Kenyan president apologizes to arrogant officials, vows to take action against police brutality


NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s president Willem Ruto apologized on Friday for the “arrogance and display of opulence” by ruling party lawmakers and ministers and vowed action against “renegade” police officers who shot unarmed civilians during deadly protests and the storming of parliament over plans to raise taxes.

Ruto, referring to what he called arrogant statements by civil servants, said public speaking was “difficult” and that some people make “mistakes” for which he took responsibility and promised change in the behaviour of civil servants.

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

Ruto said he regretted the kidnapping and would take action, adding that “that is not right.” “You do not deserve the treatment you have received,” he said.

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

During the storming of parliament during a vote on a finance bill — which would have resulted in a tax hike if passed — lawmakers 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Ruto later said he would not sign the finance bill and told parliament that the proposed legislation should be withdrawn. However, protests continued, with calls for Ruto to resign over poor governance.

Corruption is rampant in Kenya, with the latest case involving the sale and distribution of thousands of fake bags of fertilizer worth millions of shillings by the Ministry of Agriculture.

The president was accused on Friday of failing to show empathy and not naming those killed in the protests. He responded by saying that “people are born different.” But he added that he was scheduled to speak to the mother of a boy shot dead in the protests.

Ruto was accused of failing to give the correct number of deaths in the protests, putting the number at 25, while the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights said 39 people had been killed.

An hour before the online meeting, Ruto announced specific austerity measures in a televised address, including the dissolution of “47 state-owned enterprises with overlapping and dual functions” to save on operational and maintenance costs.

He also suspended the appointment of 50 chief secretaries, who had been challenged in court on the grounds that their positions were unconstitutional.

The president also announced that the offices of the first lady and the wives of the vice president and prime minister would not be funded with government money.

The youth who spoke during Otero’s appearance at X on Friday stressed the need for the president to fire incompetent ministers in a reorganization that he said would happen “soon.”

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