Kenya’s President Ruto’s First Year: A Saga of Trials and Triumphs

Kenya’s President Ruto's First Year: A Saga of Trials and Triumphs Kenya’s President Ruto's First Year: A Saga of Trials and Triumphs
Kenya’s President Ruto's First Year: A Saga of Trials and Triumphs

In the 2017 presidential elections, Kenyans were hopeful for change. William Ruto, the former Deputy President, positioned himself as a champion of the ordinary people, promising to address their struggles and lower the cost of living.

However, as Ruto’s first year in office comes to an end, many Kenyans are left disappointed and disillusioned. What was meant to be a year of trials and triumphs for President Ruto has instead been marked by controversy and unmet expectations.

Kenya’s President Ruto's First Year: A Saga of Trials and Triumphs
President William Ruto during the presidential debate tier at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa on July 26, 2022. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE

Many Kenyans have been vocal about their dissatisfaction with Ruto’s administration. Some even go as far as calling him “Zakayo,” after the biblical tax collector Zacchaeus who was notorious for squeezing every last penny out of the people he collected taxes from. The comparisons are fitting, as many feel Ruto has burdened them with a heavy financial load.

Fred Ooko, an IT specialist from Nairobi, echoes the sentiment of a significant portion of the population when he says, “Ruto’s one year in office has been a burden that most of us cannot bear.” It is not just the burden that has disillusioned the people; many also believe Ruto’s administration to be the worst in Kenya’s history so far.

During his campaign, Ruto promised to lower the cost of living, but unfortunately, one year later, not much has changed. In fact, many Kenyans feel that they are worse off under his leadership. This stark contrast between promises and reality has fueled disappointment and resentment.

Critics argue that Ruto’s actions contradict his pre-election rhetoric. “He came in with lots of populist promises about how he was going to change the systems to make Kenya work more for its citizens rather than just for the elite,” says Kenyan political commentator Patrick Gathara. However, instead of addressing the concerns of ordinary citizens, Ruto removed existing subsidies on essential goods like food and fuel, claiming they were not effective. This decision appeared to be tone-deaf and out of touch with the struggles of the people.

Furthermore, Ruto’s administration has been marred by allegations of corruption and mismanagement. Several high-ranking officials within his government have been implicated in corruption scandals, raising questions about Ruto’s commitment to tackling the issue. Transparency and accountability were key promises made during his campaign, but there has been little evidence of progress in this regard.

However, amidst the disappointments and criticism, it is important to acknowledge that Ruto’s first year in office has not been without its triumphs. The government has made some commendable strides in key areas such as infrastructure development and job creation. There have been notable improvements in road networks and the initiation of various construction projects across the country. These achievements should not be overlooked, as they contribute to the overall progress of the nation.

President Ruto’s first year in office has been a saga of trials and triumphs. While some may argue that the trials have overshadowed the triumphs, it is essential to look at the bigger picture. Kenya is a country with immense potential, and its leaders, including Ruto, have a responsibility to harness this potential for the betterment of its citizens.

The Burden and Accountability of Collecting Taxes

Kenya’s President Ruto's First Year: A Saga of Trials and Triumphs
Kenya’s President Ruto’s First Year: A Saga of Trials and Triumphs

In Kenya, like in many other countries, collecting taxes has become a pressing issue that has burdened its citizens and raised questions about accountability.

In recent years, Kenya has witnessed a significant increase in the cost of living. Despite a slight decline in inflation, the prices of basic goods such as petrol, electricity, sugar, and beans have skyrocketed. This has made it increasingly difficult for the average Kenyan to make ends meet. In an attempt to address this issue, President Ruto signed into law a finance bill in July that was expected to generate over $2.1 billion for the government’s coffers.

However, this bill also introduced new taxes and increased the prices of essential goods, including fuel and food. Additionally, it imposed a controversial levy on all taxpayers to fund a housing scheme. While the government argues that these taxes are necessary to create jobs and reduce public borrowing, many Kenyans are struggling financially and feel that their tax money is being mismanaged.

Nerima Wako, the CEO of Siasa Place, an NGO engaging youth in governance, highlights the disparity between the promises made by the government and the reality experienced by the majority of Kenyans. She points out that a significant portion of the population, over 50 million people, live below the poverty line, with limited access to healthcare, housing, and clean water. The lack of tangible improvements in infrastructure and public services has left Kenyans questioning the use of their tax payments.

While Kenyans acknowledge the importance of paying taxes, they are increasingly concerned about the lack of accountability and transparency regarding the allocation of these funds. Many wonder where exactly their tax money is going and why they are not witnessing the promised improvements in roads, healthcare, and power supply. This disconnect between the government’s promises and the reality on the ground has eroded trust and left Kenyans feeling burdened by taxes while simultaneously being denied the benefits they should receive in return.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has criticized the new taxes, referring to them as a mistake and an experiment that Kenyans cannot afford. He also claims that these taxes have earned President Ruto the nickname Zakayo, emphasizing the negative impact they have had on the public’s perception of the government’s handling of taxation.

Fighting with the opposition

Kenya’s President Ruto's First Year: A Saga of Trials and Triumphs
Kenya’s President Ruto’s First Year: A Saga of Trials and Triumphs

The political landscape of any nation is often marked by fierce competition, differing ideologies, and vociferous disagreements. This is especially true when it comes to the relationship between the ruling party and the opposition. While this can sometimes lead to discord and animosity, it is important to recognize that constructive opposition can be a catalyst for positive change within a country.

One such example can be found in the recent events that unfolded in Kenya. In the aftermath of a closely contested election, the opposition led by Odinga expressed their dissatisfaction, claiming they were cheated out of victory. Frustrations were further fueled by the government’s decision to end subsidies and increase taxes, leading to a surge in prices of essential commodities. These factors served as a rallying point for the opposition, who called on Kenyans to take to the streets in protest.

The ensuing protests saw a considerable loss of life and hundreds of injuries. International organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch extensively documented the human rights abuses that occurred during this period. Amidst the chaos, a glimmer of hope emerged as both the ruling coalition and the opposition agreed to embark on a path of dialogue and reconciliation.

In August 2023, a 10-member bipartisan national dialogue team was formed, comprising representatives from both the ruling party and the opposition. This bold step towards collaboration aimed to resolve the country’s political disputes and lay the groundwork for a united and prosperous Kenya. It is a testament to the power of dialogue that despite their differences, both sides recognized the need for a peaceful and inclusive resolution.

“We’re hoping that this will result in some form of coordination and collaboration so that we can all move forward,” expressed Wako, a member of the national dialogue team.

This sentiment accurately captures the essence of the situation at hand. In a nation deeply divided along political lines, it is essential to establish a framework that encourages cooperation and collective progress.

The significance of constructive opposition should not be underestimated. A vibrant opposition serves as a necessary check on the ruling party’s power, preventing complacency and ensuring accountability. When channeled appropriately, opposition movements can shed light on the concerns and grievances of the population, paving the way for transformative policy changes.

In the case of Kenya, the opposition was successful in bringing attention to the rising cost of living and the hardships faced by ordinary citizens. By mobilizing Kenyans and pressuring the government to address these concerns, the opposition played a pivotal role in sparking a national dialogue. This dialogue offers an opportunity for collective problem-solving and the formulation of effective policies that address the needs of the people.

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