- The aftershocks of Ruto’s one-of-a-kind presidency and the unconventional approach will take years to place into full historical context.
- For example, it remains to be seen whether his disruptive brand of politics will be adopted by other aspiring candidates across Africa and the world.
As Kenya’s foremost diplomat, President William Ruto has charmed his way into the hearts and minds of global leaders, partners and people from various nationalities and in effect accorded Kenya the much deserved reverence.
In his impassioned, masterful and impeccable delivery at European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, the European legislators were gobsmacked by the phenomenal oratory skills.
Credit goes to President Ruto on how he has turned around the trajectory of Kenya’s foreign policy globally to an extent all nations now are interested to know her position on particular pressing matters. It is a stark contrast to a few moons ago when President Ruto was considered a pariah figure in the international stage.
A major win is how Kenya has shaped the battle against climate change by rallying countries and heads of states to ramp up efforts against the existential threat to our ecosystem and livelihoods. A resolutions adopted during the Africa Climate Summit held in Nairobi that bound all AU member states is a testament to Kenya’s burgeoning influence.
The successes is evidenced by huge investor delegations, heads of states, business people, multinationals and even sportspeople stampeding to shake his hand and ink a viable opportunity to invest in the country.
Under President Ruto, in under one year, both policy substance and delivery have shaped the arena in which other global actors conduct diplomacy, as well as their own approaches to outstanding issues.
From every rostrum he has risen to give a speech, it has been punctuated with deafening rounds of applause for the courage and gusto at which he has tackled and broached subjects earlier considered sacrilegious. From calling for fair terms with multilateralism to calling out the big brothers on treatment of African heads of states while attending summits abroad. The antagonism toward multilateralism spearheaded by Ruto represents a philosophical difference between Nairobi, Washington and other European capitals.
Despite the hue and cry from those keen on keeping status quo, the push for a fair financial system now represents shared values, goals and global approaches that leaves no one behind .
Even the devout critics of Ruto agree that he has achieved some important foreign-policy successes and recalibrated Kenya’s terribly battered image defined by gross acts of misrule and notorious human rights violations.
Away from the kerfuffle over the frequent trips abroad, Ruto has achieved a string of sought-after victories, both domestically and overseas. Senior leaders in the East African Community are looking up to him for inspiration and direction in the face of emerging and pressing challenges.
Ruto’s status as a political outsider christened as Chief Hustler, his pragmatic approach to things, the outspoken nature and his willingness to upend past customs and expectations of presidential demeanour has made him a constant focus of public scrutiny, as well as a source of deep partisan divisions synonymous to our politics.
Despite the few pardonable faux pas, it is evident that President’s words, most of the times, made people feel hopeful, inspired, informed, happy and proud. The speech delivered in Paris at the steps of iconic Eiffel Tower bears testimony to that.
The aftershocks of Ruto’s one-of-a-kind presidency and the unconventional approach will take years to place into full historical context. For example, it remains to be seen whether his disruptive brand of politics will be adopted by other aspiring candidates across Africa and the world .
The young heads of states taking reigns in West Africa could borrow a leaf by activating coalition of voters and energise them on key issues, including common positions on free trade and immigration. Every time the President is wheels up splitting clouds, he actively strives to implement proposals contained in the manifesto commonly known as The Plan, where he proposed to make Kenya a respected and valued nation among peers alike abroad.
In the Plan, Ruto also promised to promote friendly relations with neighbours, play an instrumental role in regional and pan-African affairs, actively collaborate with international partners, and uphold commitments to the international community.
Any well-meaning, responsible and sensible President would embark on fulfilling his pledge of cementing the longstanding record of Kenya among the community of nations. It is at the back of the knowledge that Ruto’s administration also proposed to expand markets for Kenyan products, taking advantage of the country’s membership in regional continental organisations such as the EAC, Comesa, Ecowas, Igad, SADC and the AU.
If anything, Ruto has been a big crusader of abolishing artificial barriers imposed by the imperialists. This is the only mechanism to pave way for common market commitments to address the issue of open skies/ borders, the one area network, common tourist visa and making the region competitive.
The EAC with the introduction of Somalia, DRC and Ethiopia will be a regional economic powerhouse boasting of young skilled population, unrivalled raw materials, great agricultural land and ready market for its produce.
Onus is with the EAC member states to fast track the implementation of the EAC monetary union. The Central Banks of the respective member states should sign up the instruments that actualises ease of doing business. The pan-African payment and settlement system being piloted by The African Continental Free Trade Area would be a game changer. The leaps the region can make by attaining a single currency is unimaginable.
It is impressive that Kenya in her engagements with international partners, shifted from the foreign policy of prestige and politics to one of economic growth and trade. The paradigm shift is ostensibly to enhance and exploit economic opportunities inherent in intra-Africa trade. Data from agencies such as the Kenya Bureau of Statistics indicates that foreign direct investments are the new frontier and therefore must be pursued relentlessly.
With the stars aligning, Kenya is now better poised to leverage its status to increase its bargaining power and negotiate better deals with traditional partners that include the US and European countries, among other formidable economies. The time is perfect for the state to rekindle frayed relations with common allies and reset Kenya-China relations so as to pivot to Nairobi’s trade and investment interests.
While at it, the debilitating debt milestone tied to Nairobi’s neck must be heaved and dispensed off by way of carefully scrutinising every commercial agreements with a view to renegotiating chocking foreign debts. It is the safest way to ensure the debt burden does not gobble up all the collected revenues by the taxman.
Only a gradual shift from the foreign policy of transactional aid to trade relations can help Kenya wiggle out of the hole it got pummelled in by previous administration. This approach coupled by deliberate reduction of needless dependency on imports while curbing the depletion of foreign exchange will be the magic wand.
In the volatile international crossfires, Kenya has done well to balance between standing with the allies at the hour of need and guarding her interests. The delicate balancing act has maintained her glittering record of being a respected neutral arbiter in the face of upheaval.
The writer is the senator for Kericho and Senate Majority leader. @AaronCheruiyot on X