Butchery and Democracy: Will Rutoʼs government be held to account?

I am at a butchery, expecting steak. The butcher seems to know this but still decided to disappoint and teach me yet another lesson in character development. My friend Martin speaks up. He wants the number of bones to be reduced.

“Didn’t you know that ribs are the best part of beef?” Mr. Butcher utters. Martin calls out his attempt to pull a salesman pitch. But Mr. Butcher doesn’t give up, he continues to explain why meat from cow thighs is tougher because of the muscles. At this point I’m actually intrigued, I had already conceded and ironically knew ‘beef’ had no place in a butchery, with sharp and deadly tools of work.

Was I being taken for a ride and entertaining it?

Absolute trust is the phrase that pops into my mind when I think of a butchery. And not supermarket butcheries, we are focusing on local butcheries; where flies indicate how fresh the meat is. When you move to a new area and intend to live there for a couple of years, you take time to find a butchery that will feed you meat for that period.

Thorough scrutiny will be applied – how clean is the butchery? Are they fair in portioning borne and meat? And eventually, you always want to go where the majority goes because collectively, you believe you can’t go wrong. As much as you follow the crowd, initially, it is always your independent choice because consequently, the beef will be prepared in different homes and individual experiences will tell whether it was good or bad. Some will be returning customers and others not.

See, every 5 years Kenyans go to the ballot to choose a president. Voting is the epitome of exercising your democratic right and by doing this, every Kenyan has in mind hope, hope that the leader they are choosing will make their life better than it was. Despite it being a secret ballot, it feels vulnerable because whoever one chooses the fact remains that we expose ourselves to uncertainty- in every election it always narrows down to a two-horse race and you try to make the right choice.

“In 6 months’ time the stadium in Wote will be complete, in 6 months’ time the stadium in Kamariny, West Pokot which is historic will be complete. In a couple of months, the stadium in Eldoret will be complete…” These words should be familiar, a familiarity of broken promises by William Ruto alongside his then partner in the presidential bid, Uhuru Kenyatta, on June 26, 2017. The words were meant to woo voters during the launch of their manifesto.

The Jubilee government promised that instead of the five stadia pledged in their manifesto in 2013 they were actually going to deliver 9 stadia across the country, a number that went up to 11 state-of-the-art stadia.

10 years later, stalled construction and corruption have seen the delivery of all 11 state-of-the-art stadia remain to be a pipe dream; an example is the ‘Historic’ Kamariny Stadium pitch which is currently just a heap of soil, six years later.

Remember the promised laptops for grade one pupils? A KSh. 24.6B renege to the county’s children. A project that only recently caused uproar in the inter-webs after the very same laptops surfaced in the Ugandan market being sold for throw-away prices. Kenyans have proved time and again that broken promises are not reason enough to deny politicians another chance to lead and leaders have certainly had their cake and ate it. 

On September 5, Kenya’s top Court made a historic ruling by upholding the 9 August 2022 election that declared William Ruto the president-elect of the Republic of Kenya.

In his speech after the Supreme Court judgment, Ruto together with his DP-elect Rigathi Gachagua made initial promises ahead of their inauguration. They exuded readiness to hit the road running once they are made official.

“I want to urge all our colleagues in this struggle, let us get to work; we are inheriting a country with a KSh. 10 trillion debt… we have work to do,” Gachagua said, and Ruto said in fulfillment of his promise to Kenyans to ensure the govt stays accountable, unlike President Uhuru Kenyatta, he will not embrace the handshake doctrine but will be open to dialogue with the opposition.

In their manifesto they sold hope to thousands of supporters, ‘hustlersʼ – mama mbogas and boda-bodas – who in his winning speech, called them heroes of this election. It will be interesting to see how the bottom-up strategy which was at the core of Kenya Kwanzaʼs agenda will be implemented.

“Kenyans are rightfully skeptical of lofty promises and seemingly well-crafted plans that never get implemented. We have developed this plan well aware that it will stand or fall on the how the question” captures the opening paragraph of the manifesto’s implementation framework, and continues to say “Prioritisation is critical because resources are scarce but also because we do not have the capacity to do everything at once. Limited resources mean that we must choose, but choosing one person’s preferences over another can create winners and losers, thereby undermining the goodwill needed to have everyone pulling in the same direction.

Enticing text, however, where the true test of democracy lies is in governance and implementation of the constitution. Our two new top leadersʼ political journey has not been without allegations of corrupt dealings amounting to billions; some were dismissed by court and others are ongoing cases.

On Monday, while thanking his friends Ruto said he will not use the criminal justice system to witch-hunt the opposition or those who critique his government like his predecessor “very special thanks goes to my friends, the people we started this journey with, under very difficult circumstances. I know many of you have suffered, have been harassed together with members of your families, and have been taken to court – the only crime being, you chose me as your friend,” insinuating that allegations towards most of his allies were just hot air.

In the Kenya Kwanza manifesto, they say “We are for completing the implementation of the Constitution, strengthening the rule of law, increasing access to justice, ensuring respect for human rights”. Now it is upon the opposition and the media to put this next govt to the task.

From voices all around the country, inclusive of regions that felt entitled to Rutoʼs win and those who had a sense of loss after the Supreme Court verdict, Kenyans are collectively pained by the state of the economy and tired of politicking. The expectation now is our new drivers will not take us for a ride but drive us towards eutopia.

The 13th Parliament will have a lot of work to do to amend the poor decisions by the 11th and 12th Parliaments that saw the country sink into a KSh 8.4 trillion public debt and unbearable inflation. The hope is that this time round, ‘waheshimiwa wataheshimu wananchi’.

The president’s in-tray should first focus on lowering the cost of living; it’s all about unga. With promises made to mama mboga and boda-boda operators, will their kitty and flowery charters hold?

President-elect William Ruto, you are the butcher, Kenyans are your loyal clients. Most expect you’ll cut them only slices of steak but also understand that that will not always be the case; sometimes they will have to deal with bones.

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