Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Kenya’s president apologizes for arrogant officials and promises to act against police brutality

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s President William Ruto on Friday apologized for the “arrogance and show of opulence” by legislators and ministers from the ruling party and promised action against “rogue” police officers who shot at unarmed civilians during deadly protests and the storming of parliament over plans to hike taxes.

Ruto, referring to what he called arrogant statements made by officials, said public speaking was “difficult” and some people make “mistakes” for which he takes responsibility and promised change in the conduct of officials.

Kenya experienced two weeks of unrest during which Parliament was stormed by protesters during a finance bill vote. The president was hosted Friday on the social media platform X by popular social media influencer Osama Otero, who said he was abducted on the night of the protests and beaten by police.

Ruto said he regretted the abduction and that he would take action, adding that “that is not right.” “You don’t deserve the kind of treatment you went through,” he said.

The president said the police are independent and not controlled by the executive branch of government but promised to ensure that those responsible would be prosecuted. “I am ultimately responsible because I am president, and that is why I said it was regrettable,” Ruto said.

During the storming of Parliament during a finance bill vote — which would have resulted in a tax increase if approved — legislators fled through an underground tunnel. Police responded by opening fire and several protesters were shot dead.

Ruto later said he would not sign the finance bill and communicated to Parliament that the proposed legislation should be withdrawn, but protests continued with calls for him to resign over poor governance.

Kenya has been plagued by corruption, with the latest case involving the sale and distribution of thousands of fake fertilizer bags worth millions of shillings by the agriculture ministry.

The president on Friday was accused of not showing empathy and not mentioning the names of those who died during the protests. He responded by saying “people are born differently.” But he added that he was scheduled to speak with the mother of a boy who was shot and killed during protests.

Ruto was accused of not acknowledging the correct number of those who died in the protests. He put the number at 25 while the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights said 39 people were killed.

An hour before the online engagement, Ruto in a televised address announced specific austerity measures that included the dissolution of “47 state corporations with overlapping and duplicative functions” to save on operation and maintenance costs.

He also “suspended” the appointment of 50 chief administrative secretaries that were challenged in court on the basis of the positions being unconstitutional.

The president also announced that the offices of the first lady and the spouses of the deputy president and prime Cabinet secretary would not be funded using public money.

The young people who spoke during Otero’s Friday engagement on X emphasized the need for the president to sack incompetent government ministers in a reorganization that he stated was “coming soon.”

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