The warm ‘handshake’ between president William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga during the burial ceremony of Mau Mau war veteran Mukami Kimathi, wife to freedom fighter, Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi in Njamini, Nyandarua county yesterday did not forestall apparent political acrimony between the two leaders.
When each but separately took to the podium, neither Ruto nor Raila waste the slightest opportunity to throw barbs at each other over the ongoing national debate of rising cost of living, poverty, high taxation, governance and growing national anger over the deteriorating state of the national economy.
Raila told the president to his face that proposed taxes in the controversial Finance Bill 2023 if it passes as it is, it would be a burden to already impoverished Kenyans.
The Azimio One Kenya Coalition boss said he has since sked the National Assembly Members of Parliament (MPs) from Azimio to reject “punitive” taxation measures seeking to escalate the cost of living and hurt the economy.
“I will tell you the truth because I do not fear. Cost of living has gone up. Do not add more taxes. The donkey is already overburdened. (Punda amechoka, usiongeze mzigo). Do not add the load). That is the truth. Your people are not telling you this. But I will. I know Ruto very well. I have worked with him for a long time. So when he makes all these noises, I know he will calm down. We have sent our team, Ruto has sent his. Let them talk.” Raila said.
And in a quick rebuttal, president Ruto demanded the opposition give government time to formulate solutions that address the country’s poor state of the economy, saying his regime has a plan to resolve the economic woes that afflict the country.
“I agree with Raila that the cost of living is high, the truth is you (Uhuru and Raila) made things worse. Give me time to fix it. I have reduced 20 taxes, and removed Sh500 billion to lift the load off Kenyans. Raila, you can beat me on history, but on the economy, I understand this one. You cannot beat me.” President Ruto fired back.
The President blamed Azimio leader and retired President Uhuru Kenyatta for allegedly being behind the current state of affairs on the economic front.
“I am a close student of Mwai Kibaki. He moved revenues from Sh200 billion to Sh1 trillion. Uhuru Kenyatta came and pushed it, but added many debts, and revenue got to Sh2 trillion. Now I am here. I want to push it to Sh2.8 trillion in this financial year. Give me the space to work, and bring this revenue up. I know what to do.” Ruto added.
Ruto said that policies such as the Unga subsidy programme advanced by the former regime were misguided and ineffective in addressing the cost of living. Raila Odinga sustained his critic of the Finance Bill 2023 which he said will be a burden to Kenyans over extra taxation.
On his part, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua seized the opportunity to perpetuate open onslaught against the family of the founding president the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and immediate retired president Uhuru Kenyatta demanding they surrender half of their vast tracks of land to the surviving Mau Mau freedom fighters.
Although Gachagua did not mention Jomo Kenyatta by name, it was apparent he was referring to the first family which he has previously accused of holding large parcels of land in various parts of the country, yet Mau Mau freedom heroes are languishing in poverty.
“Those saying that the government should buy land for the freedom fighters, that’s fine. But the Mau Mau land is known where it is and those with it must return even if it’s half of it. It will be enough for the Mau Mau,” he said Saturday at the burial of Mukami, the widow of Dedan Kimathi, who died aged 101.
Gachagua had in April publicly asked former First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta to consider surrendering half of the family’s land to Mau Mau fighters when she hosted the late Muthoni Kimathi ate her Muthaiga home in Nairobi.
At the time, the late Muthoni said she visited Mama Ngina to pay gratitude for support to the family, including offering to clear a bank loan among other forms of assistance.
“The British government gave 30 million pounds for land to be bought to settle the Mau Mau and their descendants, but the black colonialists who came after the white colonialists left diverted that money, that land was taken by a few and given to home guards and collaborators.” Gachagua claimed.