Back to Africa Check

University of Arizona in the US did not disown graduates in ceremony presided over by Kenyan president William Ruto

IN SHORT: In a letter circulating on Kenyan social media platforms, a US educational institution appears to be bashing the Kenyan president. But the letter is bogus.

On 9 December 2023, Kenyan president William Ruto presented certificates of completion to graduates who had enrolled for free online courses at Arizona State University in the US.

A day later, a letter circulated online claiming that the university had denied any links with the graduates.

“In response to recent assertions, the University of Arizona categorically denies any affiliation with the graduates in Kenya, whose ceremony was presided over by President Ruto,” reads part of the letter.

“We wish to emphasize our unequivocal disassociation from this fraudulent claim and underscore that these individuals did not pursue their studies at our esteemed institution,” it continued.

The letter bears the University of Arizona logo.

Some social media users seized on the letter, saying it was a major embarrassment for the Kenyan leader.

The claim has also been posted on Facebook here, here, here and here. But is the letter genuine? We took a closer look and found some red flags.


Red flags

Ruto announced the online courses in December 2022. His speech at the time shows that the courses were offered by the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University. This is a separate institution from the University of Arizona, the alleged author of the letter.

The letter is undated and unsigned, which is unusual for an official communication from an educational institution.

It also wades into domestic politics, urging Ruto to focus instead on taxing Kenyans fairly and reducing international travel. This would be unlikely for any university, local or foreign.

We searched the University of Arizona's official Facebook page and website for the letter, but came up empty. 

The final word on the matter came from the institution. “I can confirm the letter in question is a forgery and did not come from the University of Arizona,” spokesperson Nick Prevenas told Africa Check.

Arizona State University, which oversaw the graduation in question, is a “completely separate institution”, Prevenas said.

The Thunderbird School of Global Management posted the graduation photos on its official Facebook page, saying: “December 9 was a special day in Kenya, as President Ruto awarded certificates of completion to Kenyan learners who successfully finished the Global Entrepreneurship & Innovation Bootcamp.” There is no sign of the letter on the school’s verified page.

The letter circulating online is fake.

Republish our content for free

We believe that everyone needs the facts.

You can republish the text of this article free of charge, both online and in print. However, we ask that you pay attention to these simple guidelines. In a nutshell:

1. Do not include images, as in most cases we do not own the copyright.

2. Please do not edit the article.

3. Make sure you credit "Africa Check" in the byline and don't forget to mention that the article was originally published on

For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?

Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.

The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.

You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.