Why I’m the new opposition – Deputy President William Ruto

Deputy President William Ruto addressing journalists at his Karen residence in Nairobi on April 4, 2022. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Deputy President William Ruto on Monday, April 4 said he’s been forced to take up opposition role due to circumstances.

Despite being the second-highest ranking government official in Kenya, the deputy president took the stage on Monday to call out the State over the fuel crisis that has hurt the nation over the past one week.

Ruto says that after the Kenyatta-led government and the opposition, led by ODM leader Raila Odinga, struck a truce in March 2018, the opposition has failed to effectively play its oversight role, leaving him (Ruto) with no choice but to plug in.

Speaking at his Karen residence in Nairobi, the DP, who read out Kenya Kwanza’s statement in regard to Kenya’s current economic situation, said he has the interest of Kenyans at heart, hence his active role in opposition.

“What was government is now like the opposition, and what was the opposition is now behaving like government. There are no clear lines between the people in the opposition, and the people in government,” said Ruto.

“Greedy people, who were supposed to be discharging their duties as the opposition, decided to come and serve as cartels and barons in government. We believe in the citizenship of our republic. This (opposition role) is supposed to be somebody else’s responsibility, but we are forced to do it because we have the interests of the nation at heart, and we want the right thing to happen in Kenya. We could have chosen to keep quiet, but the crisis in Kenya cannot allow us to keep quiet,” he added.

In his address, the deputy president said the economic hardship that Kenyans are currently facing, particularly the fuel crisis, has been created by “cartels and barons” in government, who are out to benefit only themselves.

“The Nation of Kenya is groaning. We are in collective anguish and economic crisis,” he said.

“The devastating effects of this current economic crisis is now manifest in the artificial fuel shortage and skyrocketing prices of basic food items. Millions of Kenyans are witnessing in bewildered agony as fuel pumps run dry and queues grow longer due to this artificial shortage, which has already disrupted the entire transport sector.

“Kenyans are now forced to dig deeper into their pockets for bus-fare, and boda boda operators are being driven out of business.

“The skyrocketing prices of food prices has pushed the cost of living beyond the reach of millions of Kenyans. Many farmers have failed to plant because the price of fertilizer has moved from Sh3,000 in 2021 to a high of Sh7,000 per 50-kilogram bag this year, a price that is well beyond the reach of most farmers during this planting season.

“It does, therefore, mean that this year’s harvest will be dismal, further compounding the problem of food security in our country.

“Cooking gas that was retailing at Sh2,300 in February, just two months ago, is now being sold at Sh3,350. The price of Sh10 litres of cooking oil that was retailing at Sh1,450, is now selling at Sh3,100. Fuel shot up; from Sh135 per litre of petrol to between Sh150 and Sh205 in some parts of the country.”

The DP said the fuel shortage hit Kenya’s critical services such as hospitals, resulting in a threat to people’s lives.

“The government of Kenya knows that millions of households cannot cope with these prices,” said Ruto.

“In the midst of the people’s loud cries of agony, the silence of the concerned government ministries is deafening and their inaction is snowballing into a national catastrophe.”

The DP asked the ministries of Agriculture, Treasury and Petroleum to give “convincing” explanations on why there’s fuel shortage, yet the government has been allocating funds to the stabilisation kitty.

“Where is the Sh39 billion petroleum development levy fund meant for the fuel subsidy programme as this crisis deepens?” posed Ruto.

“Funds have been diverted to debt-servicing and infrastructure development without the approval of the National Assembly,” he alleged.

 “The current state of affairs is a clear manifestation of conflict of interest and State capture that is now pervasive in all sectors of the economy. Cartels have taken over critical economic sectors, and are now moving in top gear to capture the State. That is why the benefits, powers, advantages, privileges and other interests of these barons and cartels take priority over the plight of 50 million Kenyans.

“The people telling us about Ukraine and Russia [war] are also telling us that there is no shortage of fuel. They are trying to blame oil marketers. They are even conflicted in the reasons why we have an artificial crisis in the country. From their own statements, they are not sure on what to say. Is it because of the war in Ukraine, or is it because of our oil marketers? That would tell you that this crisis is orchestrated by cartels and barons who have taken over using conflict of interest and State capture.”

The deputy president was asked to give a response after President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Supplementary Appropriation Bill (Supplementary Budget) on Monday afternoon, April 4, allocating Sh34.44 billion to oil marketers.

This move would ease the week-long fuel crisis in the country.

In his response, the DP said: “We are locking the stable when the horse has already bolted. This should have been addressed before we got ourselves into the crisis that we are in. As a result of the fuel crisis, we have serious price fluctuations in all basic food items, because, to a great extent, they (food prices) are dependent on the prices of fuel.

“Just so you know, the supplementary estimates budget [that the president signed on Monday, April 4], was brought [to Parliament] just last week. The fuel crisis has been long and coming. There was money in the petroleum development fund. Where did that money go?” he posed.

The DP said he wants the names of oil marketing companies that have been “hoarding fuel to create artificial shortage” be revealed.