In New York
President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged Thursday that he will respect the Constitution’s limit of two terms in the nation’s top office.
Speaking in an hour-long video interview conducted by a US-based think-tank, President Kenyatta offered his assurance in response to a question as to whether he might “do a Putin and stay on.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, now serving his second six-year term, is pushing for a constitutional change that would allow him to dispense with term limits and remain in power until 2036.
“I can tell you that if there is one thing Kenyans are certain about, it is the two-term limit,” Mr Kenyatta stated. “No president has broken that, and I don’t intend to be the first.”
Asked if he might aim to become Kenya’s Prime Minister if a constitutional referendum creates such a post, Mr Kenyatta said, “I have no clue if there is going to be a premiership in the Constitution.”
“The office that exists today is the office of the President,” he pointed out. “And our Constitution is very clear that the president serves for two terms, two terms.”
Mr Kenyatta emphasised themes of unity and inclusivity as he addressed a range of other issues during the session sponsored by the Atlantic Council.
“Let's not be sucked back into isolationism, unilateralism,” he said in regard to both global trade and the threat of the coronavirus.
“We need each other today more than we ever did. We’re not going to fight corona if one country succeeds and another fails.”
He also declared “we are colour blind” in regard to selection of trading partners. He suggested that Kenya does not favour China or the US. “We are open to doing business with the world and are not targeting one part of the world over another.”
As to the current negotiations for a Kenya-US bilateral trade agreement, the President said both sides are seeking a “win-win” outcome.
“We are trying to find a scenario that, yes indeed, opens up Kenya to some products from the US and that also enables us to take advantage of a huge market.
“There are areas where America will be dominant,” he acknowledged, citing health care and technology as examples. And there are also areas, he added, where access to the US market “can help our economy grow to a certain degree.”
“We are not just going to be a dumping ground for goods. We will also be a manufacturer of goods,” he stated.
Mr Kenyatta also offered assurances that a Kenya-US bilateral trade deal will not contradict or undermine the Africa-wide free-trade arrangement established in 2018.
A Nairobi-Washington trade pact will serve as a model that can be emulated elsewhere in Africa, he suggested. “We are going to be trailblazers in this,” he said.
Kenya’s lenders will hopefully develop a common and positive position on debt extension for African countries, just as the African Union has achieved consensus on the need for creating “fiscal space,” Mr Kenyatta added.
Lower-middle-income African countries such as Kenya are asking for “fiscal space” and are not calling for the debt forgiveness sought by some of the poorer countries on the continent, Mr Kenyatta said.
Asked whether Kenya will consider adopting the policing reforms highlighted by the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests, the President said the country would “undoubtedly” move in that direction.
“It’s something we have already started,” he said.
A new curriculum is being developed to improve the training of police recruits as well as current officers, he said.
Official and independent bodies with responsibility for overseeing Kenya's police forces “are being empowered to take action,” Mr Kenyatta told his online audience.