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Ruto accuses political leaders of reviving tribalism, adds 'hiyo ni upuzi na ujinga'

President William Ruto's purple kaunda suit also became a talking point for speakers at the 2024 Labour Day celebrations with many reading into what it symbolised.

President William Ruto with COTU Secretary-General Francis Atwoli at Uhuru Gardens during the 2024 Labour Day celebrations

"Kenya's worker number 1" became the repeated reference as speakers addressed President William Ruto at Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi on Wednesday.

As the country joined global celebrations to mark Labour Day, the President's fashion choices also made it into the official speeches delivered at the national function.

From COTU Secretary-General Francis Atwoli to Federation of Kenya Employers CEO Jaqueline Mugo and Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja, the key speakers referred to Ruto's purple kaunda suit citing it as a show of solidarity with Kenyan workers.

While red, white, green and black are some of the globally used colours around Labour Day, in Kenya the purple colour has become synonymous with May Day due to efforts by the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU-K) under Atwoli's leadership.

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The annual celebration falls during a time when Kenya is grappling with the devasting effects of flooding nationwide.

Some of the major incidents have been the Mai Mahiu tragedy where 48 people had been confirmed dead on Labour Day morning with hundreds displaced; Kitengela area just outside the City also joined the list of flooding areas where masses of people have been evacuated with rescue efforts underway.

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With fear of the ongoing March-April-May long rains, the national celebrations at Uhuru Gardens witnessed a diminished attendance.

President Ruto's remarks included an appreciation for the day's theme, highlighting his government's TVET's Tujitume Programme and its adoption by Kenya Power PLC and the Ministry of Information, Communication & the Digital Economy. He also noted the achievements of the Ajira Digital Programme.

  • On the doctors' strike

In his message to doctors, who have been on strike, Ruto stated: "I want to urge workers, including our sons and daughters who are doctors, that as social partners we must swiftly address the pertinent issues at hand ensuring that essential services continue uninterrupted."

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The President added that the Ministry of Labour & Social Protection is under instruction to activate multiple wage councils created under the 2007 Labour Relations Act.

  • Affordable Housing Fund

On the Affordable Housing projects, the President assured Kenyans that they would begin to see completed projects by the end of 2024.

He added that the National Housing Fund will be prioritised to build homes for those displaced from riparian lands and low-cost housing projects in the recent flooding crisis.

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  • Minimum wage to be increased by 6%

Despite high anticipation for President Ruto to increase the minimum wage, he did not commit to the venture, only noting that he had assigned it for review this year.

He mandated the Labour CS Florence Bore to consult with the relevant authority and recommend an increase in the current minimum wage (Sh17,000) by at least 6%.

  • Resurgence of tribalism

President Ruto accused a section of unnamed leaders of propagating tribalism in the country, shunning it as the lowest form of politics.

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"Hiyo ni upuzi na hiyo ni ujinga, and I say that with no fear of contradiction. Tumetoa nchi ya Kenya mahali mbali and I want to ask the citizens of our country, especially the one who have the privilege to be leaders, to desist from dividing citizens along tribal lines. That is retrogressive, primitive and takes our country back," the president noted.

Tribal politics in Kenya has historically been a catalyst to community clashes and electoral disputes including the 2007/2008 post-election violence.

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