- President Ruto scolds the U.K. government for its treatment of Africa Leaders during their visit to the country to commemorate with the royal family after the death of Queen Elizabeth II
- President Ruto describes the experience saying; ‘We are loaded onto buses like school kids’
- Critics commend Ruto’s decision to speak up, but some say he would have spoken earlier
President of Kenya, William Ruto, has openly criticized what he referred to as the mistreatment of African presidents during foreign trips. The President made the remarks during the Mo Ibrahim Governance weekend held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre on Saturday, April 29, 2023.
Citing a recent example, President Ruto scolded a country he did not mention for loading African leaders into a bus like school kids during their visit to the country. But although the President was clever not to mention any names, everyone knows he is referring to the government and the British royal family.
You will recall that in September 2022, all the African leaders who attended the funeral of Queen Elizabeth were transported by a fleet of buses while leaders from other countries were allowed to use their official cars. U.S. President Joe Biden and his wife Jill used their armoured presidential limousine, popularly known as ‘The Beast’.
Africans across the globe reacted to the videos and pictures of African leaders cramped up together in a bus while their counterparts were given preferential treatment. Critics slammed the African presidents for accepting such inhumane treatment, especially considering how foreign leaders are treated like gods on their visits to Africa.
Going by the photos and videos from the incident, President Ruto, who was sitting beside his wife and Kenyan first lady, was all smiles, but it now appears that the newly elected President was not satisfied. Although some critics believe he would have well publicly criticized the treatment earlier.
“We have these meetings, Africa-US, Africa-Europe, Africa-Turkey, now we are waiting for Africa-Russia and Africa-Japan. We have made the decision that it is not intelligent for 54 of us to go and sit before one gentleman from another place... Sometimes we are mistreated, we are loaded into busses like school children and it is not right.
“The decision we have made as AU is that going forward, if there is going to be a discussion between Africa and any other country, we would send the chair and the bureau, That is the position I am taking as the President of Kenya,” he stated during the event.
President Ruto Proffers a Solution
President Ruto added that African leaders would only attract respect from the international community when they unite. He proposed that the African Union attend group meetings on behalf of the entire African continent rather than allowing African leaders to receive individual invitations.
According to him, this would enable African leaders to work together, collaborate, and be better represented on the global stage. This sentiment reflects a growing sense of pride and self-determination among African leaders pushing back against Western dominance and demanding greater representation in global affairs.
Ruto’s comments highlighted the importance of African unity in the face of external pressures. By asserting their right to be treated as equal partners, African leaders are sending a message that they will not be pushed around or dictated to by more powerful nations.
This newfound assertiveness can shift the balance of power in international relations, giving African nations a stronger voice and promoting greater respect for their sovereignty and independence.
President Ruto also acknowledged Africa’s challenges, including the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, the activities of violent extremist non-state actors, and the potential for foreign terrorist fighters to infiltrate the region. However, he emphasized the importance of African leaders acting together to make an impact and the need for the African Union to take charge of the continent’s affairs and consolidate efforts when engaging with the rest of the world.
Critics Say 'Talk is Cheap'
Apart from faulting President Ruto for waiting so long to speak against the treatment, many critics say African presidents must match words with action by standing by their declarations. They argue that the colonial West will continue to look down on Africa if its leaders continue to talk but act contrary to their words.
In July 2022, The African Exponent published a report that exposed what many critics termed the weakness of African leaders. In what contradicted his earlier statements and campaign promises, Ghana’s president Akufo-Addo ate his words and pleaded for a loan facility from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Earlier in 2017, the Ghanaian gave a speech that stressed the need for African leaders to end foreign aid. He emphasized that it “won’t work, it has not worked and it will not work.” However, what made the president receive more commendations for his speech was that he delivered it right in front of President Emmanuel Macron, who was visiting the West African country at the time.
“Ghana should not need to rely on the generosity and charity of European taxpayers to fund many of its sectors,” he had said. The statements earned him commendations across the globe, but the ‘Nkrumah-like’ status quickly faded away when news broke that the president had ordered his Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, to plead with the IMF for support.