As President Uhuru Kenyatta prepared to deliver his State of the Nation address to the joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament on Thursday, Kenyans turned to social media to speculate on what could be in the speech.
In there was this joke, “President Uhuru Kenyatta will today threaten all corrupt state officers more during the State of the Nation Address. He is set to be very angry!”
Presented as a joke, its meaning was profound and captured the mood of a cynical citizenry who have become too used to the President’s many promises which are not followed through.
Thursday’s address being the seventh for President Kenyatta, many unfulfilled promises have been made.
They were immediately kept away with the copy of the speech that the President hands to Parliament, never to be revisited or implemented.
For instance, in the 2015 address, President Kenyatta had promised that his administration would set up a restorative justice fund to “relieve the plight of victims, particularly those of the post-election violence of 2007-2008”.
“This will provide a measure of relief and will underscore my government’s goodwill,” he said.
The establishment of the fund was to be done within three years from 2015 or by 2018, and the National Treasury was directed to inject Sh10 billion into the fund.
It was also in 2015 address that the President apologised “on my own behalf, that of my government and all past governments … to all our compatriots for all past wrongs.”
Had this promise been implemented, the fund would be up and running today. This has not been the case, though.
In Thursday’s speech, a year after the fund should have been operational, President Kenyatta was still ‘reaffirming’ his commitment to establish the fund “to heal the wounds of historical grievance which have long poisoned our politics and strained communal relations”.
“With Parliament’s help, and through the affected communities, we will be applying the fund towards establishing symbols of hope across the country through the construction of heritage sites and community information centres. These will remind us and our future generation of the journey taken towards reconciliation and healing. My office will manage this initiative as part of building bridges,” he said.
In his 2014 speech, the President followed up with an earlier promise that he, the deputy president, Cabinet secretaries and principal secretaries would take pay cuts to lower the public wage bill.
“My Cabinet secretaries and principal secretaries have accepted a 10 per cent pay cut. The deputy president joined me in taking a 20 per cent pay cut,” the President said.
Former chairperson of Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) Sarah Serem in 2015 announced that the deductions had started coming through but could not reveal the actual amount deducted, only that an account had been opened for that purpose.
But at a recent media breakfast, Ms Serem’s successor, Lyn Cherop Mengich, appeared not to be so sure about that.
She said there were still no mechanisms in place for such. Lifestyle audit for all public servants was yet another major pledge by the President.
With corruption at an all-time high, the President said he and his deputy would lead other public servants to undergo a lifestyle audit.
The lifestyle audit was to be accompanied with lie detector tests to weed out corrupt individuals, apparently.
"We will conduct a lifestyle audit for all public servants beginning with myself as a step towards fighting corruption," he said in 2018.
Following the announcement, procurement and accounting officers in all ministries, departments and government agencies were asked to step aside to allow for fresh vetting.
Most, if not all of them, have come back to their former positions after the ‘vetting’.
Before the governmentwide audit, the President had also ordered a similar audit at the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).
That did not take off with speculation that some junior staff anonymously threatened their seniors to tell all if they are forced to undergo the procedure.
Signs that the lifestyle audit would not take off came from former Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) CEO Halakhe Waqo in July 2018.
“For us to achieve a proper lifestyle audit, laws have to be changed, and that has to start with sealing loopholes in the wealth declaration. Lifestyle audit is not investigations, and it is not compulsory. It is a voluntary moral process. To make it legal we have to establish the legal framework for it,” Mr Waqo had told Nation in an interview.
However, of all the criticisms levelled against the President, his dealing with corruption tops the list.
Frustrated Kenyans have resorted to creating memes to mock how the President and Jubilee administration has been fighting corruption.