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War on terror, corruption will be won, Uhuru tells investors

Friday August 8 2014

KEVIN J.  KELLEY
By KEVIN J. KELLEY
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WASHINGTON, DC

President Uhuru Kenyatta touted Kenya's achievements and potential in a speech at a Washington dinner on Thursday hosted by a group representing US businesses operating in Africa.

The head of state also did not downplay the challenges facing the country in his address to about 300 Kenyan and American executives and government officials.

“Corruption has been over the years a huge hindrance to development, and immense national wealth has over the years been lost to theft,” Mr Kenyatta acknowledged.

But he added: “I can guarantee you at this moment that impunity and corruption have become high-risk activities in Kenya.”

'GRAVE CHALLENGE'

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Insecurity poses “a grave challenge” to the nation, the President said, confirming that the tourism industry “has suffered an intense shock from terrorist activity.”

He pledged, however, that “the war on terror will be won over time.”

Relations between Kenya and the United States “are as strong as ever,” Mr Kenyatta said, citing as an example President Obama's “unflinching resolve” in helping Kenya combat terrorism.

Kenya and the US share “a bond born of a keen awareness of shared, fundamental values,” Mr Kenyatta said.

Kenyans also draw “plenty of inspiration” from the United States' successes and ongoing efforts in building its democracy, the President added.

EVOLVING DEMOCRACY

Like the US, Kenya had rid itself of “colonial dominance,” and has similarly had to “evolve into a true democracy.”

“It has not been easy,” Mr Kenyatta reflected.

Among the accomplishments of recent years that he enumerated are reforms of the judiciary, “robust property protections,” enhanced anti-counterfeiting measures and a streamlining of business registration.

The government is aiming to double the extent of the paved road network by 2017, President Kenyatta added, and will guarantee the supply of 5000 megawatts of “reliable electrical power” within the next three years.

Kenya may not be blessed with as many natural resources as some countries, he said, “but we have one thing many do not have: a hard-working, young, brilliant population.”

'NATURAL HUB FOR ICT'

Digitally savvy youth have made the country “a natural hub for ICT,” Mr Kenyatta added, referring to information and communications technology.

The President's remarks at Washington's Grand Hyatt Hotel elicited a friendly and respectful response.

No mention was made during the evening of Mr Kenyatta's indictment by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity.

Even before he spoke, President Kenyatta was hailed by Kase Lawal, director of Camac Energy.

His US-based firm has been operating in Kenya for two years and will soon be listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, Mr Lawal told the audience attending the event sponsored by the Corporate Council on Africa.

Noting that the President's father was the founding father of the Kenyan nation, Mr Lawal declared: “Uhuru Kenyatta will go down in history as the founding father of a new Kenya ready to do business with all of you.”