William Ruto’s Inauguration and Kenya’s Next Steps

-Oyale Adejo

Kenyan President William Ruto was sworn in on Tuesday, September 13th, 2022 after defeating Raila Odinga in the general elections held in August. Ruto received 50.5% of the vote to Odinga’s 48.8%. Before ascending to the highest office, William Ruto served as the deputy to outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta. Unfortunately, they had a falling out during their second term in office and went months without speaking to each other. During the swearing-in ceremony, the crowd at Nairobi’s Kasarani stadium cheered loudly as the two men shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.

Ruto’s humble beginnings helped him sell himself to the Keyans. His campaign flag featured a wheelbarrow, and he portrayed himself as a roadside chicken vendor. This theme helped him win the hearts of many people who saw him as similar to them and the polar opposite of the political class represented by Kenyatta and Odinga. Kenyans now look to Ruto to make his campaign promises a reality. At the inauguration, Christian and Muslim clerics offered prayers and blessings, and Ruto promised to keep both religions united while he is in office.

With the inauguration behind him, President William Ruto will be eager to get things going as soon as possible. Kenya has been confronted with a number of challenges, including a food and fuel crisis, rising unemployment, and public debt. However, based on his inauguration speech and his time in government, he appears to be well aware of the challenges ahead and eager to get things in order.

Some significant promises have already been made and actions have been taken top of which is the removal of petrol subsidy. Kenya, as a non-oil-producing country, relies on petroleum imports to keep automobiles operating and households and industries running. Unfortunately, global oil prices are currently at an all-time high. As a result, the country spends a lot of money to buy it and then subsidise it for the people. This year, it has spent $1.2 billion, or approximately 86% of tourism earnings, to subsidise petroleum products. This has had a negative impact on the development process and Ruto is determined for subsidy to go. 

In addition, due to the impact of fossil fuels on climate change, Kenya has a plan to transition to 100% clean energy by 2030. Therefore, Ruto proposes that the country’s fuel dependence be phased out and replaced with geothermal and solar energy. Some Kenyan policy analysts believe this is a step in the right direction. Many countries are suffering as a result of the use of fossil fuels. As a result, he believes that if they want to use fossil fuels, they must be willing to pay the high costs that come with it. Other forms of renewable energy and solar energy, on the other hand, will be available in the future. What is unclear is whether Kenya has the resources and expertise to effect the desired change by 2030.

Kenya is experiencing a food deficit in agriculture. As part of his efforts to address the East African country’s food crisis, Ruto promised to cut fertiliser prices by half and make 40 million bags available. He stated that this would start a week after his inauguration. This will assist the country’s farmers in meeting the food quota, which has been reduced due to drought in some parts of East Africa.

Police reform is also high on his priority list, and he is committed to ensuring that the police are primarily used to maintain law and order. According to President Ruto, the police must never be used as a tool by any citizen or political rival of the government.  For this reason , he promised that the Kenyan Police would be autonomous of the federal government. Kenyans believe this is a positive step because it may help reduce cases of police brutality and free the police from the act of going after perceived political rivals. However, independence may result in a reduction in the number of police officers in the country.

Ruto was also praised for promising to collaborate closely with the judiciary. He demonstrated this by increasing the judiciary’s budgetary allocation by 3 billion Kenyan shillings, which will be used to expand the small people’s court. Furthermore, six judges who had been passed over for appointment by outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta were appointed.

There appears to be no bad blood between him and his former boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta. This was demonstrated when Ruto praised Kenyatta for his efforts to promote peace in the East African region. He publicly requested that he continue talks with neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia, where the government is fighting Tigray forces, and Eastern Congo, where there are tensions with Rwanda. Therefore , it appears like the two would be collaborating on issues concerning  international politics in the region. Despite the happy cheers and promises to work with everyone, regardless of political differences, some local broadcasters, whom Ruto had previously accused of bias, were barred from covering the inauguration event live. As a result, it is unclear whether the press will be allowed to operate freely under this new regime.

Raila Odinga, his political opponent, accepted the Supreme Court ruling but boycotted the inauguration ceremony in Nairobi. On Monday, he stated that he would announce his next steps in the coming days. There is a good chance that he is preparing to be the main opposition voice in the coming years.

Kenya is the East African country with the most stable democracy.  Therefore, it was wonderful to see an election take place in the country with fewer reports of violence than the previous elections of 2007 and 2017, and to witness a peaceful transition of power. However, William Ruto faces a difficult task ahead of him. He appears determined to take the country to greater heights and is willing to fight for the common man, but with a rising debt profile of more than 68 billion US dollars, global economic problems, and climate change ravaging the earth, he will need to dig deep and find ways to stay on course.

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