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OPINION: Hunger For Us, Jet For Them

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By Suyi Ayodele

“Good morning, sir, what do you think about the southwest governors’ forum and their recent collaboration efforts? Let’s leave Tinubu for a week or two and discuss other things. Man shall not write about Tinubu alone nah! Variety, they say, is the spice of life.” That came from my cousin a few days ago. It was his response to my last week’s piece, “Between our Govt and New York Times.”  My cousin, a namesake, and a dyed- in-the -wool Emilokan, gave the ‘directive’. But I am going to disappoint him. Bí iná kò tán lórí, èjè kii tán leekáná (as long as one has lice in one’s head, one’s fingernails must remain bloodstained). One interesting thing about this younger cousin of mine is that he did not wait for Tinubu to celebrate his one year in office before he, like the famed Andrew of the Ibrahim Babangida’s national orientation jingle of the 90s, sold all he had, including his boxers, and japaed to the United Kingdom. Anytime he responds to defend Tinubu and his voodoo economic policies, I always draw strength in the saying of our elders that if farming is such an easy venture, no blacksmith will ever sell hoes (Oko dùn ro ni alágbède nro okó tà).

Nigerians are hungry. Many of them have died of hunger and other poverty-induced diseases. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has an answer to the hunger cum poverty in the land. We are not the only hungry or poor people in the world, he told us. He spoke during the celebration of Sallah last week Monday. “Yes, there is poverty; there is suffering in the land. We are not the only people facing such, but we must face our challenges”, are his exact words. President Tinubu went further to lecture Nigerians on how to cope in a situation like this.

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He said hungry Nigerians must change their attitude and value system. Don’t allow me to be interpretative here. Even at the risk of doing that, I think what the President was saying is that when Nigerians are hungry, they should show the countenance of people that have eaten and filled. Or how do you interpret this: “The need (for some citizens) to change the rent-seeking mind-set and become more productive to the economy is a challenge?” He equally talked about smuggling, economic sabotage and stealing of public infrastructure. President Tinubu’s Media Adviser, Ajuri Ngelale, told us that his principal made the comments when the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, led the leadership of the National Assembly on an Eid-el-Kabir homage to the president.

President Tinubu is a lucky man. He has so many fans like my cousin above. Many of them who could not cope with the woes that have been the only thing Tinubu administration hawks, and checked out of Nigeria, but keep telling us that we should be patient. This is exactly what the president said while playing host to Akpabio and his gang of amenable legislators during the last Sallah. Tinubu asked Nigerians to face their challenges. One of the most daunting challenges in the country today is hunger. Our culture teaches that once hunger is eliminated from poverty, the rest is easy (tí ebi bá kúrò nínú ìsé, ìsé bùse).

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Between Our Govt And New York Times

Nigerians have been hungry from time immemorial. Tinubu did not start the hunger in the land; that is a fact. However, I can’t recall, since I knew “how to lift a lady’s skirt”, any government that has inflicted hunger on the people more than the Tinubu administration! But the president does not know this. Those around him who should have told him the home truth about the pain in the country would not do so for obvious reasons. If Tinubu were to know how much agony his one-year administration has caused Nigerians, he would not have alluded to the fact that Nigerians are not the only ones suffering; and the country is not the only poor country of the world.

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Leaders have been insensitive for as long as the creation of humanity. If not, our president would not have compared our sufferings and poverty with the situationelsewhere. Did we elect Tinubu to aggravate suffering and promote poverty? The answer is a strident NO! There has been a lot of controversy over the authorship of the French phrase: “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”, which means: “Then let them eat brioches.” Many theorists attributed the saying to “a great princess”, later identified to be Marie Antoinette, who in the 18th century, when told that the poor people had no bread to eat, retorted: “Then let them eat brioches (cake).”

The controversies notwithstanding, the French political philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, gave life to the phrase in book six of his Confessions (1765). While the phrase is regarded to be the most insensitive response any leader could offer when the masses suffer, it is noteworthy to recall that the lack of bread, the staple food of the masses, led to what is known in history as the May, 5, 1789, French Revolution, which ultimately terminated in the “coup of 18 Brumaire” on November 1, 1799, and the emergence of the French Consulate. The 10 and half years, and four days revolt, is estimated to have claimed between 30,000 to 40,000 French nationals. When the masses are pushed to the wall by the sadistic propensity of their leaders, they do the unthinkable!

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Distinguished Senator Cow And His Human Rights

There is nothing wrong in leaders calling on the people to face their challenges. But there is everything wrong when the leader who calls on the people to brace up and confront their economic woes is not ready to let go of any of the luxuries he enjoys. This is exactly what President Tinubu is asking Nigerians to do now. A president who admits that Nigerians are facing hard times, and should brace up, should not be the one looking after his own personal comfort every second, and at the expense of the public purse. Mr. President cannot be talking about a new jet for himself and another one for his deputy, Kasim Shettima, while asking Nigerians to face their challenges. President Tinubu should lead the way. One of the challenges facing his presidency at the moment is the issue of mobility.

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We are told (we will never have the opportunity to verify the claim independently), that all the aircraft in the Presidential Air Fleet (PAF), are bad, and “unserviceable”, anymore. In that PAF are a Boeing 737, a Gulfstream GV, two Falcon 7Xs and a Challenger CL605. On the helicopter side are two Agusta 139s and four Agusta189s. All went bad at the same time. The House of Representatives Committee on National Security and Intelligence, which initiated the project of new aeroplanes for Tinubu and Shettima, recommended that for the office of the Vice President, Nigeria should purchase a Boeing 747-200, which is like the United States of America’s Air Force Two Aircraft VC-25A. For a one-hour trip in the aircraft, the operating cost is put at 177,000 US dollars. The US Air Force One costs an average of $4 billion. So, which one is Nigeria buying for its president?

Expectedly, there has been outcry against the purchase of these luxuries for the president and his deputy. Many Nigerians, including yours sincerely, feel, and rightly too, that it is most insensitive, callous and an outright disregard to, and for the hardship of the masses, for the presidency to be thinking of such purchases at a time like this. The emotional blackmail, especially in the pitiable statement by Bayo Onanuga, President Tinubu’s Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, that Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), in the 2023 election, wishes President Tinubu dead by his opposition to the purchase of a new aircraft, would not dissuade us from telling the president that this is not the time to be this profligate! Nobody says Tinubu or Shettima should fly about in half-dead aircraft. We are talking about the timing. Tinubu cannot ask Nigerians to manage one irregular meal while he himself is having a seven-course-gourmet-meal! Leaders should learn to lead by example. It is morally wrong for President Tinubu to ask Nigerians to make sacrifices while he himself is not doing so.

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: One Kano, Two Emirs

How much has this one-year-old administration spent on the comfort of the president, the vice president and their households? Tinubu knew the shape of the economy before he contested. Nigerians expected him to cut down on the cost of running the government. Has he done that? How many ministers did General Muhammadu Buhari have, and how many ministers do we have today? When the president moves around Nigeria, what is the size of his convoy? How many aides does the president have at the moment?

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The recommendations of the House of Representatives Committee on the PAF are more of ego trips. It talked about Nigeria’s “leading role in the West African, African, and global scheme of affairs” as one of the reasons we need new aircraft now. You may wish to ask, as I do here, which leading role? What is our position in the African continent? Yes, nobody wants the president, or any other fella dead. They should just stop at that instead of telling us about non-existent leading roles for a country that is struggling to lead itself. Let us do the right thing first.

Records have it that while Buhari promised to reduce the number of planes in the PAF by selling off some of them but never did, he instead, increased the maintenance cost of the fleet by almost 200 percent by committing between $1.5 million to $4.5 million maintaining each of the planes. Can we just ask the Daura General why the fleet which gulped such a humongous amount of money would suddenly become “unserviceable” in just a year after he left the office? Can we also get to know the market value of the “unserviceable” planes, and then subtract it from the cost of the new ones we intend to buy? And if we must buy new aircraft for the presidency, must they be like the ones in the fleet of America’s presidency? Are we as buoyant as the US?

The Tinubu presidency does not need a Peter Obi to tell it that the push for new aircraft currently shows how disconnected the president is from the people. It is something he should know himself. In the last one year, Tinubu has spent billions of naira renovating the vice president’s residence, buying cars for the office of the First Lady, an office that is not recognised anywhere in our constitution, and wasted more on other frivolities. No matter the urgency and necessity of new aircraft for the PAF, Nigerians are not likely to show any support. It does not matter the flowery way, “basic thing any sane government will do”, an Onanuga may couch it; or the appeal to emotion by asking: “Does Peter Obi want the President dead? Is that his wish? Does he want him to continue moving around in a rickety plane and die like the VP of Malawi and Iran President?”, death will come when it will come.

This is where Onanuga’s ally in this attempt to defend the indefensible, Professor Ishaq Akintola of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), has my sympathy over his jaundiced theory of evil wishes for Tinubu and Shettima on the purchase of new aircraft. I recommend, and very strongly too, that the Islamic scholar should read Akogun Tola Adeniyi’s tripartite: “Visit the Mortuary” (1974), “Death, I salute You” (1975) and “Death, Iku” (June 20, 2024), to know that death needs nobody’s prompting for it to act! The timing for these purchases is wrong, and absolutely, wrong! The Tinubu administration has been asking Nigerians to ‘manage’, even when there is nothing on their tables. But he is lucky. Nigerians are not asking him to manage nothing. President Tinubu has six planes and six helicopters to play with in the PAF. Please, Mr. President, face the challenge and ‘manage’ those ones till our economy improves! We are not asking for too much!

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Top 10 Most Dangerous Countries In The World 2024

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The world’s most dangerous countries to visit in 2024 have been unveiled in a recent report by the Institute for Economics and Peace.

The report ranks 163 independent states and territories based on their level of peacefulness, covering 99.7% of the world’s population.

It also noted that there are currently 56 active conflicts, marking the highest number since the end of the Second World War, with fewer conflicts being resolved either militarily or through peace agreements.

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Using the Global Peace Index (GPI), here are the top 10 most dangerous countries in the world in 2024.

Yemen

With a 2024 Global Peace Index (GPI) score of 3.397, Yemen remains one of the world’s most hazardous nations, with its catastrophic civil conflict since 2015 causing immense suffering and turmoil.

Yemen is grappling with widespread famine, disease, and infrastructure collapse amid a prolonged state of war. What began as an internal conflict has escalated due to the involvement of neighboring countries, each backing different factions, prolonging and intensifying the destructive nature of the conflict.

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READ ALSO: Top 5 Cheapest Countries To Study In Europe

Sudan

Sudan is widely regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous countries, influenced by a variety of factors that severely affect its safety and stability.

Sudan’s instability stems primarily from the ongoing conflict in Darfur, alongside unrest in South Kordofan and Blue Nile districts. In 2024, these conflicts resulted in over 3,000 deaths and displaced nearly 2 million people, according to UN estimates. The humanitarian crisis is exacerbated by frequent attacks on civilians by government forces, opposition groups, and militias.

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Also, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), about 14 million people need humanitarian aid.

South Sudan

South Sudan, with a 2024 Global Peace Index (GPI) score of 3.224, continues to rank among the world’s most dangerous nations due to ongoing civil conflict, ethnic violence, and political instability since gaining independence in 2011.

Afghanistan

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Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, with a Global Peace Index (GPI) score of 3.448. The country has been experiencing ongoing violence for more than 40 years, making it a center of international concern.

READ ALSO: 7 Countries Who Recently Changed Their Names And Why

Decades of conflict have shaped Afghanistan into one of the most dangerous countries. The Taliban’s seizure of power in August 2021 has intensified instability, with heightened risks of terrorism, kidnappings, and widespread violence.

Ukraine

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Ukraine has experienced the most significant decline in safety and stability, not only within its region but globally as well. This notable deterioration can be primarily attributed to the Russian invasion that began in February 2022.

By 2024, the conflict in Ukraine has claimed over 150,000 lives, including soldiers and civilians. More than 8 million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries, with an additional 7 million internally displaced, causing widespread destruction of cities and critical infrastructure like homes, schools, and hospitals.

Democratic Republic of Congo

The conflict in Congo has spanned more than four and a half years, has taken more lives than any other since World War II, and is the deadliest documented conflict in African history, according to the International Rescue Committee.

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Russia

In 2024, Russia, with a Global Peace Index (GPI) score of 3.249, ranks among the world’s most hazardous nations, exacerbated by heightened geopolitical tensions stemming from the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

READ ALSO: 10 Safest Countries In The World In 2024

Russia is grappling with internal challenges including organized crime and corruption, which undermine law and order, alongside escalating environmental concerns such as industrial accidents and pollution, posing significant health risks to the population.

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Syria

Syria’s civil war, beginning in 2011, has resulted in a profoundly tragic and complex situation. The conflict has ravaged infrastructure, including buildings, roads, hospitals, and schools, severely impacting the daily lives of those remaining in Syria.

The humanitarian situation in Syria is dire, with over 13 million Syrians, including 6.6 million internally displaced, requiring humanitarian assistance, according to the UN.

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More than half of the population faces food insecurity, and the healthcare system is in disarray, with many hospitals either destroyed or operating at minimal capacity.

Israel

The conflict between Israel and Hamas has escalated regional risks for Western travelers and exacerbated unrest-related dangers.

Mali

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Mali has been in the grip of armed conflict since January 2012, when Tuareg rebels seized control of northern territory and subsequently declared the independent nation of Azawad by April of that year.

The situation escalated further with a military coup in March of 2012, intensifying the turmoil in the region.
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Nigeria’s Public Officials Received ₦721bn Bribe In 2023 – UN, NBS

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A newly released report by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), has said Nigerian public officials received nothing less than ₦721bn as bribes in 2023.

The result was based on a survey conducted with the UNODC.

According to the report “Corruption in Nigeria: Patterns and Trends”, published by the NBS on Thursday, the ₦721bn paid in bribes amounted to about 0.35 per cent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

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According to the survey, the average cash bribe was ₦8,284, an increase from an average of ₦5,754 in 2019.

“According to the 2023 survey, the average cash bribe paid was 8,284 Nigerian Naira. While the nominal average cash bribe size increased since 2019 (from NGN 5,754), this does not account for inflation. The inflation-adjusted average cash bribe in 2023 was 29 per cent smaller than in 2019 in terms of what could be bought with the money.

“Overall, it is estimated that a total of roughly NGN 721 billion (US$1.26 billion) was paid in cash bribes to public officials in Nigeria in 2023, corresponding to 0.35 per cent of the entire Gross Domestic Product of Nigeria,” the report read in part.

The report indicates that 56 per cent of Nigerians interacted with a public official in 2023, down from 63 per cent in 2019.

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Despite this reduction, bribery remains widespread, with an average of 5.1 bribes paid per bribe payer, totalling approximately 87 million bribes nationwide. This is a decrease from the 117 million bribes estimated in 2019.

READ ALSO: [JUST IN] Alleged N33.8b Fraud: Court Grants Bail To Ex-power Minister

On payment mode, the report noted that over 95 per cent of bribes were paid in monetary form (cash or money transfer) in 2023.

It said public officials were more likely to demand bribes while private sector actors included doctors in private hospitals, which increased from 6 per cent in 2019 to 14 per cent in 2023.

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Despite this rise, bribery in the public sector remains about twice as high, with public sector contact rates also being twice as high as those in the private sector.

In 2023, 27 per cent of Nigerians who interacted with a public official paid a bribe, a slight decrease from 29 per cent in 2019. Including instances where bribes were requested but refused, over one-third of interactions between citizens and public officials involved bribery.

Similarly, the report shows a growing trend of Nigerians refusing to pay bribes. In 2023, 70 per cent of those asked to pay a bribe refused at least once, with the highest refusal rates in the North-West zone at 76 per cent. All regions recorded refusal rates above 60 per cent. This indicates that Nigerians are increasingly standing against corruption.

According to the report, bribery is becoming less accepted in Nigeria. The percentage of citizens who view bribery requests as acceptable to expedite administrative procedures decreased from 29 per cent in 2019 to 23 per cent in 2023.

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Fewer citizens reported suffering negative consequences after refusing bribe requests in 2023 compared to 2019. This suggests a growing empowerment among Nigerians to confront corrupt officials without fear of repercussions.

In 2023, 21 per cent of bribe refusers indicated they refused because they had other options. Normative concerns (42 per cent) and cost of living pressures (23 per cent) also played significant roles in their refusal to pay bribes.

Furthermore, not less than 60 per cent of public sector workers were hired due to nepotism, bribery or both between 2020 and 2023.

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The report noted that six out of 10 successful candidates admitted to using either nepotism, bribery, or both to improve their chances of being recruited.

Specifically, 27 per cent of these candidates admitted to using only bribery, 13 per cent to only nepotism, and 19 per cent to both bribery and nepotism. On the other hand, 40 per cent of the candidates claimed to have secured their positions without resorting to any such means, based on data collected between November 2020 and October 2023.

The report read, “The selection process used to recruit public officials plays a crucial role in shaping the culture of integrity that should drive the civil service as well as ensure that recruits have the highest standards of professionalism and merit.”

However, the 2023 survey findings indicate that the public sector recruitment process requires closer monitoring, as almost half (46 per cent) of people who secured a job in the public sector in the last three years before the survey admitted that they paid a bribe to facilitate their recruitment – about 1.5 times the share found in the 2019 survey (31 per cent).

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“The 2023 survey also found evidence that a considerable number of people recruited into the public sector secured their posts with the help of a friend or relative, many in addition to paying a bribe: of all successful applicants in the last three years before the 2023 survey, 32 per cent were helped by friends or relatives. Overall, in the three years before the 2023 survey, around 60 per cent of public sector applicants in Nigeria were hired as a result of nepotism, bribery or both – about 1.2 times the share found in the 2019 survey.”

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The report also noted that the use of bribery is notably lower when the recruitment process includes formal assessments.

Specifically, 51 per cent of candidates were not formally assessed, and of these, a significant 53 per cent admitted to using bribery or nepotism to secure their positions.

Conversely, among the 49 per cent of candidates who underwent a written test or oral interview, the use of unethical means such as bribery or nepotism dropped to 41 per cent.

The report read: “The 2023 survey data show that approximately half (49 per cent) of those who secured a position in the public sector in the three years before the survey passed a written test and/or oral interview during the recruitment selection process. Importantly, the data suggest that the means of selection had a role in facilitating or preventing the use of illegal practices during recruitment. Among those who underwent an assessment procedure (written test / oral interview), 41 per cent made use of bribery, while the share was as much as 53 per cent among those who were not formally assessed.”

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It was also disclosed that bribery is more common in rural areas, with rural residents paying an average of 5.8 bribes compared to 4.5 bribes in urban areas.

It was also disclosed that bribery is more common in rural areas, with rural residents paying an average of 5.8 bribes compared to 4.5 bribes in urban areas.

The report stated that corruption was ranked fourth among the most important problems affecting the country in 2023, after the cost of living, insecurity and unemployment.

It added, “This suggests relatively stable and high levels of concerns about corruption over time and compared to other concerns such as education or housing.

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“Nigerians confidence in the government’s anti-corruption effort has been declining over time and across regions. While in 2019, more than half of all citizens thought that the government was effective in fighting corruption, in 2023, the share declined to lessons than a third of all citizens. The downward trend in the citizen’s confidence is observable across the entire country, with all six zones recording reductions of more than 10 percentage points between 2019 and 2023 in terms of the share of citizens who thought the government was effective in fighting corruption.”

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Kenya Police Chief Resigns After Protests

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Kenya’s police chief has resigned following sharp criticism after anti-government protests left dozens of people dead, the presidency said Friday, the latest head to roll over the unrest.

The move came a day after President William Ruto sacked almost his entire cabinet, seeking to contain widespread public anger against his government after largely peaceful demonstrations over proposed tax hikes descended into deadly mayhem.

The presidency said in a statement that Ruto has “accepted the resignation” of inspector general of police Japhet Koome, who has served in the role since November 2022.

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Some of the young Gen-Z Kenyans behind the demonstrations had called for Koome to go, with police accused of using excessive force during the protests, the most serious crisis of Ruto’s near two-year presidency.

READ ALSO: At Least 30 Killed In Kenya Anti-government Protests – HRW

Ruto has taken a series of measures to placate the demonstrators, including abandoning the finance bill that contained the deeply unpopular tax increases.

On Thursday, he dismissed the attorney-general and all cabinet ministers, with the exception of Foreign Minister Musalia Mudavadi and Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.

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-‘Wasted two years’ –

But the cabinet announcement, while welcomed by some, did not appease some young Kenyans frustrated with Ruto’s failure to deliver on his 2022 election promises to create jobs and boost their fortunes.

We will be back on the streets until Ruto goes. He has wasted two years in office travelling and telling lies,” said Hyrence Mwangi, 25.

READ ALSO: [JUST IN] Alleged N33.8b Fraud: Court Grants Bail To Ex-power Minister

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Initially peaceful, the protests sharply escalated when police fired at crowds who stormed parliament on June 25, ransacking the partly ablaze complex.

While large-scale street protests have subsided, anger against the government has not, particularly towards the police, with rights groups saying that 39 people were killed in the demonstrations.

When we first went to the streets, Ruto dismissed us as a bunch of hired goons and criminals, only to come later and start saying he will make changes,” said 27-year-old Jackson Rotich.

“We can’t trust him.”

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IT specialist Cyrus Otieno, 27, was among those who had called for Koome to go, saying he “must be prosecuted for police brutality”.

Law student Melisa Agufana, 24, welcomed the cabinet dismissal, saying she wanted to “thank the president for listening”.

She added that ministers had “wasted two years doing nothing apart from being driven around with our national flag.”

READ ALSO: Ruto Ready For ‘Conversation’ With Youth Protesters, Says Kenya’s Presidency

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-Fresh start after protests –

Analysts said the move offered the possibility of a fresh start, but warned of further risks.

The challenge that Ruto now faces is forming a new cabinet that includes various vested interests, whilst simultaneously calming popular anger in the face of an explicitly leaderless movement,” Gabrielle Lynch, professor of comparative politics at the University of Warwick, told AFP.

Last week, Ruto announced sharp cuts to government spending, including travel and refurbishment costs, and said he would increase borrowing to pay for some services even as Kenya grapples with massive foreign debt equivalent to roughly 70 percent of GDP.

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The crisis led US-based Moody’s to downgrade Kenya’s debt rating further into junk territory, warning of a negative outlook, which will make borrowing even more expensive for the cash-strapped government.

Ruto said Thursday that he would “immediately engage in extensive consultations across different sectors and political formations, with the aim of setting up a broad-based government”, without elaborating further.

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