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A Deep Dive into the Complexities of Kenya’s President William Ruto

A Deep Dive into the Complexities of Kenya's President William Ruto A Deep Dive into the Complexities of Kenya's President William Ruto
Kenyan President William Ruto at the Palace of the Nation in Kinshasa on November 21, 2022. – (Photo by Arsene Mpiana / AFP)

Kenya’s President William Ruto has been a subject of great interest and scrutiny since he came to power in September 2022. His personality and actions have led to varied opinions about him, some viewing him as a dependable ally while others see him as a divisive figure.

One of the complexities surrounding President Ruto is his ability to maintain a calm and inscrutable demeanor, despite the challenges he faces. While he often wears a smile, his eyes often reveal a different story, suggesting that it may not be a warm smile. This ability to hide his true emotions has baffled many observers and has added to the air of mystery surrounding him.

A Deep Dive into the Complexities of Kenya's President William Ruto
A Deep Dive into the Complexities of Kenya’s President William Ruto

When it comes to foreign relations, President William Ruto has managed to make friends abroad while simultaneously making enemies at home. His government was one of the few African governments that openly criticised Russian President Vladimir Putin’s withdrawal from a deal that allowed Ukrainian grain to pass through the Black Sea without interference. This move was seen as a betrayal by Ruto’s foreign ministry, who called it “a stab in the back.” Despite other African heads of state rushing to attend a summit with Putin, Ruto chose to stay behind.

In addition, Ruto has taken a different stance on China compared to his predecessor, Uhuru Kenyatta. While Kenyatta seemed to cozy up to China, Ruto appears to be more at ease with Western capitals. This is evident in his travel history, as he has visited European countries eight times, America twice, South Korea once, but has not travelled to China at all. This stark difference in approach has raised eyebrows and led to speculation about Ruto’s motivations and alliances.

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A Deep Dive into the Complexities of Kenya's President William Ruto
Kenyan President William Ruto at the Palace of the Nation in Kinshasa on November 21, 2022. – (Photo by Arsene Mpiana / AFP)

Furthermore, President Ruto’s decision to not attend the recent recent brics summit in Johannesburg has generated both praise and criticism. The brics grouping, consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, is seen as an important platform for discussing global issues and forging alliances. Ruto’s absence from the summit has been interpreted by some as a deliberate snub towards China and an indication of his alignment with Western powers. Others, however, see it as a missed opportunity for Kenya to strengthen its ties with emerging economies.

In response to America’s call for assistance in restoring order in Haiti, Mr. Ruto promptly offered to send a contingent of 1,000 police officers. He has also emerged as a mediator in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, displaying his growing influence in climate diplomacy. A Western diplomat gushes that Mr. Ruto has become “indispensable in pretty much every area.”

However, it is important to note that Mr. Ruto’s affinity for the West is often conditional or driven by transactions. When the International Criminal Court charged him with involvement in ethnic violence following a disputed election in 2007, he and his co-accused, Mr. Kenyatta, effectively stoked anti-Western sentiment to secure their rise to power. It should be noted that both men vehemently denied the charges against them, and the cases eventually collapsed.

Throughout his tenure as Mr. Kenyatta’s deputy over the span of ten years, Mr. Ruto demonstrated little inclination favouring Western ideals. Since assuming the presidency himself, his rhetoric has occasionally aligned more closely with Beijing and Moscow rather than Washington’s stance on certain matters — including advocating for reduced dependence on the dollar and expressing reservations about Western dominance within global financial institutions.

It is worth mentioning that Mr.Ruto’s pro-Western actions are primarily motivated by economic necessity as Kenya’s heavily indebted economy relies on support from entities such as the IMF after experiencing a reduction in Chinese assistance and limited incentives from Russia.

Despite his promises to champion the poor, Mr Ruto has faced criticism from many Kenyans. While inflation has slowed since he took office, the rising cost of essential goods such as maize meal and electricity has put a strain on citizens. A recent poll indicates that only 15% of Kenyans believe their country is moving in the right direction.

In addition to economic challenges, Mr Ruto has also faced protests led by his political rival Raila Odinga. The cost-of-living crisis and increased taxes have allowed Odinga to position himself as an advocate for the disadvantaged. Inheriting a significant fiscal deficit, Mr Ruto had little choice but to impose spending cuts and seek additional revenue. However, some argue that he lacks a broad enough mandate for these reforms.

In July, violent protests erupted across multiple counties in Kenya. While Mr Ruto condemned the demonstrators as hooligans, security forces responded forcefully with tear gas and live ammunition. Tragically, this resulted in the deaths of at least 27 individuals.

It is clear that Mr Ruto’s tenure has been marked by challenges and discontent among Kenyans.

According to Eric Theuri, the president of the Law Society of Kenya, Mr Ruto’s recent actions remind him of the oppressive regime under Daniel Arap Moi, who was Kenya’s president from 1978 to 2002. This resemblance is particularly apparent after two members of parliament were arrested and charged with subversion. Additionally, a blogger named Pauline Njoroge found herself facing legal action for allegedly attempting to “discredit the reputation of the head of state” through a tweet questioning Mr Ruto’s actions.

In conclusion, the complexities surrounding Kenya’s President William Ruto make it difficult to fully understand his true intentions and alliances. His ability to maintain a stoic and inscrutable facade, combined with his contrasting approaches to global powers, has left many observers intrigued. As Ruto continues to navigate the intricacies of domestic and international politics, it remains to be seen how he will be perceived both at home and abroad.


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