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Ruto’s reference to Atwoli as ‘stupid’ irks world trade unions

Ruto’s reference to Atwoli as ‘stupid’ irks world trade unions

By Paul Munene

Deputy President William Ruto (pictured) caused another diplomatic shocker when he described trade unionist and political activist Francis Atwoli as stupid, saying the Cotu boss has failed to champion the interests of millions of workers he represents.

Ruto made the remarks when he addressed a group of Kenyans living in the United Kingdom in London on Sunday.

He took issue with Atwoli's move to stonewall a proposal that sought to increase contributions to the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) for people with higher incomes.

"How do you explain that a trade unionist would defend a system where the Deputy President earning Sh1 million pays Sh1,700 to NHIF while a peasant making Sh5,000 a month pays Sh500 which is 10 per cent of their income?" he posed.

Ruto's statement followed similar remarks where he referred to Atwoli as a man who exhibits juvenile behaviour describing him as "the old man who wears chains around his neck."

Atwoli is a bitter critic of Ruto and is known to have put up a "Stop Ruto Campaign" often saying "Ruto will not be on the ballot" in the August 9 presidential election.

He later changed his statement following an uproar from Ruto's camp which claimed a sinister motive by unnamed State operatives to assassinate Ruto saying instead that President Uhuru Kenyatta will not hand over the presidency to "a thief."

Atwoli was on the receiving end from Ruto's camp in February after he suggested the DP would commit suicide after losing the presidential contest to his archrival Raila Odinga who enjoys President Kenyatta's support.

Atwoli, who spoke in the presence of President Uhuru Kenyatta on February 8, advised Ruto handlers to "cut all trees at his rural home in Sugoi because the 'young man' will hung himself."

There are report secretary general of UK Trade Unions Congress, Frances O'Grady, registered her disappointment with Ruto’s utterances.

O'Grady described Atwoli as a global leader of labour movement as the chair of Global workers awareness fund under the ILO (International Labour Organization) which is a United Nations agency.

She said that it is regrettable that Kenya's Deputy President would use such term to describe Atwoli who is the vice president of ITUC (international Trade Unions Confederation).

O'Grady described the remarks as the biggest disrespect to world workers and wondered why Ruto chose UK platform to air such uncalled for profanities and disrespectful words on a representative of workers for doing his work.

But despite the hullabaloo caused by his remarks, Ruto went ahead to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in London.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury in Kent, UK. 

“Good to meet @WilliamsRuto this afternoon,” wrote Welby in a tweet sent on Monday, attaching a picture of him with Dr. Ruto.

Without giving further details around their meeting, the archbishop added that he would be meeting ODM leader Raila Odinga next week during his scheduled tour of the UK.

“Looking forward to seeing @RailaOdinga next week. Praying for peaceful, open, and credible elections on 9th August,” added archbishop Welby.

On Monday, the DP also gave an address at the ​​Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, in London where he decried what he termed as a sorry state of government system in the country.

Ruto said the opposition has rendered the current administration ‘a mongrel of a government system’, adding that President Uhuru Kenyatta has now become a ‘refugee’ in the opposition.

“Today in Kenya, we have a mongrel of a government system,” Ruto told the audience, “You don’t know whether it is the government that is in opposition or the opposition is the one that is in government.”

While drumming up his prospects for the country should he clinch the presidency in the August General Election, Ruto said he is championing the institutionalisation of the governance system.

According to the DP, the current administration, which he happens to be part of, has been compromised since the March 2018 handshake between President Kenyatta and then-opposition chief Raila Odinga.

“The leader of the opposition is a project of the system and the deep state of the government. Unfortunately, the leader of what is supposed to be the ruling party is actually a squatter or a refugee in the opposition party,” he added.

Raila is, meanwhile, expected  to deliver his own address at the Chatham House when he visits the UK next week.

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