President William Ruto completed his first 100 days and first year in office in 2023, marking a significant milestone in his ascent to the presidency following his victory in the 2022 polls.
The Head of State quickly became the focal point of public attention, with keen scrutiny of his actions and words, eliciting a spectrum of sentiments from the public, ranging from admiration to disdain.
As the leader of the Kenyan people, Ruto found himself adorned with a variety of nicknames bestowed upon him by the public.
The pseudonyms served as a reflection of the diverse opinions held by the citizens who did not hesitate to express their views through these creative monikers.
President William Ruto at the Kimalel Grounds, Baringo County, for the 9th Annual Kimalel Goat Auction and Cultural Festival on December 14, 2023.
Kenyans.co.ke compiles a list of the nicknames Ruto has earned over the course of 2023.
Kenyans nicknamed Ruto ‘Zakayo’ the Kiswahili translation of the Biblical character Zacchaeus, a no-nonsense chief tax collector from Jericho.
Ruto earned the nickname over his penchant for introducing new taxes, which most Kenyans viewed as punitive.
In March, Ruto acknowledged the nickname but defended his tax policies, stating that it was Kenya’s only way out of the debt sinkhole the former regime thrust Kenya into.
“Since I have already been referred to as Zakayo in some areas, maybe we will have a tax collectors day, that’s a good proposal and I will consider it,” Ruto stated.
Just like Zakayo, the Nabii nickname alludes to religion, particularly Ruto’s strong affiliation with the church and his bold claim that he is a leader ordained by God.
The President has made it a political habit to attend church services every Sunday, except when he is out of the country and has often displayed his mastery of the bible by reciting verses from the top of his head.
In addition to the short summons, Kenya’s Number One has also worn the prophet hat, publically making ‘prophecies’ on future events such as the El Nino rains and the appreciation of the Kenyan shilling.
He has often used the Bible to defend some of his controversial policies, specifically on public debt.
Unlike the other nicknames given to the Head of State, this particular one touched on his character and his sense of fashion as perceived by the public.
Kaunda refers to Ruto’s newly adapted sense of fashion – wearing Kaunda Suits, a popular African wear, albeit renowned for its infamous links to dictatorship.
Uongoman denoted that Kenyans perceived their leader as a liar, owing to the delayed fulfilment or complete lack of delivery of his campaign promises.
It can also be argued that the nickname was a connotation of Kanda Bongo Man, a Congolese soukous musician born in Inongo, DRC.
However, speaking during the State of the Nation Address in November, Ruto told Parliament that he intended to live up to all his commitments but faced enormous challenges. Nonetheless, he stated that he had made significant progress in fulfilling his promises, including lowering the cost of living.
“The journey of transforming Kenya for the present and future generations is fully underway. Its effects have started to bear fruit across many sectors from the grassroots to Nairobi,” he stated.
In December, in a joint interview with the media, he further blamed global crises like the Russian invasion of Ukraine for derailing his promises.
Mr Next Week
The title Mr. Next Week cropped up in mid-2023 while pressure mounted on President Ruto to address the rising cost of unga.
Ruto, while addressing the concerns, kept on promising that the prices would drop the following week, promising several interventions.
However, when the following week came, the price remained the same, only for the Head of State to give a flimsy reason why prices remained unchanged before committing to ensuring that prices would fall ‘next week’.
Ruto earned the moniker due to his frequent international travels on official State visits.
Throughout his first term, the president embarked on numerous foreign trips, sometimes consecutively, prompting Kenyans to ponder the tangible benefits they would reap from such excursions.
Criticism from citizens was not uncommon, with some playfully accusing him of “touring the globe” rather than prioritising domestic affairs, given the substantial time he spent abroad.
He, however, stated that his trips were successful and that he had secured key deals among them employment opportunities for Kenyans.
President William Ruto boarding a plane