Deputy President William Ruto interacts with youths who he gave various equipment for their businesses.
Deputy President William Ruto interacts with youths who he gave various equipment for their businesses.
Image: DPPS

By Reporter

Deputy President William Ruto is dishing out millions to small businesses to solidify his appeal to the “hustler nation”.

The DP has opened his purse to various youth and women groups in a fight back strategy to raise his profile ahead of 2022.

Ruto has donated shoe shining stands, laundry machines, salon items, tailoring machines, water tanks and welding machines.

He has also given out car washing machines, motorcycles, animal feeds and sewing machines.

The second-in-command, who has fashioned himself as the leader of the poor majority, is reaching out directly to the people after losing favour with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

But his critics have laughed off his rebranding and accused him of using state office to gain political mileage.

In recent weeks, the DP has hosted hundreds of women and youth groups at his Karen office.  

He has met groups from Embakasi Central, Starehe, Dagoretti South, Embakasi North, Embakasi West and Langata constituencies.

On June 18, he decried the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on small and micro enterprises run by the youth and women.

“The revival of this sector is fundamental to our overall economic recovery,” he said.

“We are giving support and creating opportunities for these changemakers to get them back on their feet and be self-reliant.”

The support being extended to the groups across Nairobi targets up to 5,000 young entrepreneurs in the city with ‘sustainable income.’

Ruto’s presidential bid, his allies say, can only remain feasible with an unshaken grassroots support that can stand against the “deep state”.

The deputy president has himself alleged that the “system” was determined to scuttle his race to State House.

With the Central Kenya vote block uncertain, Ruto has a Herculean political task. 

“We common Kenyans who are the majority have supported the rich and instead of bridging the gap between the poor and themselves, they are widening it,” said Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi in support of the new Ruto strategy

“We will not regret the decisions we have made in the previous election but we have learnt the lesson the hard way.”

Some leaders have asked why Ruto gives out donations instead making policies in government to address Kenyans’ challenges.

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said the DP was doing personal politics using a state office while he should serve all Kenyans.

Wambugu, a Ruto critic, told the Star that the DP was behaving like an opposition leader.

He is showing that he can offer alternatives yet he is in government, he said.

“As the deputy president, he should be instituting policy interventions to help women and the youth through government,” he said.

Ruto has previously come under fire for big money fundraising for churches. 

The DP’s meetings with religious leaders in the past few days also point to his resolve to return to churches once restrictions are lifted.

And his foot soldiers say they would not mind if the DP’s benevolence translated into votes in 2022.

“That would be well and good, but for now it is about standing with those hard hit by the effects of the pandemic. As leaders and his friends we support him. What he is doing now is providing leadership by standing with those in need,” Belgut MP Nelson Koech told the Star.

With the Covid-19 movement restrictions, the DP has concentrated his aid within Nairobi, with special attention to informal settlements.

Sources said the programme would be rolled to most counties once the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

The DP is extending the help through his William Ruto Foundation.

On Wednesday, Kimilili MP Didmas Barasa, told the Star that the DP had changed tack to focus on the ‘Kadogo economy’.  

“The DP has many friends and there is nothing wrong in joining hands to help suffering Kenyans,” Barasa said.

He said as a leader, Ruto would not sit back when people are facing financial challenges brought about by the Covid-19 situation.

“Ruto is sharing what he has with the rest of Kenyans and will roll out that help to other parts of the country.”

The DP’s allies say the food distribution initiative was abandoned because rivals had planned to set Ruto up with poisoned food.

In May, at least 12 people were admitted to hospital after they consumed food packed in Ruto branded bags in Kiambu county.

Since the incident, Ruto has not distributed food items again. The drive had targeted constituencies of his closest foot soldiers. 

His allies believe the food distribution was a great idea, which was hijacked by rivals who wanted to go to any length to destroy the DP’s political career.

However, the DP has been left fighting off claims of bypassing state protocols and challenging established norms to extend help to Kenyans.

The Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund Board is the agency mandated by the state to mobilise resources for the containment of the coronavirus pandemic

National Assembly Minority leader John Mbadi said that the DP was putting his 2022 ambition ahead of everything else.

“The DP is just playing politics by ignoring the laid down procedures. He is obsessed with his 2022 presidential ambitions and is using the Covid-19 situation as a perfect opportunity to campaign,” he said.

The Suba South MP said just like other political leaders had done by donating to Kenyans through the Fund, Ruto should also do the same.

“This is a man who believes that money is everything. What he is doing is just showing off but Kenyans are not to be deceived,” he said.

It has also emerged that the DP is planning to revive the Inua Mama programme by women MPs allied to him to target women groups across the country.

The programme was championed by women lawmakers and gave financial support to women groups across the country.

Although the superficial agenda of the programme is to empower the small and micro-enterprises affected by coronavirus pandemic, it has a massive political impact.

On Monday, political analyst and professor, Edward Kisiang’ani, termed Ruto’s plan a revolutionary strategy seeking to tap on the crucial vote segment.

“Like other presidential candidates, Ruto has a strategy to reach out to the grassroots and I think this is one of his revolutionary ideas,” Kisiang’ani said.

The professor said that Ruto had realised that politicians have taken the youth for a ride for decades yet they have the energy and enthusiasm.