Uhuru Kenyatta: Corruption, terrorism have pained me most

Monday August 7 2017

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta. The President

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta. The President says graft and terrorist attacks have been particularly painful matters. FILE PHOTO | SALATON NJAU NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JOHN KAMAU
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In an exclusive interview with John Kamau, Nation’s Investigative Editor, President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks about his high and low moments as the head of state.

The following are excerpts from the interview.

DN: What has been your moment of joy as Kenyan president?

Uhuru: Thank you John. I know you asked for just one, but there have been so many good moments. The World Athletics Championships of 2017, when we came first in the world and riding into Nairobi on the Madaraka Express.

The construction of the SGR (standard gauge railway) is just one example of the foundations for prosperity that we have focused on building over the last four years.

It was a vindication of our vision and it showed that we have the ambition, and the ability, to pull off projects that will transform the lives of ordinary Kenyans.

And I remember, too, Mzee Alfred Bosire Matundura, and his wife, whom I met when I visited Kisii. Their lives had been changed by Inua Jamii. The extra cash they received gave them dignity and security in old age.

And, finally, the fact that caesarean sections are possible in Mandera. All these years after independence, and it's the first time we can do this.

I'm grateful, and I have to say these are the things that make this job worthwhile.

DN: As you come to the close of your first term, what has frustrated you most and which you will prioritise if you get another term?

Uhuru: Yes, there have been days of frustration, or worse. Corruption and the deaths of our people in terrorist attacks have been particularly painful matters.

There is nothing that holds us back as corruption does, and you can be sure that it will be an important focus of my second term if the people of Kenya oblige.

There is nothing as dismaying as the terrorist attacks. And to hear that innocent Kenyans have been murdered is truly heart-breaking. That's one reason why I am utterly resolved to defeating Al-Shabaab. These killers must be brought to justice.

DN: How satisfied are you with the preparations towards Tuesday polls?

Uhuru: I am very satisfied. We've come a long way, and it stands as proof of the good things Kenyans and their institutions can do once they set their minds to it.

The fact of the matter is that we are ready, the country is ready, and the IEBC, despite a number of setbacks, is ready. We'll learn from the setbacks, but for now ours is to thank the IEBC itself, and to ask every Kenyan to vote peacefully, and to respect the institution and the results it declares.

After the tragic death of my brother, CS Nkaissery, I named CS Matiangi to step in as interim Interior Cabinet Secretary and he has my whole and unwavering trust as he organises security matters in these elections.

DN: Agriculture/food security has been facing challenges. What other efforts will you put in place to stabilise food prices and ensure food security?

Uhuru: Yes. It's true that there have been challenges. But we need to be clear here. The challenges arose because of an unusually difficult drought which led to two bad harvests in quick succession. What are we going to do to stabilise prices, and ensure security?

Over the last four years we have built the foundations for food security and a lower cost of living. We've invested in farms and markets, transport and trade, irrigation and dams.

In this term, we rolled out a fertilizer subsidy programme to farmers right across the country. Let me just say I'm hugely pleased by the response. Kenya’s farmers took full advantage of the help we offered.

More work

But there is much more work to be done. My action plan for more jobs and a lower cost of living will double the size of that subsidy programme. I also commit to cutting the cost of fertilizer even further to Sh1,200 per bag and to expanding the number of crops covered by the subsidy.

Obviously, we don't have all day, but let me mention just two other points.

You'll remember that a few years ago we announced that a new fertilizer factory was coming. Well, we expect that factory to be fully operational very shortly, which is why we can say with confidence that we'll find a way to cut the costs of fertilizer.

Action plan

The second is actually a two-part answer. We committed, in my action plan, to a food acquisition programme. The point here is that government will offer guaranteed prices to small-scale farmers, to create demand, and to ease volatility.

After all, few farmers will want to produce if the prices they can put on their produce are changing all the time. We need price stability to stabilise prices. And once we do stabilise prices, I expect we will see a substantial rise in the production.

We will ensure that every Kenyan family can afford to put food on their table and share in our nation's prosperity.

DN: The health sector has seen tremendous changes but the doctor-patient ratio is still high, what immediate efforts will you take to bridge the gap?

Uhuru: Thanks for that question John. It's true that the doctor-patient ratio needs [to] work. I don't have to tell you that there have been some difficulties, which have now been solved.

Given that government and our doctors now have a clear and binding agreement, we expect to train more doctors than we have been, and we fully expect the doctor-patient ratio to fall.

I [will] just add, however, that that isn't all we are doing in health. We have equipped hospitals with new, state-of-the-art equipment. We have cut malaria deaths, we have made maternal healthcare free and we have come closer than any other government to universal healthcare.

If I am re-elected, these programmes will continue, actually, they will grow. As I promised, we will introduce free maternal healthcare for a year for every Kenyan mother who has had a child.

Health

Let me just say, also, that health is now a devolved function. In the next term, I want to see governors stepping up.

We need to see them doing more to fulfil their constitutional responsibilities and we need to cooperate even more closely. Kenyans can’t wait. Kenyans can't take any more delay.

But going forward, seeing [that] we have equipped hospitals, quality of care is going to be a major focus.

DN: Youth are both a challenge and an opportunity, going forward, what efforts will you put in place to give them quality vocations and jobs?

Uhuru: Thank you for the question, John. This is such an important issue because our youth are our country's future.

Over the last four years we have built the foundations for prosperity for all young people in Kenya. We set aside 30 per cent of government procurement for young people and other marginalised groups.

We set aside billions of shillings for the Uwezo and Youth funds and we have created hundreds of thousands of jobs for our young people in my first term – over 2.4 million jobs in total.

Although too many young Kenyans still can't find jobs and there is much more work to do, I am determined to finish the job to create an additional 6.5 million new jobs and ensure that every young Kenyan can enjoy opportunity and prosperity.

Internship

What we will do in my next term – if Kenyans choose to elect a Jubilee government – is this: [any] young person who graduates from university or from a technical or vocational college will be granted a full year's paid internship by my government.

That means that our sons and daughters will be prepared [and] ready to enter the world of work and that they will have the experience they need to build a long and productive career when they do. This, actually, is a policy I'm particularly proud of.

DN: Corruption has been a menace since independence. What else do you think should be done to empower institutions like EACC and DPP?

Uhuru: It's very clear that Kenyans want to see decisive action. Independent institutions will receive my full cooperation, they will receive funding, and I will support them as firmly as I can within the limits of the law.

But ultimately they also have responsibilities to crush corruption under their own jurisdictions and they need to take stronger, faster action.

I am proud, for example, to have instructed CS Fred Matiang’i to crush the corruption in the exam system, which he has delivered very well. Every child in our country can now enjoy a fair and transparent education system.

SRC

But there is much more work to be done. I'm pleased to have unambiguously supported the Salaries and Remuneration Commission’s report that cut pay for politicians and made public servants pay fairer and more transparent.

I look forward to their recommendations being implemented. I am also proud that our development programme has been distributed fairly regardless of tribe and region.

Ultimately this challenge is one we must all tackle together, at every level of business, politics and our everyday lives.

DN: The stock market has been booming despite the campaigns. What do you think the market is saying?

Uhuru: Can I be very direct in my reply here? The market is showing its confidence in Kenya. The market is showing its confidence in the management of Kenya's affairs over the first term, and the market is showing its confidence in Kenya's future. That is it.

Obviously, we still have work to do to make sure that every Kenyan shares in the prosperity and growth but that is a task made easier by the very fact of prosperity and growth.

This market confidence is pure and simple proof that business has confidence in the foundations we have built for prosperity. We must now build on that progress to deliver more jobs and a lower [the] cost of living as we finish the job we have started.

DN: Last: the campaign has been tiring. How have you managed to keep afloat?

Uhuru: The energy and enthusiasm of Kenyans have energised me. The hope I see in our young people, their determination to make this country a better place, their freedom from the prejudices of the past – all these things lift me up.

They renew my energy, and they make me more determined than ever to win so that we can fulfil the promise of this country.

Every day my optimism grows that better days lie ahead for all Kenyans. I only ask for permission from all Kenyans to finish the job we have started so that everyone can share in our country's prosperity.