Defying the odds stacked against it, the Kenya Kwanza alliance won last year’s presidential elections. It beat the combined might of a formidable political adversary and a sitting president backed by State machinery. A determination in Kenya Kwanza’s favour by Kenya’s apex court should have put matters of elections behind the country, at least, for five years. But did it?
Kenya Kwanza’s post-election messaging sucks! And that is being charitable. For a party that carried the day with resounding messages of change and hope, they have done a poor job communicating the same to the country. Naturally, Azimio, the country’s Opposition, has taken advantage and is eating the ruling party’s lunch.
Azimio is harping on Kenya Kwanza’s alleged failures, presenting itself as an alternative leadership. Their ructions, passing themselves off as peaceful demonstrations, were designed to whip up public sentiment against the ruling party.
To be fair, Dr Ruto’s administration has done much in its half-year of existence. Perhaps much more than any of its predecessors in the same time-frame. Here are some highlights and their import. First is the departure from past administrations’ fractious confrontations with the country’s Judiciary. President Ruto appointed six judges who his predecessor had omitted from a list curated by the Judiciary Service Commission. He further operationalised the Judiciary Fund, thus ensuring the independence of the institution by giving it financial autonomy. Foreign Direct Investment follows countries where the rule of law is upheld; where a free and impartial judiciary is a recourse in dispute resolution.
Second, the Kenya Kwanza administration has done away with food and fuel subsidies. For a long time, these were avenues of corruption in addition to being used to suborn the electorate to vote for undeserving political candidates.
The government has instead opted to subsidise production through provision of farm inputs like fertiliser. This has the positive effect of making Kenya food self-sufficient and at the same time, conserving foreign exchange that goes towards food imports.
Closely related to this is the Public Private Partnership (PPP) with companies like Twiga Foods. Twenty thousand acres of land have been allocated towards this PPP for cultivation of the country’s staple.
These and numerous other stories are not being told. If anything, the opposition has capitalised on the government’s inability to toot its own horn. It has instead turned on its propaganda machine building on incipient anger over perceived shortcomings of the Ruto administration. Take, for instance, the distribution of subsidised fertiliser.
Detractors of the government would have Kenyans believe that the subsidised NPK fertiliser being distributed is inferior to the DAP brand farmers are accustomed to. Nothing could be further from the truth. Regional Director of The African Fertiliser and Agribusiness Partnership, says that whereas DAP fertiliser has two macronutrients, the NPK brand has three. It is possible to leverage on digital technology in the country to create awareness of the awesome benefits of this new fertiliser type.
Kenya Kwanza spin masters should assert their own agency by controlling the government’s narrative. They cannot be reticent in the face of an onslaught from detractors, especially when such onslaught is based on half-truths. Right now, sections of the opposition are gleefully casting aspersions on the government’s ability to service the country’s external debt whilst at the same time meeting its recurrent expenditure.
What the Ruto administration should highlight is the fact its interventions have stemmed the deleterious effects of short-term expensive debt incurred by its predecessors. The battleground presently tilts towards whoever controls the narrative. To that end, Kenya Kwanza’s communication team has its work cut out. Are they up to the task?
Mr Khafafa is a public policy analyst