Hits, misses in William Ruto's first big day

President William Ruto during the 59th Mashujaa Day celebrations at Nairobi's Uhuru Gardens on October 20, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

President William Ruto yesterday spoke about the rule of law, agriculture, health and climate change in his first Mashujaa Day celebrations as head of state.

However, he was silent on critical areas such as the debt crisis, national healing and cost of living.

In striking a blow for the rule of law, President Ruto trained his guns on killer cops and promised action against rogue police officers involved in extrajudicial killings.

He promised to investigate alleged atrocities carried out by the disbanded Special Service Unit (SSU) of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.

Speaking at Uhuru Gardens where the celebrations were held, the president accused SSU of employing "terrible and disastrous" tactics in fighting crime. He promised to "professionalise" the National Police Service.

"A professional police service fosters harmonious relationships with citizens and communities, cannot be weaponised in pursuit of divisive or partisan agenda and can never resort to disastrous policies like extrajudicial murder as part of policing," Ruto said.

"I believe we can keep this country safe and secure without tormenting our people. We can efficiently and effectively suppress crime, monitor, disrupt and apprehend criminals without abducting, torturing, killing or causing citizens to disappear," he added, promising reforms in the criminal justice system, which he said includes taming the excesses of police and ensuring its independence.

Ruto further promised to respect the independence of the Judiciary and obey court orders as part of the reforms that he said would result in a more efficient criminal justice system. Tied to that was the war on corruption, which he said "must be won".

"Our government intends to wage this fight and demonstrate its commitment to zero tolerance to corruption by making all public servants accountable, and submitting to the oversight of Parliament and other constitutionally mandated institutions," he said, fronting interventions such as non-interference in independent institutions.

Since he assumed office, Ruto has been criticised for allegedly keeping silent about the fight against corruption, which missed from his inauguration speech and the subsequent speeches he has made, such as his inaugural speech to Parliament.

The Mashujaa Day celebrations was the first national ceremony for Ruto as president.

And used the occasion to rally the nation into what he termed "patriotism of the new age", which the president said involved Kenyans taking a leading role in the nation's transformation, as a way of honouring the sacrifices made by the nation's founding fathers.

"We are united in common endeavor with those who came before us and did so much for our country. We may define ourselves as a nation proudly standing on the foundation of the Constitution, united in pursuit of the well-being of every citizen," the president said before revisiting the August 9 elections, alleging bid to subvert the will of the people.

In his speech, themed Mobilising transformational patriotism and value-driven heroism for the well-being of the citizens of Kenya, Ruto promised socio-economic transformation through interventions in key sectors.

He, for instance, spent considerable time elaborating his plans in the agricultural sector, which he said was the foundation of his economic-transformation plan, "owing to its potential for high and quick returns on investment."

Ruto promised strategic investment in the sector to boost productivity, which includes investing in inputs such as seeds and fertilisers, as well as enhanced irrigation in the face of a biting drought in parts of the country.

"We have to take bold steps to end the perpetual cycle of hunger and dependency on rain-fed agriculture. We must eradicate hunger in our country in the shortest time possible," he said.

Indeed, the country faces food shortage, occasioned by internal factors such as failed rains as well as external, such as a disruption in global supply chains caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, among other issues and prices of basic commodities have witnessed a sharp rise in recent months.

In a departure from retired President Uhuru Kenyatta's subsidy measures, Ruto has touted increasing productivity as opposed to the subsidies he has termed unsustainable, saying that food prices would drop in the near future.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua had alluded to the cost of living in his speech, merely glossing over it.

"It is time to deliver. We cannot afford to waste a single minute. We know Kenyans are suffering. No more talk. It is work," Gachagua said.

In his speech, the president did not offer measures to mitigate the cost of living in the immediate and short term.

But he went big on affordable housing, promising to close the housing gap he said was currently at two million units.

"Our target is to increase the supply fourfold from 50,000 to 200,000 per year," he said of the ambitious housing plan that he said would offer mortgages for as low as Sh5,000 monthly, adding that it would create jobs and stimulate the economy.

As part of his plan, the president said he would partner with county governments to put up "at least 5,000 units in every county.

Equally prominent in Ruto's speech was his plan to operationalise the Hustler Fund, which he said he would commission on December 1, a programme that the president said would enhance access to credit for small scale businesspersons.

He said the credit products would be available on digital platforms, which also tied to another promise of improving the nation's digital infrastructure as a way of creating job opportunities and also making government services accessible.

"Government services shall be made available throughout the country at greater convenience to citizens through digitisation and automation of all critical government processes, with a view to bringing at least 80 per cent of all government services online."

In a speech that mirrored his inauguration address, the president would also promise reforms in the National Health Insurance Fund from an individual to a house-hold contribution model as part of fulfilling his Universal Health Care agenda.

"In the past 10 years, 12 million Kenyans have joined the fund. The challenge, however, is that the NHIF is an occupational scheme for salaried people on payroll in the public and private sectors, and not the social insurance scheme it ought to be," he said.

Much like he had said during his inauguration last month, Ruto said he had big plans to contribute to mitigating climate change by putting measures to increase the nation's tree cover, which he said he hoped to have at 30 per cent by 2032.

He promised reforestation efforts, agro-forestry and the securing of the current forests as well as putting in place a Climate Change Council to steer Kenya's climate action measures.

The president also touted regional trade as a means of setting Kenya on the path to growth.

"In the East African Community, the rigid territorial borders are firmly on the way out, as we move towards full integration. Non-tariff barriers have come down, and trade volumes have soared," he said.

"The possibility of an East African Federation is no longer a wild imagination or an idle dream. It is no longer a matter of if, it is a matter of when."

In line with that, he said that Kenya would engage in security, counter terrorism and peace-building efforts within the region, highlighting the Ethiopia peace effort that he said Kenya would not abandon.

Though he delved considerably into critical issues, the president did not highlight others that remain pertinent. Such include the ballooning debt crisis and the mitigating measures he has began deploying as well as the gender parity question.


Agriculture: Unveils five measures to revive agriculture including a plan to double the land under irrigation to 1.4 million acres.
Housing: Targets to increase the supply fourfold from 50,000 to 200,000 per year.
Access to Credit: CRB to move to a credit scoring system, Hustler Fund to be launched on December 1st.
Universal Health Care: To lay emphasis on preventive and promotive strategies, NHIF to be restructured.
Digital Superhighway: To lay additional 100,000km of the national fibre-optic network, automate 80 per cent of government services
Rule of Law: Orders investigations into police killer squad, commits to independence of independent institutions
Climate Change: To grow 5 billion trees in the next 5 years, 10 billion trees by 2032, to hire 2,700 forest rangers and 600 forest officers


National healing: Little commitment to heal political divisions which have always undermined unity
Cost of living: Besides relief food distribution, no measure unveiled to address cost of living in the immediate term
Historical injustices: was mum on the transitional justice agenda, ignored by previous regime as it relates to land grabs, political assassinations etc.
Gender inclusiveness: The Constitutional one third gender rule remains a mirage, and is increasingly being pushed to the periphery of national discussions

National debt: No word on spiraling national debt and how Kenya will get itself out of the hole previous administration dug itself into
Economy, wealth creation: No clear strategies outlined to grow economy and create wealth for all
Jobs creation: Apart from the agricultural production plan, zero mention on how government will spur manufacturing agenda.

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