William Ruta became Kenya’s president after the country’s Supreme Court dismissed allegations of electoral fraud.
After being sworn in last week, Ruto attended Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in London on Monday before heading to the US for further official engagements. The former vice president and self-described “con artist” also faces a busy agenda when he returns home, having “inherited an economy burdened by debt, inflation, unemployment and national pessimism,” XN Iraqi, an associate professor at the University of Nairobi, said in an article on Conversation.
Who is William Ruto?
The new president’s “humble beginnings” appear to have helped galvanize voters in Kenya’s recent elections, said German wave (DW). Ruto “says he sold live chickens to make ends meet in his youth,” the German news site continued. But today, “he is one of the richest Kenyans, boasting a 2,500-acre ranch, a huge poultry farm and investments in the hotel industry.”
A “confessing Christian”, Ruto studied botany and zoology at the University of Nairobi before embarking on his political career in 1992. He was “a mentor, he said, to then-President Daniel Arap Moi,” the BBC reported, and “was part of the youth wing of Mr. Moi’s once-dominant Kanu party.”
Until 2007, he supported Raila Odinga, his main rival in the last election, in the center-left Orange Democratic Movement. ODM narrowly lost the 2007 election, but after the announcement by President Mwai Kibaki, the result was contested and violence erupted. About 1,200 people were killed and “hundreds of thousands more” were forced to relocate, according to DW. The International Criminal Court in The Hague accused Ruto of committing human rights violations; the charges were dropped 11 years later.
Uhuru Kenyatta, accused alongside Ruto of human rights abuses following disputed election results, won Kenya’s presidency in 2013 and again in 2017, with Ruto serving as his deputy for both terms.
It’s “still unclear” why they later “feuded,” DW notes, but they “separated in 2021.” The United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party then backed Ruto to run for the presidency this year.
How tight was this year’s election race?
“Winning the top job in Kenya was difficult” for Ruto, DW notes. His campaign was marred by the “public denial of his boss”, said Kenyatta, who backed Odinga’s re-election campaign and said Ruta was “not fit for the job”. Reuters.
Kenyatta’s endorsement of Odinga was believed to “get support” from Kikuyu communities, said Guardian. About one in five people in Kenya belong to an ethnic group that has been “in political conflict for decades” with Odinga’s Luo community. But the “reconciliation” between Odinga and Kenyatta was “ultimately not enough to bridge the divide.”
“Both sides have been accused of corruption in a deeply personal, acrimonious campaign,” Reuters notes. “open” Ruta “beat the odds” and won 50.49% of the vote compared to Odinga’s 48.85%.
Odinga contested the result, claiming there were cases of electoral fraud. But in early September, Kenya’s Supreme Court issued a “sharp ruling” that unanimously upheld the result, saying BBC.
“Perhaps the biggest success of the 2022 elections is that Kenyans have shown commitment to overcoming the country’s history of electoral violence,” the analysis said. US Institute of Peace.
What will Ruto’s leadership mean for Kenya?
Ruto promised “radical” economic “transformation” during his campaign with a “bottom-up” approach to tackle unemployment and raise the living standards of the poorest, Iraqi told The Conversation.
The drop in the price of fuel and food are the two “key challenges” facing Ruta Al Jazeera. But within days of taking office, Kenya “removed” petrol subsidies, which Ruto described as “unsustainable”.
Fuel prices are set higher, with petrol prices up 13% and diesel up 18% from the previous month, which analysts warn could “push inflation even higher”.
On social issues, Ruto “doesn’t hesitate to publicly profess his faith”, he said BBC. “He is expected to take a hard line on gay rights” and “the chances of his government relaxing abortion laws are slim”.
Ultimately, “overcoming the country’s legacy of ethnic politics and building national cohesion” could prove to be the “biggest challenge” Ruto will have to contend with, the US Institute of Peace said.
What will his leadership mean for international relations?
A Kenyan newspaper reported that less than a week after taking office, Ruto “went on a diplomatic offensive”. Starjoining world leaders at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.
On Monday, he will leave London for America, and on Wednesday he will deliver his first presidential address to the UN General Assembly. The US has “huge” interests in expanding Kenya’s infrastructure and has invested “millions of dollars” in “education, the environment, the rule of law and democratic governance,” the paper said.
A series of meetings with “influential world leaders” will put Rut “in a strong winning position to push his agenda,” The Star wrote. Chirping on Sunday he said: “Strengthening ties with the international community will be a catalyst for the transformation of our country.”