Kenya marks 60 years of independence, and the president defends painful economic measures

People jump and wave Kenyan flags during the 60th Jamhuri Day Celebrations (Independence Day) at Uhuru gardens Stadium in Nairobi, Monday, Dec. 12, 2023. Thousands of Kenyans braved a chilly morning to attend festivities Tuesday in the capital Nairobi, to mark 60 years since the East African country gained independence from British Colonial rule. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s president on Tuesday defended the high taxes the government recently imposed, calling them a “necessary sacrifice “in helping the country deal with ballooning foreign debt which now stands at $70 billion.

Speaking at celebrations marking 60 years since Kenya’s independence from Britain, President William Ruto said East Africa’s largest economy was no longer at risk of defaulting on bond payments following economic reforms his government had undertaken since taking power last September.

“Though painful, the sacrifices we have made will not only make our freedom fighters proud,” Ruto told tens of thousands of people in the capital, Nairobi. He added: “I can now confirm without fear of any contradiction that Kenya is safely out of the danger of debt distress, and that our economy is on a stable footing.”

The economy has taken center stage in politics and daily life in Kenya as the government tackles mounting debts. A $2 billion Eurobond is due in June.

Last month, the government reached a lending agreement with the International Monetary Fund amounting to $938 million, a boost for the country struggling with dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

Recent attempts at reforms include a mandatory housing levy which courts struck down last month for being “discriminatory, irrational, arbitrary and against the constitution.”

The president also removed subsidies on fuel and maize flour — a staple in Kenya.

Ruto vowed that “all taxes collected by the government shall be put to their intended use and that no single shilling — not one shilling — shall be lost through embezzlement, theft or corruption.” Kenyans have long complained of widespread official graft.

Source:  AP , 12th December 2023