Six months in power: How President Ruto is faring on his pledges

When President William Ruto took office six months ago, he inherited a number of major challenges, including corruption and the resulting economic disruption, a growing number of unemployed citizens, and an almost irreparable cost of living.

Ruto promised on the campaign trail that he would fix all of these, rebuild the economy, and build a Kenya for all.

Kenya’s fifth now marks his first half-year in office with a mixed record of achievements and challenges.

He came to power on September 13, 2022 after a bitterly fought election against former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

However, while he has fulfilled some of his promises, others have either failed or remain unfulfilled, and he now faces growing resistance from the opposition, to the point where Azimio la Umoja leaders are planning mass protests against what they call an illegitimate government.

Ruto is overly ambitious in his targets, and the promises keep coming.

Here is a look at some of President Ruto’s key pledges and how he has performed on them thus far;

Cost of living

During his inauguration speech, President William Ruto emphasized the importance of addressing the cost of living by stating that the problems Kenya faces are related to production.

“Our strategy to bring down the cost of living is predicated on empowering producers,” he said.

The president stated that the maize harvest forecast for the previous year was less than 30 million bags, compared to the normal production of 40 million bags.

He stated that in order to address this, the government would bring subsidized fertilizer with a price drop from KES 6,500 per 50 kg bag to KES 3,500 per bag. In his first week in office, he distributed an initial 1.4 million bags.

However, with failed rains, Kenyan farmers have struggled, with crops drying up and the country is now facing the worst drought in over 40 years.

To address this, the government embarked on drought relief efforts. The president established the National Drought Response Steering Committee, but its impact has yet to be felt as the number of people affected by the drought continues to rise despite billions being raised.

Even though prices for some items such as flour and fuel have fallen slightly, the majority of Kenyans are still facing a cash crunch due to the lack of jobs, exacerbating their situation.

Financial inclusion and access to credit

President Ruto pledged to establish a government fund that will allow Kenyans to access money through their mobile phones. The government then allocated KES 50 billion as the Hustler’s fund initial capital.

Since then, the president has launched two Hustler’s Fund products: a personal loan and a micro loan, with the goal of providing cheap credit to segments of society that he said had been neglected for far too long.

The Hustlers Fund provides loans to businesses at the lowest annual interest rate in Kenya, 8%. The government has since stated that the response has been positive, and promised that more products are on the pipeline.

The head of state also promised to have over 4 million Kenyans removed from the CRB. Following his directive to the Central Bank of Kenya, institutions such as Safaricom and KCB took the measure to have defaulters taken out of the blacklist.

Cut on borrowing and cut government spending by KES 300 billion

President Ruto’s administration is still on a borrowing binge despite having pinned its campaigns on the Jubilee administration’s high affinity for loans.

The Treasury has contacted four foreign banks to set up a KES 76.8 billion syndicated loan to close the 2022–2023 budget deficit. According to a report by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) for September, October, and November, the Kenya Kwanza government took out loans totaling more than KES 137 billion during the first three months in office.

By June of this year, Kenya is anticipated to get a KES 129 billion loan from the World Bank.

Despite reports alleging that the government failed to meet the KES 300 billion spending budget cut target, the treasury explained on February 3, 2023 that emergencies like persistent drought and financing for the Competency Based Curriculum for public schools caused additional expenditure outside of the budgeted items. 

Rationalization of these expenditures would have created a fiscal deficit of over 8 percent of GDP. However, with a KES 300 billion budget cut, the fiscal deficit for FY 2022/23 dropped from 6.2 percent of GDP to 5.7%. The National Treasury asserted that the government’s intent to cut spending by KES 300 billion has been achieved and will be sustained until the end of the fiscal year, as part of the Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda.

Dealing with banditry

The Kerio Valley residents of Elgeyo Marakwet and other impacted counties, including West Pokot, Baringo, Laikipia, Turkana, and Samburu, have endured decades of unimaginable hardship brought on by banditry, which has resulted in numerous fatalities and injuries.

Tough-talking President Ruto has continuously reaffirmed his government’s commitment to combating banditry and said that it will use innovative methods to do so.

Additionally, in his most recent press conference, CS Kindiki sounded warnings to bandits once more and stated they were beginning to see results as more than 140 guns had been turned in. He said the operation to flush out bandits from their hideout was well on course.

Despite this, communities in the impacted areas continue to voice complaints as death toll rises. The ministry revealed that in the last seven months, over 135 innocent Kenyans including 20 security officers had been killed.

Committing to the two-thirds gender rule

On the topic of gender parity, Ruto stated during his inauguration speech that he was committed to the two-thirds gender rule as stated in the Constitution and that he would work with Parliament to expedite many legislative initiatives and create a framework to quickly address this issue.

In the run-up to the August elections, Ruto signed a charter with women at Nyayo Stadium in June, promising them 50% of his cabinet.

Ruto however failed to live up to his election campaign promises, as only seven women were named to his Cabinet, falling short of four.

Review police salaries and welfare

The Kenya Kwanza government had concerns that police and prison officers are being paid and given inadequate allowances.

On December 22, 2022, Ruto appointed a National Taskforce on Police Reforms led by ex-Chief Justice David Maraga to begin the process of reviewing police officer salaries.

The task force has already started looking into the terms and conditions of service for police and prison officers, including basic pay, allowances, housing, insurance, welfare, and psychosocial support.

Revert goods clearing and operational issues to the port of Mombasa 

During the presidential campaigns in Mombasa and Nakuru counties, the transfer of port services from Mombasa to the Nairobi and Naivasha Inland Container Depots (ICD) was a major topic.

President Ruto overturned an Uhuru decision ordering that all cargo clearance be reverted back to the Mombasa port on his first day in office.

Ruto said that thousands of people had lost their jobs as a result of the previous administration’s requirement that all items be transported to Nairobi and other hinterlands via the SGR.

Resolve the CBC issue through public participation

In the interest of improving the CBC curriculum, President Ruto committed to increase public participation. After taking office, the president formed a 42-member taskforce to assess the country’s education system and make recommendations.

Notwithstanding the committee’s suggestions, there are still issues with the infrastructure and teacher shortage.

According to CS Machogu, 96% of grade six students who took the Kenya Primary School Education Assessment (KPSEA) test successfully transitioned to junior secondary school.

Setting up a commission of inquiry on state capture

The much-touted Commission of Inquiry to investigate allegations of state capture, corruption, and fraud in the public sector was merely a promise that never materialized.

President William Ruto’s allies, including himself, appear to have backtracked on their push for investigations into state capture, reducing it to a mere campaign promise.

Affordable housing

Ruto is on an ambitious plan to launch to make affordable housing for everyone a reality. The president seeks to have over 250,000 housing units built every year.

The president earmarked this as one of his ways to tackle youth unemployment in the country.

‘To deal with the huge challenge of youth unemployment we will roll out our social and affordable low-cost housing program, targeting an average of
250,000 units a year. This will create opportunities in the entire job market. We will engage TVET institutions to provide necessary skills to enable the Jua Kali industry supply standardized products for our housing program,” he said in his inauguration speech.

So far, the head of state has launched six projects. The projects are in Mukuru, Rongai, Kibera, Machakos, Homabay, and Starehe.

Other short-term and long-term pledges

Making the cheapest smartphone in Africa is one of the Kenya Kwanza government’s other major pledges. According to CS Owalo, the mass manufacture of the cellphones has started, and the first batch will be sold by August 2023.

Also, President Ruto stated that by June, all 5,000 government services would be digital. According to CS Owalo, 839 services have already been added to the portal using the E-citizen platform, and another 300 services are being added on a weekly basis to meet the goal by June 2023.

Furthermore, President Ruto has promised that by June, the price of cooking gas cylinders will be reduced to between KES 300-500 for a 6 kg cylinder. To combat climate change, he has also promised to plant more than 5 billion trees by the end of his first term. He has also promised to build over 100 megadams to address the perennial water shortage the country faces.

Visualisation by Maureen Kimotho.

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