DP William Ruto's plan: Winner or ammunition for rivals?

DP William Ruto at the launch of Kenya Kwanza's manifesto at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi on June 30, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Deputy President William Ruto has made clear his plan and the challenge he now faces is how he will deliver on the promises should he win in August.

On Thursday, the deputy president set an ambitious agenda for his Kenya Kwanza government should they clinch victory next month.

He also boldly promised to undo some of Jubilee government’s policies, and introduce his own to transform the economy, overhaul the agricultural sector, make food affordable, provide housing and make healthcare accessible.

The Kenya Kwanza Alliance presidential candidate goes further than his rival Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga’s manifesto, which was launched three weeks earlier, by making financial commitments and giving deliverables.

Yet, Ruto’s confidence in his own ability to deliver for the country could come as an undoing, should he win, by placing a target on his back. But is the devil really hiding in the details? 

That Ruto went out of his way to give projections that he thinks his interventions would have, could show the conviction of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party leader.

Should he win and his transformational proposals remain unfulfilled, he could easily find himself coming under intense pressure. It is instructive that Ruto’s campaign has suffered consequences of unfulfilled campaign promises made by the Jubilee government.

While President Uhuru Kenyatta has remained largely unscathed, Ruto is the face of some major pledges and failings made by Jubilee government which include construction of stadiums across the country.

Ruto has given the public the yardstick to judge him by. He has also given his critics something to aim for. For instance, to appeal to the hawkers, Ruto has committed to enact laws that would guarantee trading licences and trading locations.

He said his government would work with the counties to provide one street trading premises for every 50 urban residents. This, he said, would increase average daily income of informal traders by Sh200.

But this pledge could potentially put Ruto on a collision course with the county governments or with hawkers who will expect to sell freely on the streets.

The manifesto has become a topic of discussions with some analysts arguing that it is too detailed.

Details are avoided

The pundits believe he could have unwittingly set himself up for failure by making promises without considering that, even if he won, there are circumstances that could impede his ability to deliver.

“Going into detail is like a providing the rope that can be used to hang you. Details are always avoided because they are unseen challenges,” political analyst Herman Manyora says.

He argues that Ruto should have kept away from the specifics to give himself room to adjust should he find that the atmosphere is not one he expected.

“Anybody who has occupied public office will tell you from outside things look very easy but the moment you are inside, you realise there are challenges that you couldn’t have imagined. So you have to leave room for yourself to make a few changes,” said Manyora, adding that is the reason you do not provide details.

He also said it would be easy to dismiss a candidate as populist based on the promises they have made. In the course of running government, some pledges could be altered or abandoned, he said.

“One of the biggest problems of the Kenya Kwanza manifesto is the issue of details,” said Prof Peter Wanyande on a TV panel discussing the manifesto. “You do not put detail in a manifesto. It’s a statement of intent.”

But other analysts say as the public becomes more aware of their needs and what they need their leaders to do, it becomes necessary for them to show how they would do it and the results to expect.

Edward Kisiang’ani, a political scientist, said rather than set a trap for himself, Ruto had raised the bar. “People who will come after Ruto will be required to make a certain commitment which will be a marking scheme for their performance. I do not think Ruto fears any criticism,” said Prof Kisiang’ani.

President Kenyatta yesterday hit out at Ruto, asking voters to be skeptical about the promises the DP is making. 

“We have some leaders moving around the country making a lot of noise about what they will do yet they had an opportunity to serve for the last eight years,” said Uhuru.