Dear Mr Ruto

What does it benefit a man to gain a finance bill but lose his country?

Swearing-In ceremony of H.E. William Samoei Ruto, September 14, 2022. Image courtesy of Government ZA on Flickr CC.

On November 27, 2019, at a rally pushing the Building Bridges Initiative at the Bomas of Kenya, Amani National Congress Party Leader Musalia Mudavadi was the first to speak.  Mudavadi took to the podium to urge then-President Uhuru Kenyatta to address the country’s difficult economic situation. He said, “The economy is ailing. Kenya is one of the few countries that you can call a public rally at Uhuru Park on a weekday and it will be full of unemployed people.” The crowd applauded and showered him with praise for confronting the president. There was a belief that Mudavadi’s speech might have been a game-changer.

Five years later, Musalia Mudavadi is now in government, albeit in an unconstitutional seat: the prime cabinet secretary, as they (not we) refer to him. He’s even created an illegal office for his wife, calling it the “Office of the Spouse of the Prime Cabinet Secretary.” Together, they’re gobbling the taxpayers’ money to fund their illegal offices.

The economy is still ailing. Kenya is still one of those few countries where you can call a public rally at Uhuru Park on a weekday and it will be full of unemployed people. In the five years since Mudavadi’s speech, things have become worse. 

The number of unemployed youth has shot up, standing at 12 million. But they are no longer gathering for public rallies. Instead, as evidenced by the events of the past week, they are now gathering for protests. The country has pushed them to the edge. 

The government has worsened the rising cost of living, forced through punitive taxation, defunded education and health care, increased corruption, and indulged in extravagant spending right in front of our faces. These are just but a few of the problems we’ve endured under this regime. And until a few weeks ago, we quietly tolerated them. 

The Finance Bill of 2024, however, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. There was no way a sane government would increase taxation on basic commodities such as bread if it cared for its citizens. There was no way a sane government would increase taxes on necessary commodities such as sanitary towels (all while disregarding their usefulness), if it really cared for its citizens. There was no way a sane government would introduce a 16 percent value-added tax on cancer-treatment equipment if it cared at all for its vulnerable citizens. 

Seeing this, Kenyans willfully submitted their views on the Finance Bill during the public participation period. Kenyans even held educational sessions to teach people the various clauses. Kenyans openly opposed the proposals, including in media interviews. Even associations and unions came out to oppose the bill. But the legislators still went ahead with it.

Kenyans decided to go to the streets to peacefully protest. They decided that, if the legislators wouldn’t read their submissions, then they would see the faces on the streets. However, protestors were tear-gassed and arrested for exercising a right protected under Article 37 of the Constitution. Numerous others were abducted, purportedly for being the leaders of the movement, even though the movement was leaderless.

The legislators tried to brush it off. Speaking at a ceremony, Kikuyu Member of Parliament Kimani Ichung’wah dismissed the protests by saying that the young Nairobi protesters have little understanding of hardship, as they enjoy the comfort of the city’s amenities. He said, “The many you see protesting in Nairobi with iPhones, they call themselves Gen-Z, they come to the demonstrations in Uber, and afterwards they go to KFC and eat chicken… they even drink bottled water.”

Why he said so is still unclear. Did he mean that only poor people should complain? Did he mean that affording KSh 400 should be a luxury in Kenya? Did he mean that iPhones are to be owned only by the political class, who seem to be flaunting shoes worth KSh 100,000, belts worth KSh 400,000, and watches worth KSh 4 million, all funded using taxpayer money?

Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi lambasted the youth for protesting, claiming that they don’t understand the Finance Bill. For a man who never attended high school and couldn’t read his oath during the swearing-in ceremony, this was quite ironic. If anyone, he was the one who hadn’t understood the Finance Bill. Kenyans, on the other hand, had translated the bill into multiple languages and ensured that even the old people in the village knew about it. No one, not a single person, was left out in this exercise. The vast majority in the country now opposed the bill. It was a case of 55 million people versus 204 legislators, plus the members of the executive.

The legislators even tried to look for a scapegoat. Had these people been paid by the Russians? Government Spokesman Isaac Mwaura said so. Had the youth been funded by the Illuminati? Gatundu South MP Kagombe said so. Why was it so difficult for these officials to believe that Kenyans could have a genuine reason for protesting? Didn’t they think that Kenyans could have a voice of their own? Or were they so used to bribing youth to attend rallies that they didn’t think citizens could gather together organically?

Nonetheless, on Tuesday, June 25, people around the country mobilized themselves to come out in large numbers and demonstrate together, for the third time now. This was the day when the National Assembly would gather for the committee stage of the Finance Bill 2024. People in 35 out of the 47 counties went to the streets to demonstrate against the bill. Nevertheless, the legislators, appearing tone-deaf to the cries of Kenyans, passed the bill.

Kenyans, angered by the sudden events, made their way to Parliament to demand accountability from their representatives. But they were met by the brute force of the police. Four of them were shot down, with many others injured and rushed to safety by the Red Cross. The police, in complete contravention of the Geneva Convention, even shot at the medics who had volunteered to offer medical services to those injured. One medic, Dr. Margaret Oyuga, ended up losing her life to gunshot wounds.

The president finally called a press conference at 9 p.m. If we thought he’d say something substantial, we were wrong. He came forward and regurgitated a ChatGPT-prompted speech, condemning everyone who went out to the streets, calling them criminals and terming their actions “treasonous.” Kenyans asking the government to stop stealing taxpayers’ money were called treasonous. Peaceful protesters who came out only with only their phones and got shot in the head by police with guns were deemed criminals. Kenyans, whose only demand was that the legislators do away with the punitive taxes, were deemed orchestrators of violence and anarchy. Nowhere in his speech did he even mention the Finance Bill. Nowhere in his speech did he mention those who had lost their lives. His speech was only a waste of time.

Afterward, Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale deployed the Kenyan Defence Forces to reign terror on people. This happened in contravention of Article 241 (3) (b) of Kenya’s Constitution, which states that the Defence Forces shall be deployed only with the approval of the National Assembly, which has seemingly gone on recess until July 23. Duale’s deployment was illegal—but he went ahead.

Overnight, the police camped in Githurai, where they began shooting at the locals. At the time of writing this, numerous people have been shot dead, with many others admitted at the Kenyatta National Hospital. Some eyewitness accounts claim that at least 30 people were killed.

At this point, there is no going back. A lot has happened, and the atmosphere in the country has definitely changed. Since William Ruto claims to be religious, I’d like to remind him of a story from his favorite book, the Bible.

In Daniel, chapter 5, King Belshazzar of Babylon hosts a grand feast using sacred vessels from the Jerusalem temple. During the revelry, a mysterious hand appears and writes a message on the wall, terrifying the king. None of his wise men can interpret the writing, so Daniel is summoned. Daniel explains that the inscription—Mene (Number), Mene (Number), Tekel (Weight), Upharsin (Divisions)—foretells the end of Belshazzar’s reign due to his arrogance and failure to honor God. 

This is what it meant:

Number—God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end.

Weight—You have been weighed on the scales and found to be too light.

Divisions—Your kingdom is being divided and given up to the Medes and Persians. 

That very night, King Belshazzar was killed, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom. 

Likewise, Mr. William Ruto, the God whom you talk a lot about has numbered the days of your presidency and will bring it to an end. You have also been weighed on the scales and found to be too light, despite the good image you’ve tried to present to the West. Your presidency will be divided and given to someone else. 

Mr. William Ruto: Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.

I will finish this piece by asking Mr. William Ruto, as well as every other legislator in the government, “What does it benefit a man to gain the Finance Bill but lose his country?” What was so important in that bill that it had to cost all these lives? Why did we seriously have to get to this point? This situation could have been easily avoided from the onset. But no, the government decided to be relentless, as if the Finance Bill was their lifeline.

As Sun Tzu once said, “An evil man will burn his own nation down to rule over the ashes.” And you, Mr. William Ruto, are the most evil man we’ve seen. If you and your fellow legislators think that you’ll be at the helm forever, please remember that when a flood comes, the fish eat ants, but when the water dries up, the ants eat the fish. 

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