President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday, March 27, delivers in Parliament a State of the Nation address as he gets set to mark the Jubilee coalition’s first year in office.
It is likely that the statement will focus largely on the achievements of the young administration measured against the promises outlined in the Jubilee campaign manifesto.
He will be hard-pressed to put on a positive spin on a first year that may have been marked more by myriad challenges and distractions rather than solid achievement.
Notable challenges range from terrorist attacks and general insecurity; distractions such as the ICC trials; failure on delivery of key campaign promises such as the free laptops for primary school children; little evidence of economic recovery and job creation; and perceptions that grand corruption is making an aggressive return as seen through the laptops and new Mombasa-Malaba railway line procurements.
The Jubilee manifesto that propelled President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto to State House was an extensive document with proposals touching on all facets of national life.
It offered solutions to issues ranging from economic growth, health, education and social services, youth unemployment, corruption, governance, land policy, and public service reform.
Some were detailed policy prescriptions. Others were populist ‘quick-fix’ doses that clearly have had to be tempered by the realities of the gulf between running a government and making good on campaign promises.
One year down the road, Managing Editor for Special Projects MACHARIA GAITHO recalls the Jubilee Coalition election campaign promises from which President Kenyatta might have provide a self-assessment scorecard in his State of the Nation address:
LAND POLICY: The Jubilee manifesto pledged repossession of all illegally occupied public land without compensation, and the prosecution of land grabbers. Also much was made of the promise to accelerate issuance of title deeds.
This was ironic because during the election campaigns, the Jubilee team of TNA’s Uhuru Kenyatta and running mate William Ruto of URP was mercilessly skewered on the land issue by the rival CORD coalition of ODM’s Raila Odinga and Wiper Party’s Kalonzo Musyoka.
Jubilee was depicted as the team led by beneficiaries of vast land-grabs of previous regimes, and therefore unlikely to offer much in land reform and addressing inequalities and old injustices in regard to access to land.
The campaign cost Jubilee dearly at the Coast where land issues remain a powder keg. There were early moves to issue title deeds at the Coast and in Nairobi’s expansive Kibera slums, the latter a political a move given that is the Mr Odinga’s political bastion, but otherwise Mr Kenyatta might have little positive to report.
Most of news from the land sector has been about the power struggle between Lands minister Charity Ngilu and National Land Commission boss Mohammed Swazuri that has slowed down reforms and programmes.
EDUCATION, FREE LAPTOPS AND SCHOOL MILK: The fiasco of free laptops promised for every primary school child in Kenya must be one of Jubilee’s worst nightmares.
Economic reality had already forced scaling down of the project from all primary school pupils to just Class One pupils and then only to a few schools in a pilot program, before a botched procurement halted award of the tender. It might be tied by lawsuits for a considerable time.
The Jubilee campaign also promised free milk for every primary school going child. Nothing so far. Substantive promises included massive recruitment to increase the student-teacher ratio to 1 teacher for every 40 students; and a progressive increase in the education budget to 32 per cent of Government spending by 2018. Nothing to report on that score yet.
SECURITY: The State of the Nation address is delivered just a few days after a terrorist attack at a Mombasa church killed six people, and with memories of last year’s devastating raid on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall still fresh in the mind. In the wake of the Mombasa attack President Kenyatta issued a stern warning that those out to harm innocent Kenyans would face the full face of the law, but that only provoked a storm on social media where commentators recalled previous tough warning but no tangible results.
The address tomorrow cannot avoid reference to terrorism, and the presidents will need to convince skeptical Kenyans that his are not empty warning.
On wider security issues, runaway violent crime in both urban and rural areas; unchecked banditry, cattle rustling and ethnic conflict marginalized parts of the country, are just some of the concerns that need to be addressed.
The Jubilee campaign promised improved pay and conditions of service for police officers, recruitment of 15,000 officers to increase the police-citizen ratio from the present 1:1,150 to 1:800 within five years. There was also a promise to provide each of the 1450 electoral wards across the country with at least two police vehicles, alongside general improvements, in accommodation, training, and equipment.
There has been a well-publicised purchase of police cars, but not to the numbers promised, with some county governments stepping in to take up the slack. Pay, equipment, transport and the headcount still presents severe constraints to effective policing, while the public sees police reform stymied by the very public bureaucratic turf wars between Inspector-General David Kimaiyo and the the Police Service Commission boss Johnson Kavuludi.
ARTS, YOUTH, SPORTS AND CULTURE: Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto campaigned as the dynamic, youthful duo. And to that measure they pledged to establish youth development centres in all counties with fully-equipped libraries, ICT hubs, social halls and facilities for football, swimming, basketball, netball and volleyball.
They promised to build five new national sports stadiums in Kisumu, Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret and Garissa, and ensure that the Kenya Safari Rally gets back a slot in the World Rally Championships calendar. There was also a promise to roll out free WI-FI connectivity in all major towns.
Other than establishment of the Sh6 billion Youth Enterprise fund, the president might have little to report.
HEALTHCARE: The Jubilee team moved swiftly on assuming office to make good on the promise of free maternity care in public health facilities. The healthcare sector has, however been dominated more by strikes from medics demanding better pay and working conditions, as well as the complications coming with the transition to devolved health services.
The campaign had pledged to achieve free primary healthcare for all and increase health financing from 6 per cent to 15 per cent of national budget.
WOMEN: The Jubilee campaign pledged to fully implement the ‘one-third rule’ to ensure at least 33 per cent of all Government and parastatal appointments were women.
It also promised to ensure a doubling of women in Parliament by amending the Constitution to replace the 12 nominated MPs, with 60 MPs elected by Proportional Representation, with 48 of these seats reserved for women. The government has been very silent on that pledge.
ECONOMIC GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT: The Uhuru-Ruto campaign pledged to target a 7-10 per cent growth rate in the first two years to create 1 million new jobs. It’s just the first year but there has only been a marginal increase to just over five per cent, with some projections pointing to six per cent in the next year.
The president could with a straight face say that growth is on track, but that will depend on whether he is relying on sunny optimism, or on cold, hard concerns of economic stagnation unless drastic steps are taken to cut waste and direct resources to productive sectors.
AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SECURITY: Jubilee’s promise to subsidise fertiliser and farm equipment as a way of ensuring food security is being met to some extent.
The promise to put a million acres of land under irrigation is also showing some progress with launch of a project at the Coast. There was also a pledge to reduce the cost of credit for crop and livestock farmers, by at least 50 per cent of the commercial rate. That one might be a tall order for the moment.
ROADS: President Mwai Kibaki built his legacy on building and repairing roads across the country after years of neglect and destruction during the Daniel arap Moi era.
The Uhuru Kenyatta campaign duly pledged to maintain the momentum by increasing the paved road network from 11,000km to 24,000km in five years.
The pace in road construction set by the previous government seems to have slowed somewhat, with many projects halting over unpaid bills.
CORRUPTION: President Kenyatta recently launched the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission strategic plan, which on closer inspection turned out to be mostly a rehash of previous plans that achieved very little in the war against corruption.
During the occasion he talked tough against corruption, and might well have recalled the Jubilee campaign pledge to give the Commission power to prosecute corruption offenses.
Nothing has moved in that regard. The manifesto also pledged to ban anyone convicted on corruption offenses from any public sector job, and to freeze assets of individuals and corporations found guilty, as well as automatic suspension of any officials facing court charges.
Along the way, these promises have been clearly diluted, with the sanctions now applicable only to those actually convicted rather than to those indicted.