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William Ruto, Kenya’s new president, granted an interview to FRANCE 24’s Marc Perelman on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. Ruto warned that the worst drought in 40 years risks causing starvation in the Horn of Africa, adding that “3.1 million people are facing severe drought” in Kenya alone. “This is no longer a country-by-country challenge. This is becoming a multilateral challenge,” he insisted, calling on multilateral institutions and lenders for support. Ruto blamed climate change for the drought but stressed that the situation had been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and the resulting fall in grain exports to Africa.
Asked about the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, Ruto said he was “very concerned”, saying “whatever happens in Ethiopia gets to Kenya”. However, he expressed confidence that under an African Union framework, “we should be able to bring the sides to the [negotiating] table at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Ruto also addressed his relationship with his predecessor, Uhuru Kenyatta, whom he appointed as an envoy to Ethiopia and DR Congo. Ruto said he was “a good friend” of Kenyatta and that the latter “brings value to the processes in Ethiopia and in DRC”.
Finally, asked about the conflict in neighbouring Somalia, where Kenyan troops have been deployed for 15 years, he said: “Those troops will come back home as soon as we’re done with the assignment that we have in Somalia.” While admitting that Kenyans want the troops to come home “yesterday”, he expressed hope that the new Somali president would be “more committed to fighting Al Shabaab”.