By NLM Writer
The August 9 presidential election lived up to expectations by producing probably the most fiercely contested poll in the history of Kenya, with the William Ruto-led Kenya Kwanza coalition taking victory.
The 2022 presidential election was unlike any other. William Ruto seized the initiative very early into the campaign by defining the contest as one between the haves (dynasties) and the have-nots (hustlers). Kenya’s presidential election is historically contested along the contours of the tribe. Of course, Ruto’s critics have argued that Ruto is a billionaire who duped the gullible voter by presenting himself as an ordinary hustler. But don’t we all know that politics is more perception than reality? And this is where Odinga and his team got it all wrong.
Niccolo Machiavelli once advised that politics have no relation to morals. Odinga styles himself as the saint of Kenyan politics and frequently boasts about his lack of association with any serious public scandal. Owing to this self-imposed duty to play fair and clean, his side largely treated the power tussle between himself and then DP Ruto as a church service. Ruto’s politics is one built around the mantra of the end justifying the means.
Prior to the August polls, Odinga and his team treated Kenyans to endless calls for William Ruto to step away from government because Jaramogi did the same in 1966. In retrospect, one cannot help but marvel at the astonishing lack of self-awareness within the Azimio Coalition. When they were called out for launching a dull and consumption-driven manifesto, Azimio’s response was equally naïve. They retorted that a manifesto is a mere expression of intent. While this is largely true in mature democracies of the west, it is political utopia that does nothing to aid a campaign in poor developing societies. Kenya Kwanza got the drill and launched a more visible manifesto, packed with more refined promises and economic statistics. Theirs appeared more tangible and believable and inspired some hope in economically desperate times.
Most politicians know all too well that to win an election you must campaign in poetry. Governing is however a whole different ball game. And this is probably the greatest test William Ruto will face in his illustrious political career. Reconciling his campaign promises with real tangible deliverables in a harsh economic environment will be hard. He has promised so much in times and moments of extreme scarcity. Did Kenya Kwanza bite more than they can chew? Ruto’s many critics also believe that he unfairly and unreasonably targeted his former boss, Uhuru Kenyatta, for anything and everything that went wrong within the Jubilee government.
Two weeks into the new administration, there are some positive signs of goodwill and commitment. President Ruto must be commended for appointing the six judges who were shortchanged by his predecessor. This is a big win for constitutional order and the rule of law. Agricultural subsidies must be encouraged because they are backed by sound economic logic. Nearly all economic sectors have a strong link to the agricultural sector and abandoning farmers would invite death to the entire economy. Every serious economy runs programs to cushion its farmers against external economic shocks. The announcement of fertilizer subsidy is therefore a sound policy directive.
But Kenyans are yearning for more. They are waiting for the Sh50 billion a year hustler fund to provide MSMEs with 100 percent access to affordable finance. Kenyans are waiting for 250,000 new housing units per year. They are waiting for the growth of mortgages from the measly 30,000 that is obtaining currently to 1,000,000. They are also waiting for NHIF coverage for all. We can’t wait for the promised 100,000km of national fibre optic connectivity network in the next five years. We shall hold you accountable for the promised turn-around strategy for Kenya Airways within six months. We are looking forward to the promised 5 million acres (20,000 km2) of agroforestry woodlots in drylands.
Kenya Kwanza has further promised to bridge the current teacher shortage gap of 116,000 within two financial years. We are keenly watching to see if this huge teacher gap is bridged within the schedule. University and tertiary students can’t wait to see the promised National Skill and Funding Council that amalgamates HELB, TVET and University Funding Board come to fruition, even as the funding is increased to bridge the current 45 per cent gap.
The women of Kenya are eager for the 50 per cent cabinet positions for women promised in the manifesto. In fact, this promise is the easiest of them all in terms of implementation. It requires only goodwill. This is low-hanging fruit for Kenya Kwanza. But this promise shall also serve as the acid test of commitment to your manifesto. Furthermore, women expect nothing less than the promised free sanitary towels in all schools and public washrooms. Kenyans also expect 100 per cent NHIF coverage for People with Disabilities within 18 months
Finally, the government must not forget its promise to strengthen governance and the rule of law. Kenya Kwanza promised, among other things, to finance independent institutions and enhance their technical capacity; adopt human rights approach in the war on terror; enhance the independence of EACC and the police to end their reliance on the Office of the President; entrench the independence of the Judiciary by operationalizing the Judiciary Fund; appoint all judges nominated by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to the Court of Appeal within seven days; establish a quasi-judicial public inquiry into state capture; transfer all devolved functions to counties, and transfer shareable revenue to counties in a timely manner. President Ruto must be accountable for each one of these promises.