BY RAILA ODINGA
(This is a speech delivered by Prime Minister Raila Odinga before Parliament on Wednesday, February 15)
According to the Chinese calendar, this is the year of Dragon.
Dragon is an artificial creature that is believed to climb to the heaven. This is auspicious as I believe this is the year Kenya will enter the era of true democracy and economic prosperity under the devolved government structure.
The high expectations we hold for our country are shared across the world. Three weeks ago, I joined Heads of State and Government and CEOs of global corporations at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Pessimism reigned in Davos because Europe was gripped in the debt and the global economy was clearly slowing.
But Africa was an exception.
In a panel I shared with President Jacob Zuma, President Jakaya Kikwete, Prime Minister Meles Zanawi and President Conte of Guinea, optimism about Africa was evident both among African leaders and global business magnates.
Over the last week, I travelled across the country and had a number of occasions to listen to fellow Kenyans.
They are all excited about the democratic transformation that our country is making, and the upcoming elections. Kenyans are waiting to reap benefits of Devolution.
It is therefore incumbent on us, the Executive and the Legislature, to deliver.
We have made great strides in implementing the Constitution. All the required legislations have been passed according to the schedule.
The necessary constitutional and independent offices are in place.
We all agree that these offices have started to radically transform the way we govern ourselves. Much remains to be done, however.
In the next few weeks the House will debate several crucial Bills. I call on the Honourable members to rise to the challenges and enact all the necessary legislations.
In this regard, I want to thank the House for voting unanimously (on Tuesday) to shorten the publication period for the Bills so that debate can begin.
Among the legislation that must be passed in the next two weeks, the Bills on Land, Devolution and Public Finance are of particular significance.
Land management remains a thorny issue in the conscience of our nation. If the recent evictions in Nairobi and its environs disturb our conscience, we will agree that the enactment of the Land bills will be a major step forward.
However, legislation alone will not solve all the land problems and other related conflicts. Alternative conflict resolution mechanisms are also necessary.
One of such mechanisms is dialogue and moral suasion, to which all of you as leaders have key roles to play.
I call on all of us not to exploit conflicts for political gains. Let us use our good offices to unite Kenyans.
Kenyans are eagerly waiting for the establishment of county governments.
The exceptionally high expectations for Devolution put the onus on us to enact legislation that will ensure effective system of devolved government.
To provide for immediate arrangements for the establishment of county governments, the government will establish the Transition Authority as soon as the relevant Bill is passed.
At the same time, ministries will proceed in earnest with the ongoing programs to build capacity.
Our aim is to give county governments necessary technical skills and infrastructure so they can deliver the much needed public services as soon as they are set up.
We will submit to this House the Public Financial Management Bill later this week.
The road to this Bill has been rocky not because of any partisan interest or bureaucratic infighting. There was a desire on one hand to ensure that much needed fiscal discipline will be observed throughout the counties, with the oversight of the national Treasury.
There was also a genuine interest on the other hand to empower Counties so they can ably discharge their responsibilities to the people.
I believe the Bill strikes right balances among competing interests. It deserves our support.
I appeal to this house not to be driven by the fear of the unknown when it comes to Land, Public Finance and Devolution Bills.
Let us think of the known damages that over centralization has inflicted on our people.
Let us listen to the cries of the people of the Coast who are saying, “Pwani Si Kenya” because they feel deliberately marginalised and left behind.
Let us think of that family in Gombato village in Msambweni whose sole bread winner committed suicide a few weeks ago because he was facing eviction from the only land generations his family has known.
Let us think of the people of North Eastern who barely have an inch of tarmac, fifty years after independence.
Implementation of the Constitution will succeed only if all Kenyans fully understand and appreciate the Constitution.
The government, working with other stakeholders, and has developed a civic education programme on the implementation of the Constitution.
The programme will give priority to Devolution; the Bill of Rights; Citizenship and National Values; and Leadership and Integrity.
The civic education programme has started with senior civil servants being taken through the process. I urge Honorable members to support it.
There is the economy. As you know, our economy falls back into negligible growth every single election year. We must not repeat the same mistake this year.
Many investors are adopting a wait-and-see attitude. Let all of us speak loudly and demonstrate by action that there is nothing to be feared and that the elections will be completely peaceful.
We took a bitter pill of high interest rates to stabilize the shilling. Inflation will be brought down to less than 10 per cent in coming months.
Some in the public appears to fear that government spending may rise in the election year as often observed in the past.
There will be no election spending by government as witnessed in the past. With our collective efforts, I am confident that our economy will grow by more than 5 per cent this year.
Finally, the election date. As you know, the court recently ruled that, among other conditions, the General Election can only be held in 2012 if the President and the Prime Minister agree, in writing, to dissolve the Grand Coalition Government. This would be 60 days after the Principals agree to terminate the National Accord that holds the coalition parties, PNU and ODM, together.
We feel election is too important to be left to the discretion of the Principals but should involve the National Assembly.
As such, we will be bringing a Bill to this House so that members can debate and participate in fixing the date of elections once and for all.
(Raila Odinga is the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya)