Ruto says Azimio using cost of living to drive agenda

President William Ruto has said the violent protests by the opposition in Kenya have little to do with the high cost of living and are mostly about the elections.

According to Ruto, the protests are about the August 2022 general election, which was settled.  

“The riots in Nairobi are not so much about the cost of living. It is so much about some election results which are a settled matter. But of course, because the cost of living is a pregnant issue, it is an emotive issue. Our competitors are trying to take advantage of it,” said Ruto.  

Even so, speaking to Germany’s DW, Ruto acknowledged that the country is facing a myriad of issues including the high cost of living.  

The Head of State said he is working to resolve the crisis through imports of foods and empowering farmers to increase the country’s produce.  

“We have registered 5 million farmers. We are providing fertilizers and seeds for them to grow. And we are importing food from across the globe where some of the imports arrived last week. We’ve cleared some of them to begin to tamper the price of commodities.” 

He added, “We are also investing long term on irrigation and but that’s part of the conversation I will be having with German officials on how we can work together to change our agriculture from being rain-fed to being an agriculture under irrigation.” 

When asked about the increase of taxes, a sticking point for the opposition, Ruto said, “There are no increases of any taxes that we have proposed that are punitive.” 

The opposition led by Raila Odinga has accused the Kenya Kwanza government of increasing taxes that have further exacerbated the high cost of living.  

In defending his government, Ruto rejected claims that the increase in taxes have anything to do with a discussion between Kenya and the International Monetary Fund. 

“The IMF has no role in how we run the affairs of our country. We are in charge of the economy,” he said.

In August 2022, IMF and Kenya agreed on three conditions, known as structural benchmarks, which include the implementation of a national tax policy, the elimination of fuel subsidies, and a push for Kenya Power to close its fiscal gap completely by 2023. 

These terms added to Kenya’s 38-month $2.34 billion (KES 276 billion) loan deal signed in April 2021 under the special drawing rights (SDR), which is currently being settled in tranches and will be carried over to the next administration. 

According to the police on Monday, March 27, property of unknown cost was destroyed during the demonstrations including a break into Northlands property linked to former President Uhuru Kenyatta and East Africa Spectre, linked to opposition leader Raila Odinga.  

Inspector General of Police Japheth Koome said 23 police officers were injured and two police cars were destroyed.  

Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Raila vowed to continue with the mass protests every Monday and Thursday.  

Ruto is on an official visit to Belgium and Germany and is expected to meet his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and hold talks aimed at strengthening bilateral relations between Kenya and Germany in Berlin. 

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