President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday reached out to Raila Odinga’s National Super Alliance opposition coalition, saying he was ready for dialogue with it, but only around the pursuit of economic liberation.
It was the second time in four days that Mr Kenyatta was saying he was ready for dialogue, and also the second in as many days he was ruling out politics as part of the agenda, saying it had been proven not to help with economic growth.
On Saturday he had told off Nasa, saying those who want to talk politics should wait for 2022 when his deputy William Ruto will have a stab at the top job.
On Tuesday he pledged to bring harmony between communities, deepen unity, and foster national cohesion in his second term. Towards the end of his speech, he called on his political opponents, including Mr Odinga, to join in the journey.
“As I have stated before, as President of all Kenyans, I am willing and commit to engage all Kenyans, and all Kenyan leaders, including my worthy competitors, irrespective or their religious or ethnic affiliation, in fashioning this paradigm shift,” President Kenyatta said at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, when he led Kenyans in marking 54 years of independence.
The paradigm shift, he argued, was one where Kenyans will no longer engage in politics for the sake of it, but will instead focus on building an economy he believes has a lot of potential. “I have seen the future, and it is at hand. The pursuit of politics for politics’ sake is the past; the pursuit of political leadership for economic liberation is the future. And it up to us, as Kenyans, to deliver it,” said President Kenyatta.
“The future is now. It is about a healthy nation, built on equal opportunity for all, dignity for all, and the pursuit of material prosperity for all.”
The Head of State was only two weeks ago sworn in for a second term at the same venue following a protracted political crisis that comprised an annulled August 8 election, the withdrawal of Mr Odinga from the Supreme Court-ordered October 26 election, the subsequent upholding of the polls on November 20, and a continued battle by the opposition to claim power.
The Odinga-led team on Sunday, to the disappointment of some of its loyal followers, postponed a planned ‘swearing-in’ that was to be held on Tuesday.
At Kasarani, President Kenyatta was categorical: The time for politics was over.
“For a long time now, many in our political arena have believed that politics matters more than economic development. We have drawn Kenyans into our squabbles. For 50 years, we have squabbled over politics for politics’ sake, and squandered economic opportunities that would have made a difference in the lives of our people,” he said, using Singapore, which, he pointed out, focused on using politics to build its economy.
But, while he threw his arms open for those willing to dialogue, he warned that the government was still alert.
“Today, I serve notice to those treating our constitutional order with casual recklessness. The Constitution is the general will of all. No one is above it: no matter who you are, you are subject to its authority. Anything outside the Constitution is a hostile intrusion,” he warned.
“Whoever destroys property, whoever chooses senseless violence over constitutional order — all these are enemies of the republic, (and) that is how they will be treated,” he said.
President Kenyatta summarised his priorities in the second term into what he called the Big Four: food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and affordable healthcare for all.
“During the next five years, I will dedicate the energy, time and resources of my administration to the Big Four,” he said.
In the manufacturing sector, President Kenyatta directed that all boots, leather products and textiles for the disciplined forces be procured from local manufacturers, with effect from the 2018/19 financial year.
This, he argued, will boost an economy that buys more than 30 million pairs of shoes a year, yet has the third-largest cattle herd in Africa.
He also banned, until such a time that they comply with allowing the local fishermen to take a first go, the fishing licences of all international trawlers operating in Kenya’s territorial waters.
The Head of State promised to create an additional 1,000 SMEs focused on manufacturing, build 500,000 affordable homes, lower the cost of electricity, and provide medical insurance cover for every Kenyan in five years.
Further, he promised to raise revenues from cotton growing from Sh30 billion to Sh200 billion, while ensuring that 100,000 youth get paid for internships.
SHIFT FROM POLITICS
“I believe in you,” President Kenyatta told the youth. “You are my partners, and this is why my Big Four plan is centred on you. You will drive the big shift from politics to prosperity.”
Deputy President William Ruto called on all Kenyans to work together, irrespective of political and religious affiliation, in building the nation.
“The journey ahead will involve all Kenyans,” he said.
“It must involve those in government and those in the opposition. We owe it to those who fought for our independence and secured our democracy for us to work together so that our tomorrow is better than our today, and that our future is greater than our present.”