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Rising Cost of Living Ignored in Ruto-Raila Bipartisan Talks

It has been revealed that the interests of the “Wanjiku” were not given importance by President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga in their Ruto-Raila bipartisan talks.

Chief among those issues is the reduction in the price of food, electricity, water, the tax issue and the removal of additional fees in public schools. These have been serious issues that contributed to Mr. Odinga leading the protest against the government from March 20, 2023.

On Sunday, President Ruto and Mr. Odinga agreed to hold talks to address the grievances that contributed to Azimio’s supporters protesting. In addition, Odinga called off the protests that have been taking place on Mondays and Thursdays every week.

But in their speeches, Dr. Ruto and Mr. Odinga focused more on the issue of the appointment of the chairman and commissioners of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) while the issue of the high cost of living, which is meaningful in many cases, was given little consideration.

This is despite the fact that this problem, which has been contributed to by the rise in the price of basic products such as flour and fuel and electricity, was highlighted more by the protesters as well as the leaders.

Then many of the protestors, especially in the cities of Nairobi and Kisumu, wore pots on their heads saying they could not afford the price of flour and cook in those pots.

But on Sunday, President Ruto completely avoided the issue, focusing more on the issue of the reorganization of the IEBC, suggesting that it be dealt with in parliament through a compromise between Kenya Kwanza and Azimio factions.

“Although there is a panel that has started the process of appointing new IEBC commissioners, I recommend here that this issue be addressed afresh through consensus in parliament but on the basis of the law and the Constitution,” President Ruto said in his address to the nation from the State House.

President Ruto did not say anything about how his government will handle the issue of the rising cost of living, a situation that made a journalist ask him a question about the issue.

He replied: “My government has been dealing with the issue of the rise in the price of flour through a program to distribute cheap fertilizers so that farmers can produce more food. Similarly, we have ordered corn, rice, oil and other food products that will provide relief to the people before the farmers harvest their crops.”

However, President Ruto did not mention when the food products will arrive in the country, a situation that leaves consumers in a state of confusion.

But during the campaigns leading up to the general election on August 9, 2022, Dr. Ruto promised to reduce the price of maize flour from Sh220 to Sh70 for one two-kilogram packet, within 100 days of entering office. Six months later, the flour is still being sold for between Sh180 and Sh220 in many shops.

The other day, the National Electricity Distribution Company (KPLC) announced that it would increase the price of electricity by almost 40 percent starting this month.

Similar to President Ruto, a large part of Mr. Odinga’s speech also focused on the selection of the IEBC chairman and commissioners.

He emphasized that the collaborative committee that will be created to run the process must include the people he wanted as “experts from abroad”.

“In addition, we want the four commissioners who were forced to resign last year to be reinstated. This is because Mrs. Cherera (Juliana) and her colleagues did not do anything wrong but they stood up for the truth,” said Mr. Odinga.

Ms. Cherera, Francis Wanderi, and Justus Nyang’aya resigned in December 2022 after President Ruto created a panel to investigate them on suspicion of opposing the events of the presidential election announced by former IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati on August 15, 2022.

And Ms. Irene Masit was fired in February this year after the panel led by Court of Appeal Judge Aggrey Muchelule found her “guilty of violating the law and the constitution” for opposing Dr. Ruto’s victory.

Touching on the issue of the cost of living, Mr. Odinga suggested that the government restore the subsidy program for the price of flour, although he did not clarify whether his wing will present the issue in parliament or not.

Political commentators are now expressing fear that issues affecting ordinary citizens, such as the rise in food prices, will not be given priority in the negotiations between MPs from Kenya Kwanza and Azimio factions in parliament.

“Now it is clear that Raila and his colleagues have been using the issue of the rising cost of living as an excuse to enable them to achieve their interests through the issue of the appointment of election commissioners. It is clear that they have been playing with us,” said Mr. Baraza Nyukuri.

But the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on the Budget, Ndindi Nyoro, says that the issue of the rising cost of living will be addressed through the 2023 Finance Bill.

“Product prices are affected by the tax levied on those products. Parliament will deal with this issue through compromise when the bill is discussed in parliament. Azimio MPs are free to submit proposals to reduce taxes on food products,” said Mr. Nyoro, who is the Member of Parliament for Kiharu.



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