President Ruto calls for prudent discourse on Finance Bill

President William Ruto during the National Prayer Breakfast meeting at Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi on Wednesday, June 7. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

President William Ruto has called on the Azimio la Umoja One-Kenya coalition to engage in constructive dialogue and seek common ground regarding the contentious issues within the proposed Financial Bill, 2023.

The coalition has threatened mass action if the government does not drop the bill in its entirety.

Speaking during the National Prayer Breakfast meeting at Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi on Wednesday, June 7, Ruto criticized Azimio for opposing the bill, pointing out their lack of consideration for the plight of millions of unemployed Kenyans and those in need of affordable housing.

"Isaiah 1:18 reminds us to reason together. Today, we are in the midst of a national conversation about public policies. Our democratic culture has provided us with a unique opportunity to reason together and reconcile with our current realities. We all agree, sitting here, leaders from all sides, that we have five million of our young people out of school without jobs; 800 of them join the labor market every year," Ruto said.

He emphasised that the housing project would address the unemployment problem and provide decent houses for millions of Kenyans.

“Therefore, as we engage in this important debate on the Finance Bill, let us ask God to open our eyes and enable us to clearly see the real choices that we have to make,” Ruto added.

One of the proposals in the bill suggests that Kenyans should contribute three percent of their income towards the Affordable Housing Program, with a corresponding matching contribution from their employers.

"If we feel the pain of the three percent, it is because we are alive. But when we feel the pain of millions of young people seeking jobs, then we genuinely embody our shared humanity," he added.

Ruto's statement comes a week after Azimio announced their withdrawal from the bipartisan talks, citing non-compliance from Kenya Kwanza.

In a letter, Otiende Amollo, co-chairperson of the bipartisan talks, stated that the Kenya Kwanza team had failed to co-sign and submit letters addressed to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Azimio sought to compel IEBC CEO Marjan Hussein Marjan to provide information regarding the preservation of electoral materials, the 2022 presidential election servers, and the data contained within.

At the same time, Azimio requested that Dr. Nelson Makanda, the IEBC Chairperson, suspend the ongoing recruitment process for the Chairperson and commissioners of IEBC.

"In the circumstances, it is our considered opinion that the appropriate action is to adjourn the talks sine die, in accordance with Clause 36 of the framework Agreement, which we hereby invoke," said Amollo.

On Tuesday, June 7, Azimio declined an invitation to attend the Prayer Breakfast scheduled for today, expressing concerns that the meeting may undermine values of humility and respect towards God and country, considering the issues facing the nation currently.

"Instead, the event will dishonor God and the country with displays of arrogance, superiority battles, false hopes for citizens, and vitriolic post-event mischaracterization and misinterpretation of intentions by well-known Kenya Kwanza leaders. We have, therefore, declined the invitation to the breakfast," a statement by Azimio read in part.

The annual prayer event brings together leaders from across the political spectrum.