Kenyan president fires ministers over anti-tax protests

Kenyan President William Ruto has fired “with immediate effect” all his ministers and attorney general following recent deadly protests that led to the repeal of an unpopular tax bill.

The president said the move came after “reflection, listening to the Kenyan people and a comprehensive review of my cabinet”.

He said he would consult widely to form a broadly based government.

His dismissal of the cabinet does not affect the vice president, who cannot be fired by law, and the cabinet minister who doubles as foreign minister.

Mr Ruto said government operations would continue uninterrupted under the supervision of senior civil servants.

He said he would consult “various political sectors and organisations as well as other Kenyans, both in public and private” about a new government, but did not specify when it would be announced.

The constitution does not specify how long the president can function without a cabinet. But analysts say Mr Ruto will have to appoint a new team soon to avoid further problems with the country’s outraged youth.

The sudden dismissal of the cabinet was highly unusual, coming less than two years after he took office.

Three of the sacked ministers were MPs before leaving their legislative roles to join the cabinet just two years ago.

One of them is Aden Duale, who in a quick post on X (formerly Twitter) thanked the president and said he would be “forever grateful to you and the people of Kenya for the opportunity to serve” as Kenya’s defense minister.

“Whatever paves the way for the best interests of our nation, at this moment, is most important,” Soipan Tuya posted, Environment Minister fired.

Last Thursday, President Ruto chaired a cabinet meeting that one local newspaper described as “The Last Supper“for ministers.

Several ministers have been implicated in corruption scandals that have led to the suspension of senior government officials in several ministries. But Mr Ruto has defended them, saying there was no evidence to sack them.

Last October, Mr. Ruto announced a minor cabinet reshuffle affecting at least eight ministers.

The last time an entire cabinet was dissolved was in 2005 when President Mwai Kibaki made the decision shortly after losing a referendum on a new constitution.

Mr Ruto is under pressure from Kenyans as they continue to hold anti-government protests and demand greater accountability, despite his agreement to withdraw a controversial tax hike.

He has pledged to form a low-cost but “broad-based” government, a reference to its ability to attract opposition support.

The law allows the president to nominate up to 22 ministers, with a minimum of 14.

On Tuesday, the president met with opposition leader Raila Odinga and announced plans to set up a 150-member dialogue committee to help resolve the current crisis.

But young Kenyans who organised the protests rejected Mr Ruto’s plan and demanded he dissolve the cabinet and take action against corrupt officials.

The tax hike is aimed at helping reduce Kenya’s huge debt but protesters insist the government must first cut spending, saying there is too much waste.

Last week, Mr. Ruto announced some austerity measures.

He also ordered a freeze on proposed pay rises for cabinet and parliamentary members after a public outcry.

But these measures failed to appease protesters as some called for the president to resign using the hashtag #RutoMustGo.

While the cabinet dismissal is a bold step towards addressing the government’s inefficiency, the success of the move will depend heavily on the effectiveness of the new ministers.

His critics have warned Mr Ruto against bringing back sacked ministers to cabinet.

Although the street protests have died down, anger against the government continues, with more demonstrations planned for next Tuesday. It is unclear whether the protests will continue after the cabinet is dissolved.

“I have never felt so proud to be a Kenyan in my life. The power is always in the hands of the people,” Hanifa Farsafi, one of the protest organizers, posted on X.

Additional reporting by Mercy Juma in Nairobi


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