ruto administration to account for its election pledges.

Of course, time will reveal the difference between commitment to action and mere rhetoric. But having seen the conversion of talking points into actual deliverables, in just one week, Kenyans now realise that there are new sheriffs in town. Underestimate them at your own peril!

On a different note, Azimio leader Raila Odinga is back in town from holiday. And he is shooting from the hip. He claims, again, that he has suffered another electoral injustice. Clearly, there is a disconnect between his reality and the considered findings of the apex court. Has anyone yet told this venerated hero of the second liberation that he risks sullying his statesman credentials by fighting fictitious characters like Jose Camargo?

-Mr Khafafa is a public policy analyst