Mr Speaker, Honourable Members,
It is my pleasure to join you and to make this inaugural address to a Special Sitting of Parliament. I also trust that the short recess provided you an opportunity to closely interact with your constituents.
We have reconvened at a critical juncture of our nation\’s history. Our new Constitution has renewed our sense of nationhood and given us hope for a brighter future. Indeed, Parliament has an opportunity to engrave itself in the annals of our national history. You are called upon to pass additional landmark legislation that is required to implement our new Constitution.
I am pleased to note that in its last Session, this House passed 17 bills that are critical to our national affairs. Some of these relate to the implementation of the Constitution. They include the Commission on the Implementation of the Constitution Act and the Judicial Service Act. Others addressed security and socio-economic concerns facing our people. They included the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act and the Prevention of Organized Crimes Act. I commend members of Parliament for the work done in ensuring the passage of this important legislation.
This House is also reconvening at a time when Kenya\’s economy is rebounding with an estimated 5.4 per cent growth rate registered last year. Our economic prospects this year are high though we are faced with serious challenges. These include high fuel costs, increased inflation and depreciation of the Kenya shilling. Many parts of our country are also experiencing prolonged drought, food shortage as well as lack of grazing pasture.
The Government is working hard to ensure that our brothers and sisters affected by the drought are provided with adequate food. Measures are being taken to mitigate losses of livestock. Furthermore, the Government is continuing to expand support for irrigated agriculture and improved livestock management.
Moreover, I would like to assure this House, and indeed all Kenyans, that the Government is undertaking fiscal and monetary measures to maintain the economy on a high growth path. Despite the challenges that we have faced, the Government has remained focused on the expansion of our economy in line with VISION TWENTY THIRTY. For example, our GDP has been on an expansionary path. In the year 2002, our GDP which measures the total value of goods and services produced stood at less than 1 trillion shillings. Last year, our GDP was valued at about 2.5 trillion shillings. This is an indication of increased economic activity in our nation.
Significant progress has also been made in infrastructure development especially in the roads, energy, I.C.T. and water subsectors. These have not only enhanced the wellbeing of our people but also improved the business environment.
The Grand Coalition Government is determined to systematically implement the new Constitution. We will, therefore, give bills relating to judicial reforms high priority. With an objective and independent Judiciary, any dispute arising from interpretation of the new Constitution will be resolved lawfully.
In this session of Parliament, the Government will table additional bills to fast track the reform of the judiciary and to make operational commissions and independent offices. These reforms are intended to strengthen accountability, administration of justice, rule of law and ensure checks and balances in governance.
To further strengthen the Judiciary, the Supreme Court Bill has been prepared. This will establish the Supreme Court and provide for its rules of procedure. Similarly, the Government will introduce the Other Superior Courts Bill which will provide for the establishment of Courts with the status of High Courts to hear and determine disputes relating to employment and labour relations, the environment and land.
The Government will also present the following bills to make operational various commissions:
– The Independent Commissions Bill;
– Commission on Revenue Allocation Bill;
– The Salaries and Remuneration Commission Bill;
– The Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission Bill;
– The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Bill;
– The Public Service Commission Bill;
– The National Land Commission Bill;
– The Commission on Administrative Justice Bill;
– The National Police Services Commission Bill; and
– The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Bill.
The next General Election will be held in less than two years from today. As we approach this important event, it is in the interest of all of us to ensure that the elections are conducted within a framework that guarantees the free and fair exercise of people\’s choices. The next elections will be more demanding due to the large number of offices to be contested for.
In this regard, an Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Bill has been prepared and discussed with stakeholders. It is now ready for tabling. The Bill makes provision for effective operation of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission including continuous registration of voters, the delimitation of electoral boundaries, registration of candidates and voter education.
The Elections Bill provides for the settlement of electoral disputes arising from nominations, the conduct and supervision of elections and the development of a modern system of collection, collation, transmission and tallying of electoral data. These two Bills will safeguard free and fair elections and entrench our democratic system of governance. I, therefore, call upon this august House to debate and pass the bills within the next three months.
The performance of our security forces is always a matter of great interest to all of us. The new Constitution has a far reaching framework to facilitate reform in provision of security. In this regard, the Government will introduce important security related legislation. These include the National Security Council Bill, Police Service Commission Bill, National Police Service Bill, Independent Police Oversight Authority Bill and the Private Security Providers Bill.
The new Constitution has created two levels of Government; the National and County Governments. The creation of counties is informed by the desire to devolve decision-making to the grassroots and to ensure that all corners of the country receive due attention and resources. Counties will deliberate and decide on their development priorities. It is anticipated that they will turn into new growth centres. In this regard, the Government will be forwarding the Public Finance Bill which will bring fundamental change in how we budget and manage our public finances. Moreover, the Government has created a taskforce to collect and collate views from Kenyans regarding this important matter.
This will inform a policy framework and legislation for the implementation of devolution. This Task Force has commenced public and stakeholder consultations in all parts of our country. I, therefore, call upon all Kenyans, including members of this House to positively participate in these deliberations.
For a long time, investors in our country have complained about our outdated Company Law and other related laws. Therefore, in order to improve our business environment and to make our economy globally competitive, the House will be requested to debate and consider the Companies Bill, Limited Liability Partnership Bill and the Insolvency Bill. To further boost private sector investment, the government has identified the co-operative movement as a key sector for empowering our people.
Co-operatives will enable Kenyans to participate in all aspects of the economy including the provision of financial services, real estate development, transport, manufacturing, fisheries, livestock and agricultural value addition. In this regard, the Government will be presenting a Sessional Paper on Co-operative Development.
The Constitution has created a National Land Commission with wide responsibilities over the management of public land and administration of land in general. In order to make operational the National Land Commission, the Government will be submitting the National Land Commission Bill and the Land Registration Bill.
Furthermore, and in view of the need to accelerate the development of affordable housing for all Kenyans, we shall be tabling the Housing Bill.
Other areas that will be covered by Bills to be presented include Power of Mercy; system of courts; provision for Speaker of County Assembly; urban areas and cities; and Contingencies Fund and Loan guarantees by National Assemblies.
In my speech today, I have focused on the bills that must have been passed according to the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, within one year of the promulgation of the Constitution.
Article 55 of the Constitution provides that the state shall take measures including affirmative action programmes to ensure that the youth:
– Access relevant education and training;
– Have opportunities to associate, be represented and participate in political, social, economic and other spheres of life;
– Access employment; and
– Are protected from harmful cultural practices and exploitation.
This constitutional mandate requires that the Youth Policy and current institutional frameworks dedicated to youth issues be supported by a legislative framework. My Government will prioritize the development of a youth empowerment and protection law. As a matter of urgency, I shall establish a Task Force which will work with our youth and other members of society to assist develop the blueprint of this crucial bill. I have decided that this matter must be addressed urgently although it is not given a five-year time line by the Constitution.
In conclusion, I would like to remind Honourable Members that we have the rare opportunity to participate in the enactment of new laws which are intended to transform our governance architecture and which will change our social, economic and political interactions. Indeed, as a country, we have not in the past given priority to the systematic unveiling of a set of values and principles which define or become our national interest.
We have now a clear opportunity to do so through the national values and guiding principles that are enshrined in our new Constitution. As we implement our new Constitution, we will encounter challenges. However, this should not distract us from our goals. In saying this, I am fully aware of the challenges and opportunities that we face in decisively dealing with the post election crisis that we faced in 2008. I thank the Kenyan people and you the leaders for embracing the spirit of national reconciliation and healing.
Our new Constitution has given us the necessary framework to create credible institutions that can serve our needs and deal with past injustices. We have begun creating objective and independent institutions to ensure the fair application of the law. It is my hope that we shall play our role in ensuring that these institutions are fully operational.
Thank you, God bless you all and God bless our country.
(Kibaki is the President of the Republic of Kenya)