Author: David Ochami
AfricaPress-Kenya: In what is shaping up to be a contest of jibes, poverty found its place in the national discourse as ODM leader Raila Odinga accused Deputy President William Ruto of deriving pleasure in seeing the poor scramble for alms and tokens from him.
In an indirect reference to his antagonist, Raila said: “Why should you delight in dishing out tokens to people?” in his latest jibe at Ruto, who he has previously sparred with over his habit of making large cash donations to churches, youth and women groups.
The taunt came only a day after the DP publicly wondered why Raila was ‘obsessed’ with his charitable acts, saying he was “forever criticising such deeds instead of assisting those who are in need.”
While addressing a delegation of religious leaders in his Sugoi home on Friday, Ruto said, “Stop complaining throughout. You have become a perennial complainant. You complain when you are defeated in elections and even when in government. You complain everywhere. You really take the crown for complaining.”
He continued: “I don’t know what problem some people have and I really sympathise with them because when I host delegations at my residence, they complain. When I go to church, they complain. When I make church donations, they complain. When I support the youth by donating boda bodas, they still complain.”
He further told the delegation from Migori that the country has many problems, with more than six million people jobless and nearly 17 million living below the poverty line. “So you want to tell me you have nothing else to do apart from discussing me from morning to evening, week after week? Does it mean you have no plans of your own?
“Let us help each other. If I donate a motorbike to one, you give another a motor vehicle. If I give a handcart, you give anything,” the DP said.
Ruto added that he had been blessed with much hence his desire to give. “Let us be mindful about the sorry situation of millions of Kenyans struggling to meet their daily needs and, above all, put food on the table.
Let us acknowledge that every hustle matters. “I have been lifted up by God so I lift others, assist and work with the Church. I am not relenting. If you are complaining, be prepared well because you will complain for many days. I am not about to stop. I’m not going anywhere.”
But Raila yesterday accused the DP of engaging in ‘manipulation’ to advance personal goals while opposing the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which the ODM leader said seeks a holistic transformation of society.
“He delights in throwing crumbs to women and the youth so that they can be happy,” said Raila, adding that the DP and his allies were leading a disinformation campaign against the BBI. The former premier, who is in the Coast to drum up support for BBI, said Ruto was working to ensure the government he serves fails.
He claimed Ruto’s displays of philanthropy derived from an unwillingness to initiate systems and policies that would ensure Kenyans were self-reliant. Addressing delegates at the Wild Waters Resort in Mombasa,
Raila said the BBI seeks legal, administrative and constitutional changes “that will transform Kenya’s material condition from a poor State and make it prosperous, peaceful and democratic.” He said the stalemate over the sharing of Sh316 billion by counties would not have arisen if the economy generated more wealth to be shared among the regions.
“Besides promoting economic transformation and equity, the BBI has proposed to share no less than 35 per cent of national revenues among the devolved units,” he said. Raila further argued that the country’s economic problems were derived from a system that engenders poverty and exclusion, which could be cured by the BBI. He suggested that the DP had oversimplified Kenya’s economic troubles and promoted the idea that the solution lay in public displays of giving charity and alms.
“The solution to Kenya’s problems is more complex than just dishing out gifts to people. He has been in government for eight years. Is it now that he realises that mothers need water tanks and youth need wheelbarrows?” posed Raila.
The ODM leader said he and President Uhuru Kenyatta agreed to launch the BBI after realising that Kenya’s future could only be secured in legal and constitutional changes that also acknowledged past mistakes.
“We spoke for a very long time and agreed that what has happened has passed and we could not change it. We agreed that we could secure the future.” Raila said the second BBI report will be out soon and will be published for public debate when the Covid-19 curve flattens.
The opposition leader has been in the Coast since Wednesday meeting leaders to promote the BBI. He was in Taita Taveta on Wednesday and Thursday and traveled to Kwale for a rally on Friday. His tour followed a recent visit by the DP who travelled to Taita Taveta and Mombasa.
Yesterday, Raila held three meetings in Mombasa and Mtwapa in Kilifi. During one meeting, Mombasa Governor Hassan Ali Joho said President Kenyatta had become more accessible to the opposition and empathetic to Coast residents following his unity agreement with the opposition leader on March 9, 2018.
“The handshake has made the President accessible to us. When we have a problem, we approach him and he listens to us.”