Kenya dispatch: Kenya currency plunges to record-low levels as government revives controversial dam projects Dispatches
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Kenya dispatch: Kenya currency plunges to record-low levels as government revives controversial dam projects

Aynsley Genga is a JURIST Staff Correspondent in Kenya.

The Kenyan shilling fell to an all time low of 129.24 shillings per dollar on Monday, signaling an increase in the cost of living amid market dollar scarcity. Dollars are becoming more and more difficult to acquire as the days progress, since even most banks do not have enough to exchange. Moreover, banks and forex bureaus are selling the dollar at around 143 shillings due to rationing which has made the acquisition of dollars even more difficult. The dollar scarcity has had massive effects, especially in areas such as real estate and trade. Many traders are complaining they have been forced to look for alternative cheaper goods that require fewer dollars to import to counter the dollar challenges since banks have put caps on the amount of dollars one can purchase.

According to the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), as of Monday, the shilling has dropped by 13% against the dollar, the most in two decades, raising the cost of living as importers struggle to consolidate hard currency. Additionally, the importers have also been forced to pass on the increased import bill to consumers, resulting in high inflation of goods.

Kenyans’ woes on the high cost of living do not end there. Just this week, the price of fuel went up from 177 shillings to 179 shillings. Therefore, Kenyans can expect the price of goods to rise even higher. Some Kenyans are already predicting that by June, fuel will most likely be sold at 200 shillings. Furthermore, an issue that has been a topic of great concern amongst many Kenyans, is the fact that Kenya Power and Lightning Company (KPLC), the main energy provider in Kenya, issued a statement that the Company will no longer be providing a detailed breakdown of the token charges. Therefore, Kenyans will no longer be aware of what exactly they are paying for. The statement was issued days after KPLC had just increased the prices of electricity. Many Kenyans were infuriated by KPLC’s decision especially after the company claimed that they had consulted with Kenyans before finalizing the decision which many citizens claim is false. Kenyans have been seen complaining on online platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp regarding the announcement and many fear that their money will be stolen since they have no way to hold KPLC accountable. KPLC has defended by itself by stating that if one wants a detailed account of their power usage they can make a request through the utility USSD code but many Kenyans are wondering if such services are free or is it just another ploy of the company to make more money.

Another topic of controversy that has arisen through the week is the decision of President William Ruto to revive the construction of the Kimwarer and Arror Dams. The dams’ construction has been plagued with corruption scandals which forced former President Uhuru Kenyatta to cancel the Kimwarer dam construction and direct the restructuring of the other four years ago. The scandal was an issue of great interest since it not only involved the prosecution of Kenyan officials such as then-Treasury Cabinet Secretary(CS) Henry Rotich but also two Italian firms contracted to deliver the dams. President Ruto has defended his decision by stating that the former president’s reason for halting the dam construction was a political move aimed to frustrate him. He has therefore not only revived the dam construction but also withdrawn all prosecution cases.

The President’s decision comes just days after Dr. Susan Koech (one of the former suspects in the Kimwarer and Arror corruption scandal) was appointed as the new Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK). Her appointment had already raised many questions amongst Kenyans but with the recent decision to revive the dams many have been left questioning the government’s consistency as well as neutrality when it comes to making decisions.