Ruto makes about-turn on Uhuru projects after political rhetoric

President William Ruto speaks during a past event in Likuyani, Kakamega County. [PCS]

President William Ruto seems to have devised a way of adopting former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s projects that he criticised during campaigns.

To avoid being accused of duplicating Jubilee projects, Ruto has opted to rename them or amend some policies.

This brings to the fore reality check on campaign talk versus hard realities.

President Ruto rode to power on a campaign pledge that the former government had sunk the country in debt and borrowing will be a last resort and on high-priority projects. One year after taking over the reins, data from government shows the appetite to borrow has grown.

Through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) reincarnate the National Dialogue Committee, chaired by National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah, the president is pushing for constitutional amendments. His aim, it appears, is to introduce the office of the official leader of opposition and embed the Office of Prime Cabinet Secretary into law.

The Kenya Kwanza government has reintroduced Huduma Namba which has been renamed Maisha Namba.

Despite criticising the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC), the president appointed a task force to review it and has since given it a clean bill of health. Kenya Kwanza government has also reintroduced fuel subsidy and Kazi Mtaani.

In 2020, former President Kenyatta pushed for the amendment of the Constitution through BBI but it was rejected by the Judiciary. 

“One of my biggest regrets is seeing BBI fail. I will ensure the next government pushes it forward. I advocate for one person one vote one shilling. Resources should be divided based on population not the size of the land,” he said.

President Ruto vehemently opposed the proposal to create the office of the prime minister and two deputies, saying the move was aimed at advancing selfish interests of a few leaders and thanked the courts for throwing out BBI.

“The suggestion on Prime Minister post has two problems: It does not solve the problem, which is that we need a functional, constitutional official opposition; and if created, it would still be taken by the winning party,” Ruto then deputy president said.

“Proponents of reggae (BBI) wanted to change the Constitution and create powerful positions for individuals but reggae was stopped by the courts. There is God in heaven,” he added.

But the proposal by Ichung’wah to anchor the office of Prime Cabinet Secretary in the Constitution is the clearest sign that elements of the BBI Bill will be resurrected.

Ruto has on numerous occasions affirmed his willingness to enhance oversight of the Executive through the creation of the Office of the Leader of the Opposition.

Azimio team led by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka is now proposing the creation of the office of the prime minister and two deputies, a suggestion proposed under BBI.

In a report by the 10-member national dialogue committee, the opposition also wants the delimitation of boundaries slated for March next year to consider the one man one vote one-shilling agenda, to ensure equal distribution of resources.

Away from the proposal to amend the constitution, the reintroduction of Huduma Namba now dubbed Maisha Namba is a 360-degree turnaround by the Kenya Kwanza government.

Huduma Namba was introduced in 2019 by Jubilee administration, to initiate registration of persons using a harmonised approach to address duplication of efforts and to cut costs in registration processes. 

The project that is said to have cost Kenyans billions of shillings was criticized by Ruto’s allies during campaigns. They claimed that the Jubilee government wanted to use Huduma Namba to rig votes in favour of Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga.

At the time Kenya Kwanza leaders alleged that a mysterious foreign firm had been single-sourced through the National Intelligence Service to rig the 2022 elections.

Ruto has now made a U-turn and announced that Maisha Namba will see the registration of Kenyans onto a digital platform similar to Huduma Namba.

After taxpayers lost billions of shillings in the failed Huduma Namba that was stalled by courts, Kenya Kwanza government is planning to use Sh1 billion for the project.

The High Court declared Huduma Namba rollout illegal on grounds of being in conflict with the Data Protection Act, 2019.

To counter this, Immigration Principal Secretary Julius Bitok said the national digital identity project will be a game-changer in terms of development and service delivery and called on Kenyans to embrace it.

“We are going to have a system which is full proof that’s going to ensure that whatever document you have is authentic and that whatever you want to transact, every institution whether it is banks, hospitals education institutions, you have a document that is able to reflect who you are,” he said.

Further, the PS announced that Ruto will launch Maisha Namba on September 29, in Nakuru County.

In August, the government reinstated fuel subsidies in a fresh plan to stabilise fuel prices through the resource accumulated in the Petroleum Development Levy (PDL) Fund.

After ascending to power, Ruto removed fuel and maize subsidies arguing that unlike his predecessor he prefers subsidising production rather than consumption.

Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority however said the government has not returned to fuel subsidies but has instead opted for fuel stabilisation through PDL.

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja has reintroduced the Kazi Mtaani programme that was launched in April 2020. It is now dubbed “the green army” and it has recruited youths to unclog drainage ahead of impending El Nino rains expected in October to January. 

Trans Nzoia Governor George Natembeya announced plans to engage 2,000 youths to serve under the Kazi Mtaani programme.

Kenyatta’s Kazi Mtaani programme was part of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic seeking to provide temporary employment to youth in informal settlements and urban areas, who were adversely affected by the lockdown measures.

Under the programme, more than 26,000 youths were employed in various community-based projects, such as cleaning streets, repairing drainage systems, and planting trees as well as being provided with training and mentorship opportunities, with focus on developing their skills and enhancing their employability.

Shortly after assuming office, Ruto announced intentions of scrapping Kenyatta’s social security projects.

Instead, he preferred youths being employed in the affordable housing project.

“We are not only doing this because we need houses but because we also need jobs. Kazi Mtaani is in the past, in this project alone we will employ 2,500 youth. You will not need to go around picking trash anymore, that is gone. The work will be to construct houses,” said Ruto during a groundbreaking ceremony of affordable housing project in Nairobi.

“Kaazi Mtaani is now outdated, the Kaazi Mtaani of collecting garbage will not be the case, the building will now be our business and the first people to get jobs in this project will be from Kibra. Those who were employed in Kazi Mtaani were 500 from each ward, through this programme, we will have employment opportunities for 2,500 youths,” he added.