blind eye?

Kenya: Ruto asks for more time to reduce cost of living, opponents say he has failed on promises

By Victor Abuso

Posted on November 3, 2022 11:11

 © Kenya’s President William Ruto in Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)
Kenya’s President William Ruto in Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)

Kenya’s President William Ruto is asking for a period of one year to deal with the high cost of living, while blaming his predecessor – Uhuru Kenyatta – for implementing policies that failed to tackle the skyrocketing prices of basic commodities, such as food, electricity and fuel.

In the run-up to August’s presidential polls, Ruto had promised to deal with the situation with immediacy, should he win.

“We shall reduce the cost of living, just give me one year to deal with it,” Ruto told residents of Kibera slums in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

However, almost two months after he was sworn in, Ruto has ruled out the possibility of government subsidies for basic commodities, particularly maize flour. He has instead announced that his administration will use KSh3.6bn ($29.6m) to purchase fertiliser to boost farm production that will then reduce the price of maize flour.

Ruto’s statement comes at a time when ordinary Kenyans are complaining of soaring prices, notably of maize flour, which is used to prepare ugali – a staple food in Kenya.

In the last five years, the price of 2kg of maize flour rose from KSh100 ($0.82) to KSh230 ($1.89), making it difficult for ordinary citizens to afford it.

I voted for Ruto, but I’m disappointed. He is not implementing what he promised. Life is hard.

Jane Abura, who lives in Nairobi, is a single mother of two children and depends on laundry work to make a living. She says her daily wage of KSh200 is not enough for her family. She is disappointed that the government has not improved the situation.

“I cannot trust the president. Why [is Ruto asking for] one year [yet] things are tough?” she says.

During his electoral campaign, Ruto referred to himself as a ‘hustler’ and someone who understands the struggles of the poor. However, for Dennis Waweru, who works as a motorcycle (bodaboda) driver in the Kasarani area of Nairobi, the government has not made any efforts to reduce the cost of living.

 “I voted for Ruto, but I’m disappointed. He is not implementing what he promised. Life is hard,” he tells The Africa Report.

Brian Wanyama, a political analyst, warns that if Ruto does not prioritise how he can work on reducing the high cost of living, he will lose trust from those who voted for him.

“Those who voted for Ruto believed that he [would] deal with their challenges, he should not disappoint [them],” he tells The Africa Report.

Opposition points to failure

Even as Ruto asks for more time, his opponents say he has failed and his promises cannot be trusted.

Raila Odinga, who was Ruto’s main challenger during the August election, has accused the president of turning a blind eye to the suffering of Kenyans after he was sworn in.

“Ruto promised to lower the cost of maize flour to KSh70. He keeps on [reneging on] the promise,” Raila recently said.

On the other hand, Ruto has blamed Raila for misleading the former government to use public funds every month towards maize flour and fuel subsidies.

Drought challenge

Apart from the price hikes of basic commodities, Kenya is also facing a drought that has left over 4 million people without food and water.

The Kenya National Drought Management Authority says the drought situation continues to worsen in 20 counties. The situation is due to four successive failed rainy seasons – an effect of climate change.

President Ruto is pleading for humanitarian support to alleviate the situation, which experts say could stretch to the new year.

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