The visibly rough ride faced by William Ruto and allies in the quest for power in the 2022 campaigns set them on a laborious path of paying political debts after power acquisition.
Ruto and political friends had to win, by all means necessary. The ‘by all means necessary’ moment implied creating room for any activity, individual or commitment that could add in votes, regardless of their quantitative value. The country witnessed as Ruto opened his arms to anyone or any party with the aim of locking all possible votes.
After cobbling the Kenya Kwanza coalition, the next target focused on making all forms of promises with the capacity to translate into political capital. Verbal commitments came up through aggressive sloganeering, using such phrases as ‘Bottom up’ economic model.
Political actors brought into the KK coalition did their work in advancing the message; the masses absorbed them, and the rest, as sages insist, becomes history. Ruto’s fairly tough romp into State House depended on huge political support, and he has to clear the political debt.
President Ruto’s appointments have served to illustrate that political debts can dictate the administrative direction a government takes. Kenyans raised issues with the picking up of political characters with questionable credentials and reputations to such positions as Cabinet secretaries.
A number of them have hopped from one court to the other answering to diverse cases ranging from hate speech, fraud, corruption, and rape to murder allegations. It is agreeably challenging to point out a single established politician without a judicial issue on their neck. Kenyans were, however, not amused with the gravity of moral and legal elements attached to some of the appointees.
The conundrum here is that Ruto had to clear political promises to allies. At least 2/3 of the Cabinet appointees stood with him, at a time the entire government machinery wished him the roughest of political death. He needed their mobilization energy to protect every vote and assure a political promotion. Ruto, equally, desired to demonstrate a sense of political maturity and the ideal gentleman politician by keeping every political promise he kept to each of his allies.
The Hustler Fund, a critical element in the political mobilization, has since been launched with borrowers accessing the fund’s first tranche.
Ruto arguably visited all counties in the country promising traders a chance of accessing government-facilitated aid to boost enterprises. The messaging reached a crescendo in the Mt. Kenya region, an area dubbed as the entrepreneurial haven in the country.
However, the KK coalition understood that Mt. Kenya qualified as a vote-rich region. Reference to an easily accessible low-interest fund served to excite the masses. Mt. Kenya’s 10 counties advanced 2.98 million votes to Ruto, certainly giving him the master key to State House.
The Hustler Fund had to happen, and Ruto has paid a key political end. With less than 50 per cent of borrowing ‘hustlers’ failing to pay on time, the sustainability issue confirms the political angle in creating the fund.
There are questions about its place in law, regulation and framework. And he won’t say. For him. as long as the output is good, don’t care about the process. It is unnecessary bureaucracy. Regardless of its viability, that fund had to come up, ‘kusema asante kwa wapiga kura’.
I, therefore, submit that expecting someone who rose to power through hardcore politics to transform into a non-politician overnight, despite the challenges facing this country, is to expect absolute honesty from a shylock.
The T & Cs in Ruto’s administration includes recognizing all political players who paid allegiance to him. The political factor came first, is still rising above anything else, and will continue to do so considering 2027 electoral dynamics.
Former President Uhuru Kenyatta made an attempt in the second term but lost his political life. Ruto is, in an expectedly risky manner, required to carry entire responsibility for any effects from such a dangerous gamble.
If Kenyans do not access a lower cost of living, young people remain on the unemployment gallows, with no sight of universal healthcare coverage, a non-vibrant enterprise sector, etc, Ruto will face a fiercely rough operational environment.
Dennis Mwangi is a digital strategist and comments on current affairs