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Kenya: Pressure on Ruto to reprimand Transport minister for saying Rwanda is an autocracy

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Kipchumba Murkomen, who is also a close ally of Ruto, was responding to an interview question on the privately-owned Citizen TV on Monday about why his ministry had failed to build a proper public transport system like Rwanda.

“Rwanda is not like Kenya. It is an autocracy. Whatever the president says is the law,” Murkomen said.

He also mocked Rwanda’s small size, comparing it to Kajiado, a county in Kenya’s former Rift Valley province.

Rwanda, a close ally of Kenya in the East African Community (EAC), has not officially responded to Murkomen’s remarks.

Murkomen’s statement triggered mixed reactions, with some Kenyans describing it as an unnecessary provocation. Pressure is also mounting on Ruto to sack him.

Prominent constitutional lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi condemned Murkomen’s ‘embarrassing’ attack on ‘a friendly state’ and called for the training of state officials in diplomacy.

“Government officials should be educated on basic tenets of the comity of nations,” he said, suggesting that “very soon, Kenya will be a pariah state in the hood.”

Korir Sing’oei, the Principal Secretary of Foreign Affairs downplayed Murkomen’s criticism, saying “Rwanda is a key brotherly nation and [President Paul] Kagame is an iconic leader whose bold leadership is admired at home and abroad.”

Earlier, Ruto said Kenya’s diplomatic relations with its neighbours were perfect.

Apology and sins of a regime

Opposition leader Raila Odinga also condemned Murkomen’s remarks, calling them undiplomatic.

In a statement, he called for an apology to Rwanda and accused the Kenyan government of opening a diplomatic war with the neighbouring country.

“The coarse language used against the great country and friendly people of Rwanda is most unfortunate. We condemn the use of intemperate and undiplomatic language against Rwanda,” he said.

Raila also issued an apology to the Rwandan people for “the sins of a regime intoxicated by power and corruption”.

Careless with words

Kenya is slowly losing its diplomatic etiquette, says Macharia Munene, a professor of history and international relations at the United States International University Africa.

“Murkomen’s remarks show how Ruto’s ministers are careless with words,” he tells The Africa Report. “They keep making diplomatic blunders. Ruto should sanction Murkomen for embarrassing Kenya.”

However, not everyone is frowning at Murkomen’s criticism of Rwanda. Human rights activist Boniface Mwangi calls the remarks truthful and says Kenya shouldn’t say sorry.

“Sorry for what?” he wrote on X, adding “There’s no freedom of speech [in Rwanda].”

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