East Africans entered the New Year with promises and pledges from their leaders to address hunger, education, health, land rights and housing, security and corruption.
Presidents John Magufuli (Tanzania), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya) picked issues that they had been talking about at various platforms and close to their hearts.
From a long punchy speech from President Museveni to a short and snappy take by President Magufuli and a forgettable speech by President Kenyatta, East Africans have something to hold their leaders accountable for or not in the new decade.
In a shift from tradition, President Magufuli spoke to the country while on a visit at Rubondo Island National Park in Lake Victoria during which he dwelt on his pet subject of eliminating misuse of public funds and corruption.
He mentioned aircraft purchase for Tanzania Airline, the construction of the new standard gauge railway and free education as some of his successfully implemented projects. He said for 2020 to be the year of nation welfare, Tanzanians have to maintain peace, love and unity.
President Magufuli also said he will intensify the war on fraudsters in public office by removing them from office.
“This country is looted to date, and I am praying that God may continue to give me the energy in the year 2020 to serve you, and continue to sack all of them because controlling government expenditure will enable us to implement more projects,” adding that, “With the money recovered so far we have purchased 11 planes, are constructing the SGR and offering free education.”
The president did not speak on the economy or politics, which is expected to occupy the country in the coming months as the October general election and his re-election looms.
Unlike President Magufuli, Kenya’s President Kenyatta will be facing a tough 2020 because Kenyans expect him to implement some of the promises that his Jubilee party made to the electorates in 2017, but which have not been realised.
Addressing the nation on New Year’s eve from State House Mombasa, President Kenyatta did not offer much beyond official positive messaging that lacked concrete promises and was short of addressing the pressing issues of the nation is facing like hard economic times.
The president said: “My Administration has committed to addressing the challenges of unemployment, poverty, hunger, inequality and poor health. Even as we accept that despite the progress there are still challenges that we must overcome,” he said.
Kenyans are currently facing increasingly difficult economic times, with job losses, high food prices, difficult business environment and generally shrinking disposable income.
“In the year 2020, we will continue to make Kenya a better nation for all her people as we build bridges of brotherhood among our people by weaving a stronger fabric of patriotism and nationhood,” he said.
President Kenyatta said Kenya continues to make steady progress in the areas of education, healthcare, food security and nutrition, infrastructure, renewable energy, defence and security and industrialisation.
The president implored citizens to shun negativity. “By us together accepting our challenges should form the basis not for division but rather a clarion call of how we must come together in order to turn challenge to opportunity and prosperity,” he said.
He pointed out that 2020 offers new opportunities for unity, prosperity, positive social change and the deepening of democratic gains and enhancing the rule of law.
“It is my sincere hope and prayer that in the New Year all Kenyans will come together and rally around our shared aspirations for a better Kenya. On my part, I will continue to foster an environment of unity, constructive political engagement, tolerance and the facilitation of participation by all Kenyans,” he said.
Currently, the war against corruption has not made significant headway with no major conviction despite the many cases in court.
In separate televised New Year message President Magufuli’s Zanzibar counterpart, President Ali Mohamed Shein commended the people for peace that saw the island “successfully implement development programmes, which have resulted in the economy to grow at 7.1 per cent.”
Unlike President Magufuli he reminded political leaders that another election was around the corner and asked them to fulfil their election pledges to the people.
In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni, delivered a six-point New Year message with a punch and touched on security, prosperity, education, land, environment and corruption.
A tough talking President Museveni zeroed in on land rights citing the 1995 constitution that enshrined the rights of land owners and promised to resolve land wrangles hit the country recently and promised to deal with land grabbers and at the same time pledged to compensate absentee landlords.
On insecurity, which has been a thorn in the flesh of his government with several high profile murders and even suspected serial killings, the president assured the country that new security measures, including CCTV cameras are already having a positive impact on security. But he also admonished lazy police officers and vowed to sack them and replace them with disciplined young Ugandans.