The frequency and extent of President Ruto’s travels have sparked concerns from Kenyans and even though the mockery has taken the usual ‘peculiar Kenyan humour’ on social media, the concerns are quite valid!
In recent years, the globe has witnessed an unprecedented surge in international travels by political leaders, each trip sparking debates and discussions on its necessity and impact.
While diplomatic engagements and international relations are essential, the frequency of these trips raises questions about their true purpose, financial implications, and the effects on the respective nations.
President Ruto (pictured above at Seoul’s National Cemetery in late 2022) is among these leaders who have come under scrutiny for his frequent and extensive travels with Kenyans on Twitter now joking that the president should have a home at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) where he “just lands from one destination, freshens up, increases the cost of fuel, the sets off to the next destination”. But jokes aside; let’s take a closer look at the Impact of President Ruto’s rampant travel on the nation:
The proliferation of travel
President Ruto’s administration has seen an exponential increase in international travel, surpassing the patterns set by his predecessors. These trips encompass state visits, international conferences, and bilateral talks, often involving a considerable entourage. While some argue that these travels enhance the country’s global standing, others question the real benefits they bring to the nation.
Ruto has maintained that his travels are an essential strategy to secure partnerships, foster economic growth, and tackle international issues collectively.
“In an interconnected world, we cannot afford to isolate ourselves. These trips are investments in our nation’s future – building relationships, attracting investments, and addressing global challenges,” he said.
In response to the growing concerns over the massive travel by Ruto’s administration, the government in early October moved to suspend all non-essential travel for government officials in a move aimed at regulating public spending. The head of Public Service Felix Koskei also announced restrictions on delegations accompanying the President, Deputy President, First Lady, and Prime Cabinet Secretaries for foreign trips.
Public perception and accountability
The public’s perception of these travels is another critical aspect. Some view President Ruto’s extensive international engagements positively, considering them a sign of a proactive leader engaging with the global community. However, a significant portion of the population is growing increasingly sceptical, questioning the tangible outcomes of these trips and whether they genuinely benefit the common citizen.
Moreover, there are concerns about accountability. Transparency regarding the objectives, outcomes, and agreements made during these travels is essential for building trust with the citizens. Without clear communication, suspicions and speculations can erode public confidence in the government.
“We need transparency and accountability regarding the costs involved in these trips. The citizens have a right to know how their tax money is being utilized,” Transparency International Kenya’s Executive Director, Sarah Kimani.
One of the primary concerns surrounding President Ruto’s rampant travels is the financial burden placed on the country. International trips, especially those involving large delegations, incur significant expenses. Critics argue that these resources could be better utilized to address pressing domestic issues such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure development. The public demands transparency regarding the costs incurred and the benefits gained from these extensive travels.
Impact on governance
Frequent and prolonged absences from the country can also impact the governance structure. Important decisions may be delayed, and the day-to-day affairs of the nation could suffer due to the absence of key leaders. Furthermore, the lack of direct oversight during these periods raises concerns about the efficiency and effectiveness of the government machinery.
While engaging with the international community is undoubtedly crucial for any nation’s progress, striking a balance between global engagement and domestic responsibilities is essential.
Ruto’s administration must address the financial implications, governance challenges, public perception, and environmental concerns associated with these travels.
The government must uphold transparency, accountability, and a thoughtful approach to international engagements to ensure that President Ruto’s travels genuinely benefit the nation and Kenyans in the long run.