Kenya: Ruto resorts to deception, manoeuvres and provocation

The storming of the Kenyan parliament building by revolutionary youth last week stunned the world and left Kenyan politicians and the ruling class in a state of panic and disarray. Brute force could not clear the masses off the streets. The regime has been forced to resort to new methods: a sly combination of deception, manoeuvres and provocations.

Officially, Ruto has killed the Finance Bill, although in theory parliament could still pass it. In actual fact, it has already become abundantly clear that he intends to carry out the same economic policy against the workers and poor by other means.

But for large numbers of young Kenyans, it’s no longer just about Finance Bill 2024. After last Tuesday and Thursday’s events, when regime bullets left 30 dead (according to official figures), millions have resolved that this regime must fall. ‘The Butcher of Sugoi’ as Ruto is now known, must be brought down.

But the renewed protests this Tuesday show that thought is required to achieve this.

The numbers on the street had declined. This was precisely what Ruto’s partial concessions were aimed at. On the other hand, paid provocateurs and selective policing were used to turn these protests towards rioting and looting. The aim was as simple as it was cynical: to alienate one part of the masses from the movement in order to isolate the most irreconcilably revolutionary elements, and justify unleashing repression.

How can revolutionaries check these efforts by the ruling class, and thereby ensure that not only the Finance Bill falls, but that Ruto and his whole regime follows it into the dustbin of history?

Austerity will continue

fire Image Capital FM Kenya Wikimedia CommonsRuto’s initial response reflected the arrogance and stupidity of the ruling class / Image: Capital FM Kenya, Wikimedia Commons

In the immediate wake of the storming of parliament last week, Ruto’s initial response reflected the arrogance and stupidity of the ruling class. He launched into a televised tirade against the peaceful youth, whom he described as “treasonous criminals”, whilst promising to deploy the army against the masses going forward.

However, the next day, Ruto announced that he had ‘listened’ to the people on the streets: Finance Bill 2024 would be returned to parliament instead of being passed into law.

Evidently more sober minds had prevailed at the top of the regime. The movement could not be crushed directly. To have carried out Ruto’s threats would have been insanity from the standpoint of the Kenyan ruling class. Indeed, when soldiers were deployed at the subsequent protest last Thursday, they were clearly under orders not to shoot protesters. It was clear why. 

The masses received the rank and file soldiers with jubilation, seeing in them their protectors against the bullets of the hated police. Had the soldiers been ordered to fire on the masses, what would have happened? An immediate split in the army would have been almost assured, and the downfall of the regime would have followed shortly thereafter.

But if any innocent soul thought the shelving of the Finance Bill was the end of the matter, they were sadly mistaken. The regime still intends to deliver a pound of flesh to the IMF and the imperialists, and they’ve started making plans to ensure it.

Instead of raising taxes to pay their imperialist creditors, Ruto has wasted no time in announcing a series of austerity cuts to achieve the same end. “The people of Kenya have spoken loudly that they want a leaner budget for us as a country,” Ruto mockingly stated. The government has already announced the dismissal of 46,000 teachers, and massive cuts in road construction, healthcare, housing, and support for small businesses.

And then consider this coincidence: just five days after the Finance Bill was dropped by Ruto, the East African Community, which Kenya economically dominates, decided to introduce a series of duties. And these duties just happen to apply precisely to those items (including diapers, phones and cooking oil) that Ruto had intended to tax in the first place!

The masses defeated Ruto’s legislation. That was a victory. But so long as the ruling class remains in power, they are forced by the circumstances that crisis-ridden capitalism imposes on the country to come back once and again to the same policy: that of forcing the workers and poor to pay for the crisis.

What happened on Tuesday?

Ruto’s withdrawal on the Finance Bill, by conceding on the main demand of the movement, undoubtedly led to a reduced turnout when the masses hit the streets once again this Tuesday. But the regime had clearly prepared its next steps.

Tens of thousands of the most irreconcilable and revolutionary youth were going to turn out on Tuesday. But it was clear that something different was being prepared for them from early on.

The first thing protesters noted was that highways were closed off from the morning, including the Nairobi-Thika highway, Nairobi-Nakuru highway, the Mombasa-Malindi highway, and the Kisii-Keroka highway.

The aim was clearly to frustrate protesters, forcing them away from focal points like the parliament building and State House. Once back in their own communities, the regime clearly aimed to provoke riots in which personal property and small businesses would go up in flames. The talk all over social media was of hired goons, of paid provocateurs, disguised as protesters, initiating looting and riots, stabbing and attacking protesters.

That the regime is perfectly capable of using hired goons in this manner is already proven. Already last Thursday, videos were circulating of goons hired by Omar Sudi in Eldoret to intimidate protesters.

But whatever role these goons played, it is clear that the rioting unfolded according to a well-prepared plan on the part of the regime. Whereas the police unleashed terror on the peaceful masses outside parliament a week ago, footage showed the same police standing idly by as mobs unleashed chaos yesterday.

Where next?

The regime succeeded in creating chaos on the streets. Their aim is to divide the movement in order to crush it. Whether they will succeed is another question: the transparent way the regime went about stoking chaos means the manoeuvre won’t fool as many as they’d have hoped.

Nevertheless, they are moving ahead with their plans, which now involve intensifying arrests and abductions. Already individuals have been charged for the ‘crime’ of tweeting ‘Ruto must go’.

smoke Image Capital FM Kenya Wikimedia CommonsThe vanguard of the youth are already conscious of the fact that the withdrawal of the Finance Bill was a smokescreen / Image: Capital FM Kenya, Wikimedia Commons

These events are teaching the revolutionary workers and youth a lesson. A revolution is not a one act drama. The masses got a taste of their enormous power last Tuesday. But yesterday showed that raw power is not enough.

The masses face a tenacious enemy – the Kenyan capitalist class, backed by western imperialism. This enemy will not give up without a fight. It will use every means – fair and foul – to force the masses to accept the yoke of exploitation and oppression, which becomes daily more onerous. The class enemy has organisation, material means, and are tightly bound together by consciousness of their interests.

Since the beginning of the movement, we have underlined the fact that the masses need to be equally organised. Yesterday’s events have starkly demonstrated this fact.

The slogan, “leaderless, tribeless, partyless” was positive insofar as it meant rejection of those would-be leaders from the camp of our class enemy, such as the camp of Ruto’s loyal opposition around Odinga.

But without clear organisation and leadership, the manoeuvres of the regime, the likes of which we saw yesterday, threaten to demoralise and confuse the masses. We have raised the need for committees in every workplace, school and community precisely to give this movement sincere, revolutionary leadership from within and clear channels of organisation.

Such organisation, as we have explained, could help draw the working class into the struggle, to use its enormous might to grind the economy to a halt. It could consciously connect with the rank and file of the armed forces, bringing ordinary soldiers over to the side of the masses. And it could provide stewarding and self-defence at the protests, expelling and exposing the paid goons disguised as ‘protesters’, checking any sordid manoeuvre that the regime tries to pull.

We continue to urge this course of action. But recent days have shown that this too is not enough.

Ruto has made concessions. This has temporarily satisfied some, but it won’t be long before it becomes clear to the broad masses that Ruto has carried out a cruel trick. The vanguard of the youth are already conscious of the fact that the withdrawal of the Finance Bill was a smokescreen behind which business-as-usual will continue. The programme of the capitalist class and western imperialism is still on the agenda!

protest Image Capital FM Kenya Wikimedia CommonsWe must make clear to the broad masses that not only the Finance Bill, not only Ruto, but the whole capitalist system must be swept away / Image: Capital FM Kenya, Wikimedia Commons

The advanced workers and youth must fuse together in a revolutionary party to carry out systematic agitation, exposing the lies of this regime, exposing the fact that the Finance Bill is just one measure among many intended to make the workers and poor pay for the crisis of capitalism. We must make clear to the broad masses that not only the Finance Bill, not only Ruto, but the whole capitalist system must be swept away to guarantee a decent life for the masses.

In order to broaden out the movement, to expand its horizons beyond bringing down Ruto and the Finance Bill, to turn this movement into a struggle for the conquest of power by the working class, such a party would put forward a series of programmatic points to connect with the needs of the masses. Although by no means exhaustive these might include such things as:

  • Freedom for all those abducted by the regime;
  • The right to free, high quality healthcare and education;
  • The right to well-paid work through a programme of public works;
  • A reversal of all privatisations;
  • An end to land grabbing and expropriation of the major landlords;
  • That this programme be paid for by the rich, through expropriation of the major industries, banks and insurance companies;
  • The repudiation of the imperialist debts;
  • An end to all military deals with the imperialist powers;
  • For a workers’ government backed by the power of the revolutionary masses, organised on the basis of revolutionary committees.

The Revolutionary Communist International is willing to render every assistance in this work of constructing a revolutionary party to give an organised, conscious political expression to the vanguard of Kenya’s working class and youth. We appeal to you, the reader, to contact us, discuss with us, and join us in this task.

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