Backlash: Ruto's approach fails to ease heat against government

From announcing several measures Friday, including a Presidential Taskforce on Forensic Audit of Public Debt, to the Health task force and now the six-day multi-sectoral dialogue, President William Ruto’s approach to Gen Z and country's demands has invited a backlash as more questions arise.

Ruto said Tuesday that the dialogue forum will begin Monday July 15 to discuss issues pressing Kenyans and that the forum will draw representatives from political parties, religious groups, civil society, employers and youth.

“In the interest of making sure we live within our means; all participants will bear their attendance costs. This is a result of consultations we have held this morning,” he said.

This was one of the many strategies the head of state was trying to employ to quell the raging pressure from Kenya's youngest adults now referred to as Gen Z who seem not to consider any of the president's ways of trying to endear himself to them.

The President made  Tuesday’s announcement at the KICC, flanked by a section of government leaders Azimio leader Raila Odinga who led the Opposition leaders. That attendance invited a blanket condemnation from Gen Z and a host of the Azimio leaders who accused the political elite of trying to hijack the Gen Z-driven initiative that is  demanding accountability from the Kenya Kwanza administration.

Gen Z flocked to their social media pages to accuse Raila of betraying their course while others steered clear of the war of words.

The angry comments came fast and furious dismissing any proposal of a dialogue. They said if there was any then it had to be between Ruto and Raila to discuss their private affairs. Others said 'neither Raila nor Ruto speaks on our behalf’. 

 “The dialogue is between two individuals; William Ruto and Raila Odinga. We refuse to be controlled by selfish politicians who only value their stomachs. Gen Zs and Millennials are now taking the bull by the horns. Hatupangwingwi. They will not believe it! #RutoMustGo,” Corlnelius Ronoo wrote on his X platform. 

Another user identified as Duke Mtambo wrote ‘Political class regrouping to secure their selfish interests through an opposition handshake. But what we want to tell Raila Odinga is that those harmless youths didn’t die on the streets for senseless dialogues. Raila, who are we? You’re not our leader.”

The backlash saw Azimio leaders led by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka who was at KICC, slip away to avoid a group photo. His X platform apportioned the blame for the crisis to Ruto’s administration. 

 “Kenya's Gen Z have set the standard and are demanding action. Kenya would not be in this crisis if the Ruto regime had listened and addressed the number one problem of the cost of living, as well as fully implementing the National Dialogue Committee(Nadco) report. Instead, they prevaricated. They dragged their feet. The Ruto regime showed no political goodwill. The Gen Z revolution is a result of Ruto's inaction,” Kalonzo wrote after the KICC event 

Other Opposition leaders such as The Democratic Action Party (DAP-K) leader Eugene Wamalwa who was part of the Nadco report making process also tweeted ‘Im not boarding’ while Raila’s son Raila Odinga Junior sought to explain that everyone must carry their own cross. He tweeted “Everybody is an individual please!  Even people with the same exact names.”

Azimio Deputy Party leader Martha Karua interpreted Tuesday's events as a ploy by some politicians to hijack a Gen Z-driven initiative in a move to divert attention from their demands.

 “I’m saying the very bill he was signing was sort of a botched up supposed dialogue. If you remember, the very number one issue, priority, was cost of living. It was completely left out. Although IEBC is necessary, that's not what took people to the streets. So, Ruto and his regime have already shown that they have no respect for the public,” she said.

She continued “The Gen Z demands are not driven by us, the political class. They have come authentically on their own organically and authentically. What right do we have as the political class to make a decision for them? And talk down to them and tell them from tomorrow 50 Gen Z should come for a meeting. Was there any Gen Z in that meeting yesterday?  This is a trap and the demands of Gen Z, the ones I have seen, for accountability are very clear.”

President William Ruto engages on X space at State House, Nairobi. [PCS]

In a veiled attack on the Azimio politicians, Karua warned them against hijacking people's wishes. “And that leads to my fellow politicians. Let us not try and pour water on a moment of accountability. Trust in the nation by our Gen Z. We should be aiding it to give Kenya the reforms it needs. In an orderly manner, because they have been orderly." She said.

Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni on his part dismissed any plan for a dialogue saying the Waki report, the Ndungu report, TJRC report, BBI report, the NADCO report, all were done under dialogues.  "how many more??? The writing is on the wall! Implement the Constitution"

Kioni said, "If you’re wondering what just happened at KICC it’s all by design! The guardians of the Kenyan state wield their power relentlessly to ensure its survival against any violent threat that could undermine its very foundation (the established order)"

He said the masters strategically deploy the political class like pawns, engaging them in different actions disguised as necessary measures in the name of dialogues and reports that push the boundaries of acceptable violence and political grandstanding. When these actions push too far, said Kioni, the political class is compelled to intervene, ostensibly rescuing the state from its own people and thereby avoiding what appears to be a precipice but is in reality a recurring political crisis.

Tuesday's backlash on Ruto’s approach to appease the youth comes in the wake of other setbacks he continues to face as he tries to endear himself to country and its angry youth. High court on Monday stopped the implementation of a Gazette notice on the appointment of a taskforce to probe the country’s debt.  

Justice Lawrence Mugambi, issued a conservatory order prohibiting the taskforce from discharging any duties pending hearing of the case. 

"Pending the hearing and determination of this application, an interim order be and is hereby issued prohibiting the Respondents, either by themselves, anyone else acting at their behest, instructions directions or any other person whosoever, from discharging any function pursuant to the executive order number 4... establishing the presidential task force on forensic audit of public debt." He said this in a case filed by Nakuru physician Gikenyi Magare and activist Eliud Matindi. 

This came even as the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) said it would not participate in a taskforce, arguing the move is unconstitutional as the mandate rests solely with the Auditor-General. 

At the same time, Ruto’s Health taskforce has met opposition from the Kenya Medical Association (KMA) which has termed it a duplication of roles. 

In a statement, KMA Secretary General Diana Marion noted that the roles assigned to the task force duplicate those already carried out by other oversight bodies within the sector. 

"KMA observes that the task force's mandate is already being undertaken by other constitutional bodies," she stated.  

According to Marion, the Health Human Resource Advisory Council (KHHRAC) and the Kenya Health Professions Oversight Authority (KHPOA) already perform the roles intended for the task force.  

She added that establishing a task force to execute their roles will undermine the functionality of these two bodies.

As this happened, Ruto will be forced to go back to the drawing board and replace another member of the taskforce after the Roots Party 2022 presidential running mate at the 2022 elections Justina Wamae turned down her appointment to the health taskforce. 

In a Monday statement on X, Wamae thanked President Ruto for recognizing her competences regretted that she was unable to take up the offer as she is on maternity leave. 

"After careful consideration, I have decided to decline your offer given that I'm currently on maternity leave and this development would affect my ability to work effectively at this time," Wamae wrote on X.