On June 30 last year, Deputy President William Ruto criticised President Uhuru Kenyatta over rising cost of living.
Speaking during the launch of his manifesto, Ruto, who was at the time the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) presidential candidate, said the tough economic times Kenyans were facing had no connection with the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
“Blaming the skyrocketing cost of living on the war in Ukraine is a lost cause,” Ruto said and added, “The challenge of the cost of living is not too scientific. The challenge of the cost of living is increasing agricultural productivity.”
Uhuru insisted the high cost of living was beyond his control but Ruto and his UDA honchos blamed the government at every turn over rising fuel prices and promised to rein in the high cost of living if elected.
Fast forward to one year down the line and with Ruto firmly in the driving seat and anger continues to grow over the rising cost of living particularly fuel prices.
Last week, fuel prices crossed the Sh200 per litre mark.
Alive to the worsening situation, some Kenya Kwanza honchos are now asking Kenyans to brace for tougher economic times.
The leaders, who spoke during an interdenominational church service in Kipkaren, Turbo sub-county, said the recent global spike in fuel prices will affect many Kenyans, noting that the government has no control over fuel prices.
The leaders, however, exuded confidence that the Kenya Kwanza government will initiate tough measures that will cushion Kenyans from more pain.
Led by Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria and Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, the leaders asked Kenyans to be patient and give President Ruto more time to address economic challenges ailing the nation.
“It is true that we are facing the challenge of soaring cost of living. There is nothing to hide. We as leaders are telling you the truth that the cost of fuel has skyrocketed all over the world. Next month, we are also expecting heavy rainfall, El Niño... will you also claim that President Ruto’s government is to blame for the rains?” posed Kuria.
The CS said that there are issues that are beyond the government’s control.
“If we did not find the coffers empty, the government would now have enough money to subsidise fuel and cushion Kenyans from the pain we are witnessing today,” he stated.
“When we imported four million bags of subsidised fertiliser or released billions of money for the Hustler Fund and disbursed the county allocation funds in time in July, did the opposition congratulate us?” posed Kuria.
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The leaders slammed opposition leaders who have rated the Kenya Kwanza’s one year in office poorly.
Addressing the media on Saturday, Azimio leader Raila Odinga described Ruto’s one year in office as ‘extremely disastrous’.
He gave the Kenya Kwanza government a D- of 30 per cent.
Raila cited high rates of unemployment, increasing cost of living, decline of the Kenyan shilling and inadequacy in funding for educational institutions as among the reasons for the government's poor performance.
Kenyans have continued to express their concerns after fuel prices hit the Sh200 mark per litre for the first time in history, leading to the expected rise to the already high cost of living.
In the run-up to elections, leaders allied to Kenya Kwanza assailed the then administration.
Nyoro accused Uhuru of being insensitive after fuel was increased to Sh134.72 in April 2022.
"It is now so despicable, insensitive, inconsiderate of the government that we elected that their preoccupation every day is to add the cost of living to the people of Kenya," Nyoro said.
Nyoro yesterday argued that the Kenya Kwanza government has achieved more during its first year of governance.
"The president has put in place solid economic policies that will help lower the cost of living in the long run. An example is subsidizing production, which saw the cost of fertilizer lowered from Sh7,000- Sh3,500. This season we are expecting a harvest of 60 million bags of maize. The Hustle fund has also been beneficial to millions of Kenyans,” said the Kiharu MP.
He added, “We have ensured registration of more elderly people and those living with disabilities so that they can benefit from the Inua jamii programme. We are also working towards ensuring that these beneficiaries get their monthly stipend through M-Pesa so that they do not have to travel to their banks to get their stipend.”
Baringo Woman Representative Florence Jematia said that Kenyans should support Ruto, stating that the challenges we are facing are common to many countries worldwide.
“You know when a woman gets into labour, you support her. You do not hurl abuses at her at that period, and once the labour pains are gone and a child is born, it becomes joy. Kenya is now in labour, and we are expecting good returns from the hard work that President Ruto is putting in place because our President is an understanding man, and he knows the challenges we are going through,” held Jematia.
Teso South MP Mary Emase shared the same sentiments, arguing that it is unwise to blame the government of the day for every challenge when it has only been in office for a year.
Gatanga MP Edward Mureu claimed that the Mount Kenya region will continue supporting Ruto’s government, noting that they have faith in his leadership.
“We know that Ruto is a sober leader who has the interests of the people at heart, and we will continue supporting him even when times are tough. The challenges we are facing today will come to pass and all we need to do is give the President time,” said Mureu.
Separately, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua warned public servants against chiding Kenyans over the high cost of living.
This came after Kuria and Ruto's Chief Economic Advisor David Ndii made controversial remarks that caused a public uproar.
In a statement released on Sunday, Gachagua told state officials to exercise caution while addressing their employer; the people of Kenya.
He said public servants must address Kenyans with decorum and humility.
"Responsible leaders should be sensitive and inspire hope in the people, talking down on the people and demoralising those who look up to them for solutions and a way out of the difficult situation they find themselves in is not good leadership. Do not spite the people of Kenya," he said.
Gachagua pleaded with Kenyans to appreciate that fuel prices was a worldwide challenge.
He said the sentiments of a few leaders did not reflect the official government position.
[Additional reporting by Ndungu Gachane]