high prices

Kenya is heading in the wrong direction, citizens tell Ruto as he marks one year in office

By Victor Abuso

Posted on September 14, 2023 10:20

Rising fuel and food prices are squeezing Kenyan consumers. (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)
Rising fuel and food prices are squeezing Kenyan consumers. (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)

Kenya President William Ruto marked one year in office this week, as Kenyans polled say they are losing hope with his administration.

Some 53% of Kenyans say their living standard is worse, according to a poll by Trends and Insights For Africa (TIFA), a Nairobi-based research firm.

Ruto portrayed himself as a hustler, who understood the needs of the poor during the campaigning last year.

One of his promises was to reduce the cost of living and revive the economy while creating employment opportunities for the youth.

“My government will reduce the cost of maize flour to at least KSh100 ($0.68),” Ruto said, but instead the prices range between KSh180 ($1.20) to KSh230 ($1.57) to date.

The report stated, ‘The living standards of the majority of Kenyans are worse than they were a year ago; they are poorer.” This conclusion was drawn after conducting a survey in different parts of the country between 8 and 10 September.

Cost of living

Ruto is facing criticism for failing to fulfill his promise of reducing the cost of living. Instead, he has imposed new taxes, which have resulted in skyrocketing prices for essential commodities such as food, fuel, and electricity.

His close associates, led by Senator Samson Cherargei, say he is delivering on his promises.

In another survey conducted by Infotrak research firm between 21 and 23 August, Ruto achieved mixed results, giving the President a “C” rating, which is considered above average.

However, in the same poll, another 53% of Kenyans, the majority of whom voted for Ruto, say he has betrayed them and not kept his promise.

Disappointed citizens

“Kenyans believe the country is heading in the wrong direction,” said Angela Ambitho, the firm’s director, in her report, which shows Kenyans are disappointed with how Ruto has addressed issues such as the high cost of living, unemployment, and governance.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who continues to dispute Ruto’s victory, organised street protests in March, criticising Ruto’s economic policies, which he says caused ordinary Kenyans to suffer.

Susan Njeri, an unemployed single mother of two, voted for Ruto in the hope that things would improve for her and her children. One year later, she is disappointed. She tells The Africa Report that life has become unbearable.

“I struggle to feed my family every day. Things were better during Uhuru Kenyatta’s regime,” she says.

Njeri applied for a Hustler’s Fund loan, one of Ruto’s highlighted achievements according to research groups, to start a small business, but she could only borrow up to KSh700.

“What can such a small amount do?” she says, urging Ruto to fulfill his promises.

Hustler Fund

Last November, Ruto launched the Hustler Fund, worth KSh50bn ($341m), with the intention of assisting more than 15 million unemployed Kenyans in borrowing funds to start small businesses.

Sugarcane and maize farmer George Ochieng lives and works in Homa Bay county in the Western region. He supports the opposition coalition Azimio la Umoja and did not vote for Ruto.

However, he tells The Africa Report that he has benefited from Ruto’s programme on subsidised fertiliser to help farmers. Before Ruto took office, Ochieng used to purchase a 50kg bag of fertiliser for KSh6,000, but now he buys it for KSh3,000.

“Ruto has delivered affordable fertiliser and so I’m hoping to get a good harvest,” he says.

Despite the majority of Kenyans remaining unsatisfied with Ruto’s performance in his first year in office, political analyst Brian Wanyama says the Kenya Kwanza government has an enormous burden to ensure political stability and deliver on its promises.

“Wanyama says Ruto should not fear engaging with the opposition to govern in peace. Instead, he needs to stop making more promises and focus on delivering what he pledged to Kenyans,” he tells The Africa Report.

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