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Kenya’s Ruto at Chatham House: verifying the deputy president’s London speech

This article is more than 5 years old

Deputy president William Ruto has become the latest notable Kenyan politician to speak at London’s Chatham House, where he highlighted the country’s progress.

The British think tank prides itself on its ability to draw high-profile speakers. It hosted Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta in April 2018 and Kirinyaga county governor Anne Waiguru three months later.

Ruto made a number of claims at the event on 8 February 2019. Here we put nine under the microscope.  


“In fact, the diaspora is the largest contributor [to] our foreign exchange.”



Africa Check contacted David Mugonyi, Ruto’s spokesperson, for the source the deputy president’s information. He is yet to get back to us.

But are diaspora remittances – which Kenya’s central bank defines as “money sent by a person in a foreign land to his or her home country” – the country’s biggest source of foreign currency, as Ruto said?

Kenya’s major foreign exchange earners have over the years included tea, horticulture, apparel and coffee exports, according to the national statistics bureau.

But the 2018 economic survey shows that remittances now contribute more. In 2017 they earned Kenya KSh203 billion in foreign exchange.

Kenya’s foreign exchange earnings, 2013 to 2017
(KSh billion)

SOURCE: 2018 Economic Survey, KNBS


“[Remittances contributed] upwards of maybe KSh290 billion last year.”



The Central Bank of Kenya collects data on diaspora remittances. Each month it surveys the flow of money into the country through formal channels such as commercial banks and other authorised remittance service providers.

In 2018 remittances were at US$2.697 billion. Using the central bank’s exchange rate for 8 February 2019, when Ruto made the claim, this works out to KSh270.1 billion. Nearly half was from North America.

The deputy president said the amount was “upwards” of KSh290 billion, so we rate his claim as exaggerated.


“It is a constitutional requirement… that when the president is away, the deputy president must be in the country.”



Ruto apologised to Kenyans living in London that he was unable to meet them, saying he had to rush back to Nairobi as President Uhuru Kenyatta was due to travel to Ethiopia.

In Kenyan law the two leaders could not be out of the country at the same time, he said. “It is a constitutional requirement which you passed that when the president is away, the deputy president must be in the country.”

Kenya’s constitution states: “When the President is absent or is temporarily incapacitated, and during any other period that the President decides, the Deputy President shall act as the President.”

Dr Luis Franceschi, dean of the Strathmore Law School in Nairobi, confirmed this interpretation of the law. “It is clear to me that the intention of the drafters was that the president and the deputy president should not be away (from the country) at the same time,” he told Africa Check.

(Note: On 26 February 2014, both leaders were away. State House said Kenyatta was unable to postpone a trip to South Sudan due to the “extraordinary nature” of the conflict there.)  


“We have built a standard-gauge railway [of] 600 kilometres... in the last five years.”



To improve its economy, Kenya is building a rail line that can carry both higher-speed trains and heavier cargo.

The first phase of the standard-gauge railway (SGR) from the coastal city of Mombasa to the capital Nairobi has already been built. But several sources have recently put the length at 472 kilometres.

These include the president’s delivery unit, State House, the China Road and Bridge Corporation – the Chinese firm that built it – and the Kenya Institute for Public Policy and Research Analysis, a government think tank.

The Kenya Railways Corporation puts the “route length” at 472 km and the  “track length” at 609 km - closer to the deputy president’s figure.

The main line is 472 km and the total track built 607.4 km, the SGR office told Africa Check. The difference is because there are areas on the main line with multiple tracks. These include two main stations and seven intermediate stations.

In total 33 stations account for the difference in rail length, the office said. The second phase of the railway, from Nairobi to the town of Naivasha, will measure 120.5 km for the main line and 132 km in total track length, it added.


“[The railway] has been in the books of our government for 30 years – it was not built.”



The SGR line is expected to strengthen trade in east Africa. According to 2014 parliamentary records, discussions on the railway began in 2003.

In 2008 Mwai Kibaki, then Kenya’s president, and his Uganda counterpart Yoweri Museveni signed a communique on the railway.

Kenya’s transport ministry says the railway’s journey started in 2007 while a 2009 railway masterplan study for the East Africa Community says the project was developed in 2007.

We have not found any publicly available record that the railway was in the works 30 years ago – in the 1980s or 1990s.


“We have connected 6.9 million people to electricity in the last five years.”



Some 6.76 million customers were connected to the electricity grid by 30 June 2018, according to the latest report by national utility Kenya Power.

In June 2013, a month after the current administration came into office, there were 2.33 million customers. This means in those five years some 4.43 million more customers - not 6.9 million - were added to the national grid.

(Note: We have previously checked another claim by the deputy president on the number of connections and rated it as misleading.)


“For 50 years only 2.3 million Kenyans were connected to electricity.”



In 2013, on the 50th anniversary of Kenya’s independence, 2.33 million were connected to the power grid. Africa Check established this when fact-checking the 2017/18 budget speech and the 2017 State of the Nation Address.

Africa Check also continuously tracks this metric on our promise tracker.


“We have constructed 7,000 kilometres of tarmac in the last five years – 12,000 kilometres were constructed in 50 years.”



Publicly available data on the length of road built in these five years is contradictory. In 2018, Kenyatta said an extra 3,000 km of tarmac was built from 2013 to 2018, but our fact-check couldn’t find data to support it.

A detailed analysis of the allocations for roads, and other data such as cement and steel use, does not support the construction of a further 7,000 km of road.  

Africa Check has for months tried to get reliable data from the transport ministry. Our access to information request has been pending at the ministry for the past year, and frequent follow-ups are yet to yield fruit. We thus rate this claim as unproven.


“The number of people on health insurance [has increased] from 3 million to 7 million in a record five years.”



The National Hospital Insurance Fund had 3.79 million principal members in June 2013, according to the national statistics office’s 2018 economic survey.

Membership had grown to 6.8 million by June 2017, and to 7.66 million by June 2018. But to benefit from this insurance, members have to be up to date with their monthly payments.

(Note: We are checking an additional claim on the number of health workers hired since 2013.)


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