Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta was at pains last week to assure citizens of his commitment to tackle the myriad problems facing the country and deliver on his development agenda.
In his second State of the Nation address in his second term in office, President Kenyatta sought to convince a largely pessimistic nation about his determination to improve their lives and that there will be “no turning back” in the quest for a better country politically and socio-economically.
While last year’s address was anchored in the promise of a “New Kenya” after a general election that left the country deeply polarised, this year’s focus was on uniting the country through the Building Bridges Initiative, fighting corruption and economic transformation.
“I have heard the cries of our people, and their stated hopes and aspirations for a better Kenya. When they elected me as their president, I committed to strive and unceasingly fulfil the trust and confidence they placed in me. I will not turn back on this commitment,” the president said.
The speech came at a time when Kenya is grappling with issues ranging from rising political temperatures ahead of the 2022 general election to corruption, hunger, rising unemployment and a ballooning public debt.
More specifically, it came at a point when soaring tensions are threatening to tear apart the East Africa Community with President Kenyatta at one point engaging in shuttle diplomacy across the region to heal divisions, particularly between Uganda and Rwanda.
In the speech, the Kenyan leader emphasised his quest to unite the EAC and Africa in general on the basis that prosperity for individual African states lies in promoting intra-African trade, integration and building bridges between nations.
“Kenya's prosperity, security and fraternity lies in ever closer unity with our partners in the EAC at the first level, and thereafter wider regional and continental alignments,” he said.
President Kenyatta tried to reassure Kenyans that the country is on the right track politically and socio-economically. On corruption, which has become endemic, the president said there will be no turning back on the war to prevent misuse of public resources.
“The magnitude of the war against corruption we are fighting today is unprecedented,” he said, adding that those who have looted public coffers will not only be prosecuted and jailed but will also be made to return the ill-gotten wealth.
He said that the March 9, 2018 “handshake” with opposition leader Raila Odinga was the best thing for Kenya as it assures inclusion, cohesion, unity and respect for all Kenyans. This is despite the fact that the pact has become a major threat to cohesion in the ruling Jubilee Party.
Besides corruption and unity, the speech was also heavy on the government’s Big Four development agenda and the sound status of the country’s economy whose growth has averaged 5.6 per cent over the past five years and is projected to grow by 6.3 per cent this year up from 6.1 per cent in 2018.
This year, Kenya aims to break into the top 50 bracket in the Ease of Doing Business ranking with ongoing reforms geared towards attracting more foreign direct investments.
The country was among the most improved countries in the World Bank Ease of Doing-Business Index 2019, climbing 19 places to position 61 globally.
“Our economic outlook remains positive underpinned by the implementation of our transformative development agenda,” the President said.
He added the Big Four agenda, which comprise universal healthcare, affordable housing, food security and enhancing the manufacturing sector remains a top priority because it is designed to enhance the quality of life for Kenyans in ways that are tangible and measurable.