President Kenyatta's State of the Nation address eagerly awaited

The list of shame, which had several cabinet secretaries, dominated talk after last year’s address.

Thursday March 31 2016

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro leave the National Assembly on March 26, 2015, after the State of the Nation address. PHOTO | FILE | NATION

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro leave the National Assembly on March 26, 2015 after the State of the Nation address. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By BERNARD NAMUNANE
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When he last delivered the State of the Nation address a year ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta handed Parliament a list of 175 public officers who were under investigations for corruption and asked them to step aside.

Since then, a lot of good and bad water has passed under the bridge, occasionally prompting his administration to intervene and steer the boat clear.

Thursday afternoon, the President, with his deputy William Ruto seated in the gallery — for he is not an MP — will deliver his second-last State of the Nation speech.

The speech is expected to report to Parliament what the Jubilee administration has achieved in terms of development, services to the public, interventions to reduce corruption, unity of the country and plans for the year.

The address is expected to be a sum total of the administration’s achievement in transforming the country, challenges it has faced, efforts to overcome the challenges and what the government has set in motion for the next one year.

Interviews with some State House operatives revealed that as preparations for the address, the President gathers about a dozen advisers and tells them what he wants the speech to target.

Last year’s speech was supposed to be inspirational and aspirational — offering leadership on tackling key challenges facing his administration. At that time, corruption was the main issue.

The operatives said when the speech was taken to the President for approval, he posed a question: “How is it going to tell Kenyans that the game — fighting corruption — had changed forever?”

EACC LIST

Unknown to his advisers, Mr Kenyatta had asked two confidants to request the then Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman Mumo Matemu and CEO Halakhe Waqo to prepare a list of State officers being investigated for corruption.

Only Deputy President William Ruto was aware of the President’s intentions, said the sources.

Interviews with those who drafted the speech revealed that on the afternoon of March 26, a few minutes before the President left State House to deliver the address, he sprung a surprise.

He demanded that a paragraph touching on the tabling of “the list of shame” in Parliament be included.

“The country wants to know that we are heading in a different direction,” the President told his advisers, who had no clue whose names were in the report.

“How are you going to do it when the list could involve people who are very close to you? Some are Cabinet secretaries?” one of the advisers asked.

To which the President reportedly replied: “There will be no sacred cow.”

Key individuals in the list were CSs Charity Ngilu (Lands), Mr Kazungu Kambi (Labour), Mr Davis Chirchir (Energy), Mr Felix Koskei (Agriculture) and Mr Joseph Kamau (Transport).

Taking cue from Mr Ruto’s session with the public at the Kenya National Theatre on Tuesday evening, it is telling that the President would inform Parliament the number of Kenyans and public institutions who have access to electricity, steps made in improving infrastructure, increase in the number of security officers and equipment and digitising service at Huduma Centres.

However, the narrative on achievements is likely to be dwarfed by issues surrounding the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and the agitation for its disbandment.

Corruption is still a key issue, given questions over Eurobond, investigations into the NYS scam and the decision by Kenya Airports Authority to cancel the Sh56 billion terminal project at JKIA.

Will the President pull a rabbit out of the hat as he did last time? This is the day of reckoning.

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