Kenyan president dismisses most of cabinet amid protests

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan President William Ruto dismissed most of his cabinet Thursday, firing everyone except his foreign affairs ministers. The dismissal follows weeks of protests that were triggered by proposed tax hikes, and transformed into calls for Ruto to remove allegedly corrupt and non-performing ministers. 

Speaking at the State House on Thursday, Ruto said the country’s recent political and economic situation led him to fire his ministers. 

“Upon reflection and listening keenly to what the people of Kenya have said and after a holistic appraisal of the performance of my cabinet and its achievements and challenges, I have today in line with the powers given to me … decided to dismiss with immediate effect all the cabinet secretaries and the attorney general from the cabinet of the Republic of Kenya except the prime cabinet secretary and cabinet secretary for foreign and diaspora affairs,” he said.   

Ruto said he will consult across different sectors and establish a broad-based government that will assist him in running the country’s affairs. 

At the president’s urging, parliament last month passed a finance bill that included several tax increases, but Ruto declined to sign the bill after protesters stormed parliament. Clashes between police and protesters in Nairobi and elsewhere left at least 41 people dead.  

Kenyan political activist Boniface Mwangi, one of the protest organizers, told VOA Ruto needs to change the way he operates. 

“We are very happy because it is the beginning of the end for him as well. We cannot have an incompetent government in power, we cannot have a government that kills its young people in power,” Mwangi said. “He has been holding the parliament hostage because nothing happens in this country without his approval. So he needs to understand that you cannot run a country by yourself.” 

The government says the absence of additional tax revenue will negatively impact government programs and foreign loan payments. 

However, many Kenyans argue the government collects sufficient revenue, but loses it through corruption that goes unpunished. 

Political commentator Martin Andati said time is not on Ruto’s side, adding that the president cannot expect to make parliament and other institutions do his bidding without pushback from the people.  

“He thought he would buy time, he would tell Kenyans he would do a task force and all this kind of nonsense, but Kenyans have seen through it all. So, politically, he is living in 1994. The Kenyan youth are in 2034, miles and miles ahead of him, so if you try all these shenanigans, they are able to see it,” Andati said. “But the cure to all this is strictly following the constitution. … There are checks and balances on institutions. So he must give institutions its power and let institutions work.” 

Kenyan protesters, who call themselves tribeless and leaderless, have planned a new series of demonstrations next week to protest the longstanding problem of police killings, disappearances and abductions.  

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