William Ruto holds X-Space debate with Kenyan protesters

Kenyan President William Ruto launched a historic public online forum with anti-tax protesters on social media platform X-Space, saying he was willing to listen.

His daughter Charlene Root, 31, called it “the first president in the world to hold an online meeting with the entire Generation Z.”

This is a reference to the young people behind the recent protests that have rocked her father’s presidency.

The protests against the Finance Bill were organised through “X-Space”, a feature on the platform formerly known as Twitter that allows users to have live audio conversations with other users.

Some Kenyans on X have vowed to boycott the presidential chat and are planning parallel spaces to counter the conversation.

They did not want Mr Ruto to moderate the debate and control who could speak, and argued that he already knew their demands.

The presidential session appeared to be plagued by technical difficulties and began about 45 minutes late.

The fierce backlash over the proposed tax hikes forced President Ruto to announce he was withdrawing the bill, which was aimed at reducing Kenya’s debt burden of more than $80bn (£63bn).

The state-run Human Rights Commission estimates that more than 40 people have been killed during the protests, most of them on the day lawmakers passed the bill last week, and the Interior Ministry says 25 protesters have been killed.

The protests have since shifted to calls for Ruto to resign and for security forces to be held to justice for killings of protesters.

Ahead of the X Space session, President Ruto delivered a televised address to the nation in which he promised a series of cuts including:

  • Dissolution of 47 public corporations with overlapping functions
  • Civil servants banned from purchasing new cars for six months
  • A complete ban on non-essential travel for state government employees
  • Government advisors cut by 50%
  • Eliminate funding for the spouses of the President, Vice President and Chief Cabinet Secretary.
  • The mandatory retirement age for civil servants will be 60.

President Ruto began his speech by offering condolences but said these “challenging times” were an opportunity for the country.

“We are finally having the right conversations, not about tribes, personalities or political systems, but about issues that affect each and every one of us: taxes, debt, budgets, corruption, cost of living, unemployment, opportunity for our youth.”

His X-Space is named #EngageThePresident, Between 11:00 GMT and 14:00 GMT (14:00-17:00 local time).

His daughter, Charlene, tweeted to promote the three-hour opportunity to speak directly with the president.

“Young people, the opportunity of a lifetime awaits you” She posted.

“I encourage you to use this wisely and engage constructively because it is you who will determine the continuity of this level of discussion for your success.”

Members of Mr Root’s cabinet are also attending the discussions on X-Space, which are yet to begin in earnest.

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