I have honoured my 2013 election pledges, says President Kenyatta

Thursday March 16 2017

President Uhuru Kenyatta gives his State of the Nation address in Parliament, Nairobi, on March 15, 2017.  PHOTO | PSCU

President Uhuru Kenyatta gives his State of the Nation address in Parliament, Nairobi, on March 15, 2017. PHOTO | PSCU   

By JOHN NGIRACHU
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By DENNIS ODUNGA
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We have kept our promise, was the refrain on Wednesday, with President Uhuru Kenyatta saying most of the pledges made to Kenyans four years ago have been fulfilled.

He used the last State of the Nation of his first term to make a strong case for re-election.

He laid out the achievements of his administration, peppered with case studies with reference to a song about long hours of travelling on an eternally bad road in Kilifi, which has since been rebuilt.

The song, Safari ya Bamba ni Machero (We will travel to Bamba tomorrow), he said should now be Safari ya Bamba ni Rero (We will travel to Bamba today).

Mr Kenyatta listed the construction of the standard gauge railway and roads, enabling farmers to sell their bananas, as some of the big successes.

All of this was punctuated with the refrain “We have kept the promise”, in his 82-page speech.

He also acknowledged some of the problems that still bedevil ordinary Kenyans, saying, “despite the vaunted economic growth, there are still many Kenyans struggling to make a living, to find jobs and to support their families.”

“Wananchi cannot relate to how GDP impacts on the price of unga, or what the stability of our currency means for them at the end of every month,” he said.

HEAVY BURDEN

He also responded to concerns that at Sh3.6 trillion and 50 per cent of the GDP, public debt seems too heavy a burden.

The President maintained that the burden was bearable and that it all goes to finance “the most aggressive development agenda witnessed in Kenya’s history”.

He repeated earlier assertions that agencies that should fight corruption have all they need for the job, including new anti-bribery laws.

“My expectation, matching that of millions of Kenyans, is that convictions of prominent thieves and fraudsters will be the proof that our measures have started to succeed,” he added.

President Kenyatta dropped a bombshell to elected leaders that their salaries after August will be cut.

This will be driven by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, whose interim report was presented to him earlier yesterday and which he pledged to support. MPs looked visibly uncomfortable with the idea.

REDUCTION IN CHEATING

He described the reduction of cheating in examinations as one of the proudest achievements of his administration.

“We have established a firm foundation which can now be used as a spring board to accelerate the growth of our economy and provide jobs for our youth,” he said, summing up the progress made over the last four years.

“I have worked every day of my first term to put us in a position to make this leap. The Kenyan people have driven this process every step of the way,” he added.

“It is your vision of transformation, rooted in your daily needs of good jobs and rising incomes, that I am pursuing.

“Together, we can change our country and change our lives. That is the single goal Jubilee serves, and I urge all Kenyans to join me in delivering another term of people-focused governance, boldness of vision and hard work as we rise ever higher,” he said.

Unlike last year, when the start of the speech was delayed as Opposition MPs protested on the floor by blowing whistles sneaked into the chamber in their pockets, he had a full 80 minutes to himself.

Opposition MPs had said they would listen keenly and not interrupt but the security agencies and the orderlies did not take any risks, frisking everybody who entered the chamber.

Even journalists were not allowed into the press gallery with their phones.

The less than 100 Opposition MPs took notes with senators Mutula Kilonzo Junior and Hassan Omar and MPs Timothy Bosire and Dr James Nyikal scribbling furiously.

STANDING OVATIONS
None of the opposition lawmakers left their seats during the three standing ovations.

Acknowledging that it is not often that the government gets to report on its progress, President Kenyatta outlined the achievements of the past four years, which he said were a case study of success.

His announcement that he will be among the first people to ride on the new railway line drew the first standing ovation.

Linked to the construction of the new rail has been the establishment of steel factories, which he said had given life to small towns in Mtito Andei and Emali.

President Kenyatta said 1,950 kilometres of roads have been completed and that another 7,000 kilometres were under construction.

He cited the reduction of travel time between Moyale and Nairobi from three days to less than seven hours.

He also cited the bridge linking Rusinga Island to Mbita, deep in the opposition stronghold of Homa Bay.

FIBER OPTIC

He also cited the connection of every county headquarters to the fiber optic network and the additional 3.7 million homes connected to electricity as some sterling achievements.

He said 14,045 schools have so far been connected to power since 2013, representing more than 98 per cent of all public primary schools in the country.

The supply to 98 hospitals with equipment for diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as kidney failure, had had an impact felt countrywide, he said.

The increase in the number of Kenyans with access to outpatient medical care through the National Hospital Insurance Fund was also cited as a success. This has increased from 3.8 million in 2013 to 5.8 million.

The President arrived in the chamber at 3.05 pm.

Security remained tight outside and within Parliament’s precincts.