After rising to the country’s top seat in late 2022, President William Ruto entered his first calendar year as the Head of State in January 2023.
But it was not always going to be a walk in the park especially in light of the challenges facing the country including high cost of living and a unity test compounded by the opposition’s rejection of the 2022 election outcome.
This article reviews some of the major events that defined the Kenyan political space throughout 2023.
After postponing countrywide protests in 2022 to allow conclusion of national examinations, opposition leader Raila Odinga finally called for nationwide mass protests in March.
Driven by the determination to stop a planned reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and high cost of living, Raila and Azimio issued an ultimatum to the government vowing to lead nationwide mass action upon the lapse of the period.
On March 27, the Azimio brigade led protestors in Nairobi and other counties to plunge the economy of affected areas to a momentarily halt.
At the time, business owners in Nairobi and other business centers were left counting loses occasioned by protestors who capitalized on the ensuing unrest to loot shops.
Eventually, the Azimio faction intensified its pressure on the government after announcing increasing the number of protests days per week to two.
After intervention from various players including the clergy and the international community, the opposition agreed to halt the demonstrations and instead opted to engage the government through bipartisan talks.
However, the Azimio la Umoja later resumed the protests in July- this time fueled by concerns about high cost of living and some of the provisions in the Finance Act 2023.
Amid the weeks of protests spread across major towns in the country, the international community was keeping a close eye on the situation with leaders and multilateral organizations offering to mediate between the government and the opposition.
Amid the tension over the direction Kenya was taking, reports emerged that President William Ruto had turned down an offer by Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu to broker a deal between him and Raila.
Eventually, however, the two sides were brought to the negotiating table with former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo acting as the mediator.
Despite most part of the agreement remaining classified, the effect of the mediation talks was eventually evident in the calm that followed a decision by the opposition to call of protests and instead embark on what came to be known as the National Dialogue Committee (NADCO).
In the run up to the unveiling of the 2023/2024 budget, the Finance Act pushed in parliament became contentious over some of the clauses included in the bill.
One of the contentious parts of the bill was the one introducing mandatory Housing Levy which would see every employee contribute 3% of his or her monthly wages to a fund meant to support the Affordable Housing plan.
The levy sparked reactions among Kenyans with the opposition and other players vowing to oppose to the core.
The government through Principal Secretary for Housing Charles Hinga also struggled to explain the rationale of the levy amid widespread opposition.
On one occasion, the PS was filmed sweating profusely while breaking down the rationale of the fund.
After some weeks, however, the government bowed to pressure and reduced the rate of deductions from the 3% to 1.5%.
Less than a year into their terms, several governors in Kenya faced a tough time characterized by impeachment threats.
In their defense, the county chiefs always pointed accusing fingers to some figures within their counties threatening to destabilize county operations.
And sure enough, Members of Meru County Assembly made true their threat after impeaching Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza for the second time in under one year of her term.
Other governors who faced impeachment threats include Kiambu Governor Kimani Wamatangi, Siaya Governor James Orengo, Kajiado Governor Joseph Ole Lenku.
After months of speculations, President William Ruto in October made his first changes to the cabinet he named in 2022.
Public Service Secretary Moses Kuria who had hit the ground running in the Trade and Industrialization docket was among those affected in the change.
Coming on the back of sanctions over his remarks, Kuria had been sidelined in the government’s engagements with foreign envoys and partners on matters trade.
Also Read: President Ruto Announces Cabinet Reshuffle
As such, speculations grew over a possible sack or change in the Ministry which came true during the reorganization.
In addition to Kuria’s change, the President also moved then Foreign Affairs CS Alfred Mutua to the Tourism docket and moved the Foreign Affairs docket to the Office of the Cabinet Secretary headed by Prime Cabinet Secretary.