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Fact-checking Kenya’s deputy president on maize imports, debt, electricity & police

In a Citizen TV interview, Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto sought to defend the government’s record, ahead of an August election.

This article is more than 7 years old

In a Citizen TV interview on 16 May, Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto sought to defend the government’s record, ahead of an August election.

“We came to the people of Kenya with pledges, a list of promises we were going to do, today, we are armed with a scorecard and a performance record,” said Ruto, whose Jubilee party is seeking a second term.

Ruto listed what he said were gains in decentralising government, putting up infrastructure and reining in corruption. He also tried to allay concerns about rising public debt.

We fact-checked some of the deputy president’s key claims.


 “The duty waiver was made in April… and we actually asked importers to import maize from as early as 1 month ago."



Cost of living

Kenya has been riveted by a saga revolving around the speed it took to import a shipment of much-needed maize. On 4 May 2017, the Kenyan Revenue Authority published a notice allowing duty-free imports of maize.

On 12 May, a ship docked with maize allegedly purchased from Mexico, leading to speculation that well-connected individuals had prior knowledge of the waiver. An acute drought has seen prices of milled maize rise 50% over the last year, catapulting the staple into a campaign issue.

Some 2.7 million Kenyans are in need of food relief, leading the government to declare the drought a national disaster in February 2017 and opening doors for international support.

Ruto’s position was that a duty waiver had already been announced last month and that the resulting window was enough for anybody to import maize into the country.

In a 30 March budget speech to the national assembly, the minister in charge of the treasury Henry Rotich announced that he was suspending duty on maize imports in a bid to rein in prices.

“…the importation of maize during the next 4 months will be duty-free. I expect, therefore to see a reduction of prices for these basic commodities which are enjoyed by the majority of our people,” said Rotich.

On 13 April he published a gazette notice allowing 22 companies to import more than 400,000 tonnes of yellow maize (strictly for animal feed) duty-free until 31 August 2017. The cabinet secretary also allowed “any person” to import white maize without paying duty until 31 July 2017.

The first known import of such maize arrived at the port of Mombasa on 12 May 2017.

One global freight operator gives a timeline of 4 weeks to transport a container of maize from Mexico’s busiest port of Lazaro Cardenas to Mombasa and shorter from South Africa, the other port of origin mentioned in the saga.

Ruto is correct that the import duty waiver was issued a month ago and that this information has been in the public domain.


“When we came in, [the ratio of debt to GDP] was at 45%, today it is close to 50%.”



Public debt

When the ruling party took over in April 2013, the ratio of debt to Gross Domestic Product was 45.8%, according to the revised budget policy statement from the National Treasury that month. This ratio measures a country’s ability to pay its debt.

(Note: The GDP was rebased in 2014, statistically raising it by 25.6% according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, temporarily reducing the ratio.)

Currently Kenya’s debt to GDP ratio is at 52.6%, according to the treasury’s latest quarterly economic and budgetary review tabled in the national assembly on 17 May 2017. This is a rise in debt from KSh1.79 trillion (US$17.32 billion) to KSh4.05 trillion (US$39.2 billion) – an increase of 125.5% during the term of the current administration.

The questions about the country’s public debt followed what President Uhuru Kenyatta said in his state of the nation address were legitimate concerns that it may be too high.

Preliminary findings by the International Monetary Fund placed Kenya’s debt at 52.1% of its GDP in the 2015/16 financial year, which ended on 30 June 2016. This compared to a 2014/15 debt ratio of 48.7% of GDP.

The IMF projects Kenya’s debt to be at 52.5% of GDP in the current financial year, rising to 53.3% in 2017/18.

A 2010 World Bank study found that for developing economies, a debt-to-GDP ratio of 64% was the “tipping point” at which public debt would begin to hurt economic growth.

The deputy president, therefore, downplayed the current debt level and we rate the claim understated.


We have connected a record 6 million Kenyans to electricity."




In the final year of the previous government, some 2.23 million customers were connected to the power grid. In 2013/14, the first full financial year of the Kenyatta administration, the number of connections rose to 2.77 million.

In March, new Kenya Power managing director Dr Ken Tarus announced that the number of people connected to the grid had increased to 5.98 million, or near 6 million.

The increase that is thus attributable to the current government is 3.75 million people, not 6 million as said by Ruto.

We, therefore, rate this claim as misleading, because while elements of it are accurate, they are presented in a way that it is misleading.


“Today we have surpassed the internationally accepted ratio of policemen to citizens."




When the current administration took office in 2013, there were 75,325 police officers in the country according to data from the National Police Service. The National Police Service Commission, which hires police officers, put their number at 90,442 as at July 2016.

In January 2017, president Kenyatta said the police numbers had risen to 98,732. Two months later he presided over the graduation of officers from the General Service Unit, the Administration Police and the regular Police, the 3 arms of the police service. Some 9,956 new officers were added, bringing the tally to 108,688. (Note: This does not capture those who may have left or died.)

The Economic Survey 2017 released in April 2017 estimates the Kenyan population at 45.4 million, leading to a ratio of 1 officer for every 418 people.( The police to population ratio indicates the number of police officers serving a community, relative to its size. For example, if a community has 1 police officer serving 50 people, the ratio is 1:50.)

The often cited UN ratio is said to be 1 policeman for every 450 people. However, the UN defines police personnel as “those whose principal functions are the prevention, detection and investigation of crime and the apprehension of alleged offenders”.

The UN therefore only counts Kenya Police members, who are often referred to as the regular police, in its database. The economic survey, from which the UN derives its figures, puts the number of regular police at 53,844 officers.

If you add the 5,971 regular officers who graduated in March, the total Kenya Police Service (excluding APs) works out to 59,815 police officers. The ratio is then 1 police officer for every 759 Kenyans.

But the biggest problem with this claim is that Africa Check has so far not found proof that the UN has ever recommended a ratio of 1:450, or any other ratio, as a policing guideline. This number seems to date back to the United States’ policing of occupied Germany in 1945 when 1 American policeman oversaw 450 German civilians. Available literature shows that the success of that model at the time has tended to inform international policing.

Experts Africa Check has spoken to say that given the varying functions and abilities of police globally, it is unlikely that the UN would prescribe a recommended ratio.

Analysts say the focus should be on the quality of policing, not absolute numbers.

Edited by Lee Mwiti

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