It has been over a year since President William Ruto make an oath as the fifth president of Kenya. He took power at a time when Kenya was plagued by rising food and fuel prices, high unemployment and a dire situation. debt burden.
During the election campaign, Ruto promised to repair an economy affected by Corruption And ineptitude. He promised to consolidate good governance and place the poor In the center of economic policy. He is committed to tackling ethnicized politics and to defend constitutionalism and the rule of law.
Ruto’s promises were significant. The rule of law and constitutionalism are essential to economic planning and development, governance and the equitable sharing of national resources.
They constitute safeguards against impunity, democratic backsliding, anarchy and political instability. Throughout Kenya’s postcolonial period, the political elite has exploited ethnicity to gain power at the expense of collective well-being and social cohesion. Elite entitlement has also weakened state institutions, leading to corruption and impunity.
I have studied democratic transitions, conflicts, state building and elections in Africa. My 2018 book examined how the political class had exploited ethnicity for political and economic gain, resulting in weak and even dysfunctional state institutions in Kenya.
During his election campaign, Ruto identified major issues that required urgent attention. He addressed issues that required rapid action without constitutional changes, such as easing tensions between the executive and judiciary, decoupling finances from the police and executive, and transferring port operations to the city coastal Mombasa from the inland town of Naivasha.
But resolving Kenya’s economic woes has proven an uphill battle, as his November 9, 2023 state of the nation address showed. recognized. A little over a year after being sworn in, Ruto is no closer to righting the Kenyan ship.
As a candidate, Ruto presented himself as a outsider to Kenya’s power matrix who was best placed to improve the living conditions of the poor and excluded. But the economy has not improved under his leadership. On the contrary, living conditions have worsen.
The cost of living is higher following the sharp increase in the price of gasoline and the loss of value of the local currency. The Ruto government imposed new and increased taxes on Kenyans, apparently to reduce or eliminate the need for external borrowing.
The government’s key strategy was to subsidize fertilizer to increase harvests and ensure food security. Whether this will happen remains to be seen. More deliberate measures are needed to make agriculture the mainstay of the economy.
On the issue of centering the poor and marginalized in governance, Ruto focused on the financial sector. The government deployed the “Hustler Fund” to make credit more affordable.
But the fund’s impact on overall living standards, through job creation, for example, will likely be offset by a punitive tax regime and a struggling economy.
Rule of law
Ruto’s first public event as president was to approve the appointment of six judges left in limbo by his predecessor, Uhuru Kenyatta. He also kept his promise to allocate more funds to the justice system.
However, consolidating the rule of law and constitutionalism requires more than that. Bailiffs must act with the greatest integrity. To affirm equality before the law, high-ranking state officials and the political elite must face the law and, if found guilty, be decisively punished.
The Kenyan justice system is still plagued by corruption which hinders access to justice. Worryingly, he seems more inclined to punish the poor while allowing the rich and the political elite to act with impunity. Ruto himself obeyed court decisions that were unfavorable to him, unlike Kenyatta, where contempt because the law was the norm. However, critics, notably the Law Society of Kenya, have accused his administration to disobey court orders like his predecessor.
Ruto expressed himself against extrajudicial and summary executions and forced disappearances, perfected by the police over the years. He sought to grant the police financial and operational autonomy. He thus transferred the accounting of the police budget to the police as he had promised.
Despite these changes, a culture of impunity and lack of transparency continues to undermine the Kenyan police. Extrajudicial executions continue. The policy should be placed under civil surveillance as provided for in the Constitution.
The failure to set up a commission of inquiry into state capture under his predecessor, as promised during the campaign, has undermined Ruto’s commitment to fighting corruption. A year later, no commission of inquiry has been formed and the issue appears to have been completely abandoned.
Ruto is unlikely to deliver on his manifesto unless he curbs rampant corruption and the culprits are held accountable. The rule of law requires that proceeds of crime be recovered and offenders be charged with economic sabotage. This approach would avoid having to impose additional taxes and borrowing on Kenyans.
This is also a setback that Ruto acceded to talks to appease the opposition elite who had resorted to violent protests against his historic victory. These elitist and self-serving talks could lead to constitutional amendments creating more political positions according to a cynically erroneous logic according to which this approach strengthens national cohesion. It’s a about my turn from Ruto.
Ultimately, national cohesion is Ruto’s pressing challenge. Kenya is divided on many fronts – economic, ethnic, regional and religious – a legacy of previous governments. Ruto must look beyond ethno-regional appointments. For greater legitimacy and transformation, he must reconnect ideologically with and restore dignity to the “scam nation,” the disenfranchised constituency that propelled him to power. Barring that, he could face a hotly contested re-election bid like his predecessors.
By Westen K Shilaho, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation (IPATC), University of Johannesburg