Ruto's dislike of history to blame for his government's current woes

President William Ruto signs into law the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Bill 2024 at State House in April 2024. [PCS]

Last week’s protests in Nairobi and other towns across Kenya were reminiscent of similar scenes in the streets of Cairo and across Egypt in 2011. 

The surprise protests by Generation Z were remarkable in the sense of the cohort, its focus, determination and messaging to drive their point home. 

The Gen Z agitators have vowed to hold more demos across the country this week to force a total withdrawal of the obnoxious Finance Bill 2024 while also chanting, “Ruto must go”.  

On January 25, 2011, Egyptians tired of poverty and corruption in government took to the streets, Twitter (X), Facebook and YouTube to express their dissatisfaction with President Hosni Mubarak.  They laid siege on the government through demos and 18 days later, Mubarak resigned. 

A week earlier, a spontaneous uprising in Tunisia had culminated in the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and birthed the Arab Spring. Science and innovation were used to beat dictatorial regimes at their own game. The same science and innovation are being applied against Dr Ruto.

Ironically, in 2018 while officiating the Johnie Walker Young Achievers awards in Kampala, Uganda, Ruto, then Kenya’s Deputy President, urged African leaders to stop teaching history and divert resources to promote science, innovation and technology. 

If Ruto feels threatened today, it is the price he must pay for slighting history; an effective manual that can help leaders steer clear of mines in the labyrinth of leadership. Without the benefit of history, Ruto is discovering the hard way that ruling is diametrically opposed to campaigning. 

Unfortunately for Ruto, things could get dicier, all thanks to his court jesters. They are living in denial, trying to find an explanation for what is happening instead of addressing the problem. They are losing the chance to tame the potentially dangerous situation. To blame a foreign power and Raila is ridiculous. 

To begin with, Raila is not yellow. His modus operandi is openly call for demos and lead them. Secondly, the demographic that orchestrated last week’s protests is young, educated, partyless, tribeless, amorphous, energetic and creative. While embracing peaceful demos, they also took to social media messaging to vent. They have embraced technology and innovation to engage an intransigent, dictatorial government that has no regard for the hustlers who propelled it to power.

While calling for the total withdrawal of the Finance Bill 2024, Gen Z  should also demand the ejection of Ruto’s chief Economic Advisor David Ndii, Treasury CS Njuguna Ndung’u and the  Governor of Central Bank of Kenya Kamau Thugge. 

Their economic prescriptions for our throbbing headache have turned it into a full migraine. There is every reason they should be cut loose. 

The challenge mounted against Ruto by Gen Z, discontent against him in Central Kenya and the stand taken by Coast governors against sale of muguka there despite his directive on the same point to Ruto’s growing unpopularity. 

Ruto must listen to what people are saying unless he is determined to test Gen Z’s resolve to drive him out of office in ignominy.

The President must realise he is dealing with something bigger than Gen Z. It is not yet clear where the agitation will lead because the government has given people enough reasons to get restless. Use of the internet complicates matters for Ruto.

He can’t control the tide of things without infringing on the right to information, freedom of expression and association, which would then inflame passion even more. 

The schedule of planned demos, if executed, speak to a paralysis of the country that will hurt the economy and shatter investors’ confidence in the country.  Already, a high taxation regime has forced many companies out, and no investor will be comfortable in a country where their businesses could go up in smoke overnight.

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