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Is Ruto positioning himself as the new Pan-Africanist?

Since taking over from his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s President William Ruto has been on a relentless mission of pushing for the interests of the African continent abroad.

Observers say President Ruto has been vocal on three main issues that include Climate Change, debt restructuring and an all-inclusive global financial management.

In his maiden address at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2022, President Ruto pleaded with the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other multilateral lenders to consider extending new reliefs to African countries facing debt crisis.

“I call upon global financial institutions and the international community to take urgent measures and release all existing financial instruments to provide much-needed additional liquidity and secure better fiscal space for developing countries like Kenya,” he said.

Speaking when he attended a summit of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) held in Lusaka, Zambia, President Ruto called on the Africa Union (AU) Member States to donate certain powers to the continental bloc as part of the much-needed reforms to make the bodywork.

President Ruto who also attended Pan-African Parliament Summit on Climate Policy and Equity in South Africa lamented that African Heads of State are most of the time not given a platform to explain their issues in-depth when invited to attend international conferences.

“While we are invited to those summits, we are given limited time. Then over 50 of us line up for photos, and unfortunately, that’s the only thing we go back home with,” Ruto said.

International relations scholars believe that the push for Africa’s agenda globally places President Ruto in a position to be the continental spokesperson to advance its interests.

Prof. David Kikaya, a scholar of foreign policy and international studies terms Ruto’s intent a positive step towards the right direction of having someone to advance the agenda of the continent.

“I was impressed with the statement President Ruto made at the African Union Summit where he was arguing that we need to give more muscle to the continental body. I think this is a positive step because if we operate as a continental body, we have all it takes to take off,” Prof. Kikaya said.

To succeed in this mission, Prof. Kikaya says President Ruto should lobby his colleagues in the continent to support his resolve to amplify Africa’s voice.

“What will be important is what measures will President Ruto put in place to pursue this agenda by getting other member states to join him rather than it being a one-man show,” Prof. Kikaya added.

A lawyer and governance specialist Javas Bigambo says President Ruto might succeed if other Presidents adopt a stronger voice and support his aggressive mission.

“If it is a question of debt restructuring, many African countries have debts that are choking them so he is not speaking just for Kenya, he is speaking for Africa. If it is the question of Climate Change, the effects can be seen by at least all African nations. So it is important for the African leaders, especially the African Union (AU), to scale up the advocacy on the global stage,’’ Bigambo explained.

However, Prof. Peninah Ogada, international relations expert thinks otherwise.

She says the President could be deflecting attention from domestic malfunctions because the country is facing challenges that should be addressed first before going abroad.

“We have so many wrongs at home and you can’t go preaching what you don’t do. The level of corruption and misgovernment does not start at the African level; it starts at the State level before gaining moral authority going upwards. You cannot climb a tree from the top,” Prof. Ogada said in an interview with the Star.

Other African leaders who pushed for pan-Africanism include; Thomas Sankara, Muammar Gaddafi, Malcom X, Kwame Nkrumah, and Patrice Lumumba among others.

Source: STAR