By Daily Nation
President Kenyatta yesterday put up a strong defence of his administration’s achievements in his seventh State of the Nation address while casting a ray of hope into the future in a speech that aimed to inspire the nation, but also noticeably skirted around the major challenges facing the country.
The President spent the better part of his speech recounting his government’s response to the deadly Covid-19 pandemic. He cited building of new railways, easing the cost of starting businesses and issuance of title deeds to landowners as major successes of the Jubilee administration.
But, unlike previous dramatic addresses like the 2015 one when he suspended cabinet secretaries who had been linked to graft, yesterday’s speech dodged burning national issues such as endemic corruption in light of the “Covid-19 millionaires” scandal and the ballooning national debt. There was also no mention of failed promises such as the Sh10 billion fund for victims of historical injustices he touted last year, and the Sh3 billion cherry advance revolving fund for coffee farmers.
“Like Moses in the Bible who sat at the top of Mount Nebo and saw the future that the people of Israel were about to cross into the Promised Land, I too have seen our future. This is what our future looks like: A Kenya where no one will ascend to a high public office on account of their tribe; where no capable person will wallow in poverty because of poor governance; where our potential as a people will be exploited for the greatness of our nation; and where we will all share equitably in the prosperity of our nation,” President Kenyatta said.
Better days ahead
The Head of State promised school children, the youth and those devastated by the economic and social effects of the coronavirus pandemic better days ahead. He vowed to build more classes, a mental health hospital and to support teachers, health workers and the urban poor.
“The State of our Nation is strong, resilient and brimming with the promise of an even brighter tomorrow,” the President told a combined Senate and National Assembly session.
Borrowing heavily from past leaders and the Jubilee manifesto, he also sought to rally the public behind the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) constitutional amendment plan.
“When generations come long after we are gone, let them say that we made the right decision at this moment; that we chose unity over division; that we dreamt of and birthed a happier, more harmonious and more prosperous nation,” he said, cautioning politicians against divisive talk.
“Many neighbouring countries need a handshake, they need a politics in which competition is not turned into enmity. They need political leaders focused on including the young and desperate not inciting them to revolt against their country and their elders,” President Kenyatta said, in what many read to mean the turmoil in Uganda and Tanzania, but also within his own party where his estranged deputy, William Ruto, is angling for State House in 2022, clashing with his own legacy-driven plans.
The President avoided discussions as to whether the BBI report will be reopened for debate, as has been asked by Mr Ruto, Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi, the church, the Senate, pastoralists and a section of other leaders.
“As we progress to the next phase of implementing the recommendations from the BBI task force, I urge all Kenyans to, constructively and objectively; consider the recommendations therein.
“More importantly, let us engage in positive discourse with a view to effecting far-reaching changes that will address the perennial challenges we have faced as a nation — negative ethnicity; inclusion; equitable development and our fight against corruption,” the President said.
He asked Parliament to prioritise plebiscite laws, nationlisation of Kenya Airways, and a wide range of laws to curb graft.
With a little over 600 days to the end of his second and final term, President Kenyatta said he had laid a strong foundation to ensure his legacy Big Four projects — universal healthcare, 500,000 affordable homes, a food secure country, increase of manufacturing contribution to the country’s wealth to 20 per cent all by 2022 — were achieved substantially before his exit, and continued after he leaves office.
He admitted, however, that it will not be possible to achieve the goals by the end his term.
“We give our solemn vow that by the end of 2022, we will have laid an unshakable foundation for the realisation of this vision, which is a shared aspiration for millions of Kenyans,” he said.
Kenya has confirmed 66,723 cases of Covid-19 infections and 1,203 deaths since March. The pandemic has resulted in a nationwide curfew, restrictions on movement, shut-down of learning institutions, a ban on social gatherings as well as other measures that have affected the economy and set many Kenyans back in their business plans.
To address the increase in mental illness, further exacerbated by the Covid-19 restrictions and economic effects, the President announced plans to establish an ultra-modern national mental health hospital and elevate the Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital to a semi-autonomous, specialised hospital.
“East Africa’s premier mental health facility will now offer training and research in psychiatry, specialised psychiatric services, forensic psychiatric services, child and adolescent mental services, and substance abuse and addictive disorders treatment and rehabilitation services,” he said.
On universal healthcare, President Kenyatta celebrated the piloting of the programme in Nyeri, Isiolo, Machakos and Kisumu, which, he said, was successful and offered useful lessons.
He said the country is inching closer to the national roll-out of UHC through the introduction of major reforms at the National Hospital Insurance Fund.
He celebrated his administration’s national titling programme, saying, 4.5 million titles had been issued since 2013, compared to the six million issued from 1963 to 2013.
He gave the example of Samburu County where only 2,000 group ranches had received their titles by the time he came into office, but had now been issued with 10,000, with the plan being to issue 15,000 by January.
“These are not merely abstract statistics. They represent very real gains for mwananchi and the resolution of longstanding historical land injustices,” he said. The President asked the Law Society of Kenya to back its proposed digitisation of land records in the country.
DP William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga, and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, were with other politicians, dignitaries and envoys at the event.
The President pointed out that necessary measures aimed at achieving food security have already been put in place.
“We have also successfully reformed the Agricultural Inputs Subsidy Programme,” President Kenyatta said.
In pursuit of his goals in the manufacturing sector, the President said there is need to have manpower with the requisite skills to match the needs of industries.
“The manufacturing pillar of the Big Four also aims to provide some training ground for our young people to acquire skills and replicate them in light industries.
“As we seek to grow our industries and create jobs in the manufacturing sector, we must of necessity have the manpower, with requisite skills to match the needs of industry,” the President said.