Following Raila Odinga’s decision to skip a joint presidential debate hosted by media stations, Deputy President William Ruto had the spotlight all to himself.
And for one and a half hours, Ruto would answer questions about his economic plan, his integrity, shifting positions, and the Jubilee administration’s unfulfilled promises.
The DP went after President Uhuru Kenyatta’s alleged “sabotage” of the Big Four agenda, attempting to distance himself from government affairs during the Jubilee’s second term.
He portrayed himself as a victim, claiming that as Deputy President, there was “only so much I could do.”
That was in response to questions about why he remained silent while the government flouted court orders, including its refusal to make public the contracts and agreements for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), which he claimed violated the Constitution. The DP stated that he had advised the President to make the contracts public.
However, Dp. Ruto would contradict himself by claiming that he had influenced some of the Jubilee administration’s positives.
However, for the majority of the debate, the DP claimed a multi-pronged conspiracy to “punish” him as a result of the March 2018 handshake between President Kenyatta and Raila, which he blamed for the country’s spiraling cost of living, insecurity, and a slew of other ills. The Arror and Kimwarer dams scandal resurfaced, with the DP claiming that the project was designed to fail to punish him.
“The contractor was denied the land on which to build the dam… the reason given then was that the dam was in the forest,” the DP would allege of a larger conspiracy allegedly involving investigative agencies and linked to the Kerio Valley region’s perennial insecurity.
He was pressed on whether any money was lost in the scandal, denying that any money was lost by the taxpayer and warning that the “Sh7 billion” he claimed was already spent on the project would be lost eventually.
In relation to the Kerio Valley insecurity, he stated that he had been “punished” for his active peace-making missions. However, he was quick to point out that he had been silent in speaking out against the insecurity and had not provided the evidence that would prove the conspiracy he claimed.
The DP’s assault on the administration he serves did not stop there. He also blamed the handshake for the failure of megaprojects aimed at ensuring the country’s food security.
For example, Dp Ruto stated that the failure of the Galana Kulalu project was estimated to cost Sh7 billion, down from an initial Sh14 billion, due to the government’s alleged refusal to act on recommendations resulting from an irrigation scheme pilot.
“We had a Big Four plan that foresaw all of this (high cost of living),” he said.
“There was a recommendation that we build a dam,” Dr. Ruto would say of the failed Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme. “We didn’t get the dam, so it didn’t move.” However, the DP was chastised for failing to take off during Galana Kulalu’s first term, when he and President Kenyatta were still on good terms. He was questioned about the contractual issues that led to the project’s demise.
“We made it a deliverable of our second term,” he’d say, implying that the megaproject didn’t collapse due to the “handshake,” which he also blamed for the “withdrawal” of agricultural subsidies.
Dp Ruto stated that a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) government would set aside Sh30 billion in a revolving fund to fund agricultural input access and an additional Sh12 billion in extensions. He claimed that this would triple agricultural output. The DP also outlined his strategy for reducing the country’s debt, which he described as “slowing borrowing, halting unbudgeted projects, and raising revenue.”
He claimed that the government had spent more than Sh100 billion on unbudgeted spending, criticizing the renovation of the Uhuru Gardens National Monument and Museum, which he claimed cost the taxpayer Sh15 billion.
Concerning his integrity, the DP described allegations linking him to corruption as “allegations made left, right, and center.” Raila had refused to participate in yesterday’s debate, claiming that he couldn’t share a podium with someone of alleged unquestionable integrity.
“My competitor isn’t here because he doesn’t want to answer tough questions… he’s not here because he’s not the candidate.” Dr. Ruto described Raila’s absence as “a project.” He was also pressed on the price of petroleum products, proposing a review of the VAT tax. He was reminded, however, that he had previously supported the imposition of VAT on fuel as a condition imposed by the International Monetary Fund.
“We live in a changing world.” Only fools refuse to change their minds.” That would contradict his recent stance on debt renegotiating with international lenders.
“It takes a brave government to have discussions with development partners,” he would say before adding that he would not entertain debt renegotiating discussions that involved admitting Kenya could not pay its foreign debt because it would “send the wrong signal.”
He agreed to accept the results of a fair election process.