1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Kenya's President William Ruto urges end to war in Ukraine

March 28, 2023

On a visit to Germany, the Kenyan leader has called on China to encourage Putin to end the war in Urkaine. He also downplayed the anti-government protests rocking the East African nation as an opposition ploy.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier with William Ruto
William Ruto was welcomed by his German counterpart Frank-Walter SteinmeierImage: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa/picture alliance

Ruto's visit to Berlin comes asKenya is grappling with a high cost of living partly due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has led to shortages of fertilizers and grain in sub-Saharan Africa.

As a result, anti-government protests against his government over the soaring prices of essential commodities have further threatened to cripple Kenya's fledgling economy.

In an exclusive interview with DW, President Ruto said the war in Ukraine had devastatingly affected commodity prices of grain and fertilizers, adding that the international community needed to work towards a viable, peaceful resolution.

"Let's find the mechanism to end it," Ruto said about the war in Ukraine, emphasizing that it was important to stop the number of victims of the war from increasing. Ruto stressed that many countries, including Kenya, needed help in accessing fertilizers and grain, adding that his government was "seeking ways to avoid dependency on the global supply chain of these commodities."

Kenyan President William Ruto slams opposition

China's role in ending the war in Ukraine

On the issue of whether China was a credible world player in ending the war in Ukraine, given President Xi Jinping's recent visit to Moscow, Ruto said that China should do more than it's currently doing, since many countries were still "dealing with the damaging effects of the COVID pandemic" and the war was not helping anyone.

China has positioned itself as the potential peacemaker to end the war in Ukraine. However, the United States and other Western countries are skeptical about how far Beijing can go as an emissary of peace. 

"So, from even a strategic point of view, China should be pushing for the end of this war, because we all come from a devastating effect of the COVID pandemic," Ruto told DW.

"China has huge interests in many parts of the world, including Africa, where they have deployed resources. They have supported the building of infrastructure and injected their capital," the 56-year-old Kenyan leader said.

He said he did not think the war was helping China in any way to recoup or recover from the investments they have made globally. "Last week, there was a meeting between the president of China and the Russian leader, but we weren't told exactly what the discussion was except for, you know, them saying they will work together."

Russia's Putin and China's Xi Jinping
Kenyan President Ruto wants China's Xi Jinping to push his counterpart Vladimir Putin to end the war in UkraineImage: Sputnik/Mikhail Tereshchenko/Pool via REUTERS

Putin's nuclear plans

On Putin's plans to move nukes to Belarus, Ruto thinks the threat of nuclear deployment is unfortunate and should be of great concern for all countries that are signatories to the United Nations charter.

"We are expecting a de-escalation. But it looks like de-escalation is not happening anytime soon," Ruto said:

According to the Kenyan president, the threat of nuclear deployment puts many lives, many people, and maybe the globe at risk of a full-blown war in which nobody knows who will be the next victim. "It speaks to the urgency of all players."

Call for German investments

During his two-day visit to Germany, Ruto was expected to hold talks with top government and business officials to boost bilateral relations between Germany and Kenya.

Ruto hopes to encourage Germany's business community to invest in Kenya despite the weekly anti-government protests spearheaded by veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Odinga, who lost the 2022 presidential election to Ruto, has urged supporters to take to the streets every Monday and Thursday to voice their frustration with Ruto's government.

Anti-riot police officers on the street, smoke in the background
The Monday protests, in their second week, have often turned violent Image: Musa Naviye/DW

Kenya open for business

Regardless of the potential threat the protests pose to would-be investors, Ruto reassured German business owners that Kenya was open to investment.

In a statement released by his office, Ruto invited German business owners to invest in Kenya's micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME). He said Kenya stands to benefit from the world's most experienced, organized and resourced German establishments.

"That is why we have put more than 50 billion Kenyan shillings (€350 million, $378 million) in the Hustler Fund to provide affordable credit to millions of Kenyans who depend on the MSME sector for a living," Ruto said.

At an earlier meeting with his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in Berlin, Ruto told reporters that Kenya and Germany would prioritize eliminating non-tariff barriers to reduce the costs of doing business and ease the movement of goods between the two countries.

Broken promises

Asked if he had not broken several campaign promises and removed subsidies for fuel and maize flour — a food staple — President Ruto said the demonstrations in Nairobi were not so much about the cost of living, but rather about election results.

"Our competitors are trying to take advantage of it, but the people of Kenya are much wiser," Ruto said.

During the election campaign, Ruto portrayed himself as a champion of the oppressed and vowed to improve the lives of ordinary Kenyans. But critics say he has broken several campaign promises.

On Monday, demonstrators in the Kibera division of Nairobi, an Odinga stronghold, banged empty pots and pans as they faced off against police chanting, "We don't have maize flour!"

Protester Janet Atieno, 30, wants the government to rein in the high cost of living. "The government should remove taxes from basic food commodities for us," she said. However, Phillip Odongo, a fourth-year economics student, believes the ongoing protests will harm the economy.

Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga
Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga has vowed to continue with mass protests Image: Thomas Mukoya/REUTERS

"Calling on Kenyans to boycott various products and companies is ill-informed, because this is where we are getting our revenue, and without them in business, we will be doing economic sabotage, which nobody in Kenya will buy," he told DW.

Kenya's energy regulatory body has also announced a hike in electricity prices starting April, despite Ruto insisting there would be no such increase. 

"The president should come to the table and speak to the opposition leaders," Memusi Kanchory, a political analyst, told DW. "This is our country, it belongs to all of us, and I am not seeing the big issue of why the president should take such a hardline position, because Raila is not going to negotiate in personal matters, that would take away anything from the president."

Ruto told DW that he was willing to engage with all Kenyans, including the opposition, on matters that are important to the Kenyans. However, he slammed the opposition for "pushing a very selfish and narrow agenda that is not tenable.".

Attacks on Uhuru and Odinga's businesses

There were reports of violence directed at Odinga and his supporters. Hundreds of looters descended on former President Uhuru Kenyatta's vast farm on the outskirts of Nairobi, stealing sheep and cutting trees before setting a section of the property on fire, according to local broadcaster NTV.

Kenyatta backed Odinga's candidacy in the presidential poll in August last year after falling out with his former deputy Ruto.

Gangs also targeted Odinga's gas company, Spectre International Limited, in Nairobi, Odinga said.

"They are cowards. They have sent thugs to raid the farm of Uhuru Kenyatta and my company. That is an act of stupidity and ignorance," he added, blaming the government for the chaos.

Odinga has accused Kenya's Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua of unleashing the police against demonstrators and has urged people to take to the streets every Monday and Thursday, even after protests have turned violent.

Andrew Wasike in Nairobi contributed to this report

Edited by: Chrispin Mwakideu