Kenya’s presidential hope Ruto promises to publish contracts with China

Kenya’s presidential hope Ruto promises to publish contracts with China

NAIROBI, July 20 (Reuters) – Kenya’s Vice President and aspiring president William Ruto has said he will publish government contracts with China and deport Chinese nationals who work illegally if elected on August 9, promises that are likely to resonate with affected residents of rising debt and sky-high living costs.

Kenya, whose budget for 2022/23 of 3.3 trillion shillings ($ 27.86 billion) has a deficit of 6.2% of gross domestic product, owes China around $ 8 billion.

Ruto has promised to cut back on government borrowing, which has funded President Uhuru Kenyatta’s construction of infrastructure.

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The contracts are not public, and some Kenyan organizations have filed lawsuits to try to force full disclosure of the agreements.

Ethiopia has restructured its Chinese debt and Zambia is trying to do – something Ruto said he would not do.

“Kenya has the capacity to handle its debt situation,” he told Reuters in an interview, explaining his intention not to reorganize the debt if he wins.

Ruto, 55, paints the election as a clash between “hustlers and dynasties” – a stab at Raila Odinga and Kenyatta, the son of the nation’s first vice president and president, respectively.

Ruto says he once hooked chickens by the side of the road.

Instead of planning giant highways or new railroads, Ruto’s campaign launches a plan to hand out loans to “hustlers” or small businessmen and women, symbolized by his campaign symbol on a wheelbarrow.

Ruto spoke to Reuters in his office in a complex in one of Nairobi’s richest suburbs, where several armed policemen were on duty.

The property is nicely maintained, with manicured lawns. A helicopter and a convoy of luxury cars were parked there. Outside, a few supporters waited with banners proclaiming RUTO FOR PRESIDENT hung around a battered handcart.

Ruto wore a yellow shirt with a green border, the party’s colors, and sat in a room decorated with several flags, including the national flag.

He sipped tea while dismissing comments from his chief economic adviser, David Ndii, that Ruto’s party “was not the place to look for anti-corruption masters.”

“Someone quoted him out of context,” Ruto said.

He listed the ways he would tackle graft – more money to overcome the shortage of judges and magistrates, independent budgets for investigative bodies, and ensure that parliament has an active opposition.

“The challenge we have at the moment is arming and politicizing corruption.”

All sides in the campaign have accused each other of corruption, and they deny all allegations.

POLITICAL PURPOSE

Kenyatta has backed President Odinga, a veteran opposition leader, in an attempt to put Ruto on the sidelines, which he describes as unfit for office.

The incumbent’s embrace of his old rival and his rejection of his deputy are not uncommon for Kenyan politics, driven more by personality, ethnic alliances and backroom agreements than ideology.

Ruto and Odinga were political allies during the disastrous election in 2007. A dispute over the result led to the deaths of 1,200 Kenyans and Ruto and five others were charged at the Hague-based International Criminal Court. The case later collapsed.

He brushed off the question of whether he should have resigned if the government he sat in was not serious about tackling corruption, saying he had raised the issue repeatedly and had been able to deliver other benefits to Kenyans.

“I’m not a quit,” he said. “Instead of walking away from those who chose me, I could still do many things.”

($ 1 = 118.400 Kenyan Shillings)

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Editing Angus MacSwan, William Maclean

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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