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Ruto Promises Cheaper Maize Flour

FILE: Representative illustration of maize. Its flour is a Kenya food staple, and President William Ruto vows to lower the price.

NAIROBI - Kenya's President William Ruto announced on Friday that he would slash the price of maize flour, a key food staple, as anger over skyrocketing inflation fuels protests in the East African nation.

On Friday, Ruto said he realised that Kenyans "have a problem with the cost of living" and promised to address the issue.

"By the end of next week, the prices of maize flour will go down owing to the arrival of imported maize flour," he told a rally.

Many Kenyans have been struggling to make ends meet in the face of high prices for basic goods as well as a plunging local currency and record drought that has left millions hungry.

Ruto, whose election campaign last year cast him as a champion of the downtrodden, has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks, with opposition leader Raila Odinga leading demonstrations against his government over claims that the August vote was rigged.

The violent protests have also focused on the economic crisis facing Kenyans, with many slamming Ruto for removing subsidies for fuel and maize flour as inflation bites.

Last month, three people died and businesses and property were torched and vandalized in three days of chaotic anti-government street demonstrations, while riot police fired tear gas at protesters.

Odinga earlier this month announced a halt to the protests after Ruto called for talks to discuss their concerns.

But the veteran opposition leader said this week he would unveil a fresh plan of action for future demonstrations after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan ends next Thursday.

He is due to hold a public rally on Sunday.

Ruto, whose election victory over Odinga was upheld by the Supreme Court, has ruled out striking any alliance with Odinga.