Kenyatta vows to unite Kenya after divisive poll

Tuesday November 28 2017

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta takes oath of

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta takes oath of office during his inauguration ceremony at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya, on November 28, 2017. AFP PHOTO | YASUYOSHI CHIBA 

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President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday vowed to be the leader of all Kenyans and work to unite the country after a bruising and drawn out election process that ended with his swearing-in.

"I will devote my time and energy to build bridges, to unite and bring prosperity," he said — a promise likely to ring hollow for the opposition, which rejects his election outright.

Kenyatta's calls for unity echo those he made throughout an election campaign in which he also launched searing attacks on the judiciary and opposition.

However the message is sorely needed in Kenya, as the more than four-month period of political upheaval has left the nation more divided than ever.

An election on August 8, won by Kenyatta, was annulled in a historic decision by the Supreme Court which ordered a re-run on October 26.

Kenyatta won that poll with 98 per cent, as his rival Raila Odinga boycotted the vote, vowing it would not be free or fair.

"The election we have just concluded is probably one of the longest ever held in our continent's history," said Kenyatta, adding that his inauguration on the 123rd day since the country first went to vote marked "the end, and I repeat the end, of our electoral process".

"It has been a trying time but once again Kenyans have shown their resilience," he added.

"It has been a trying time but once again Kenyans have shown their resilience in calming the passions that accompany political competition."

Serve the nation

Kenyatta urged all leaders to serve the nation regardless of political affiliation, and said he would dedicate all his energy to building "unity and nationhood".

"Instead of division, I know that we can build a Kenya which prospers by rewarding hard work, and leaving no one behind," he said.

He laid out his government's vision for the next five years, including 100-percent universal healthcare coverage and the creation of jobs by focusing on the manufacturing sector.

As the country emerges from a prolonged drought, he vowed to invest in water towers and river ecosystems and re-engineer the agricultural sector in order to cope with future dry spells.

Kenyatta announced that any African wishing to visit Kenya would be able to receive a visa at any port of entry while members of the East African Community (EAC) could work, do business and live in Kenya with only their identity card.

The EAC includes war-torn South Sudan and troubled Burundi, but not Somalia.

Kenyatta urged the nation to focus on building the economy rather than dwell on divisive politics.

"No one eats politics. For the last 50 years, we have watched as the Asian economies have risen to wealth, while much of Africa has stagnated. The difference is that they used politics to create vibrant economies for their people," he said.

"In our case, we have pursued politics as an end in itself, rather than as a means to economic prosperity. This must end."