, Mr Speaker,
It is my pleasure to welcome Honourable Members to the Fourth Session of the Tenth Parliament after a two month recess.
I am sure this well deserved recess gave you time to replenish your energy, consult with your constituents, and support development activities in your constituencies.
This House is reconvening at a particularly important time in which we are steadily overcoming the challenges we have faced in the recent past. It is also a time when we are implementing bold reform measures that will define the future of our country and people. This is, therefore, a critical time that demands our selfless and dedicated service to our people. Furthermore it is a time when the future of our country so much depends on our ability to forge a common vision for national unity, development and cohesion.
God bequeathed us a beautiful country with a determined and patriotic people. We should therefore always cherish and protect our nation, as enumerated in our national anthem “Firm may we stand to defend”.
As members will recall, our country has sought to obtain a new constitution for the last two decades without success. But now we seem very close to this goal.
During the just ended recess, the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution did this House and the Nation proud, following their consensus after two weeks of deliberations in Naivasha. On behalf of all Kenyans and this House, I take this opportunity to commend the Select Committee for a job well done.
I also welcome the progress made by the Committee of Experts on the Constitution. We are looking forward to the presentation of a consensus draft constitution to this august house by the Parliamentary Select Committee in the next few days.
This Tenth Parliament has a historic opportunity to rise to the occasion by passing a new Constitution for the Republic of Kenya. We must be successful in this endeavour at this defining moment in our nation’s history.
I, therefore, urge Honourable Members to uphold the spirit shown by the P.S.C. in Naivasha. It is upon this House to maintain a national consensus on the new Constitution, and thus ensure that the people of Kenya will stand united during the referendum to be held later this year.
The national concern over corruption has been on top of national debate for many years now. We have put in place institutions and enacted laws aimed at eradicating corruption in our country. Corruption undermines government policies and distorts allocation of public resources. It gives our country a poor image and discourages investments. We, as the grand coalition government have resolved to deal with the matter decisively. I am calling on the august house to work with the government in this endeavour. In order to win this war we must apply the law in a manner that is impartial and just. We must also not politicize or personalize the fight against corruption.
Mr Speaker and Honourable Members,
In the last few months we have intensified the war against corruption. This momentum will be accelerated to cover all vulnerable sectors of government. In this regard all anti-corruption agencies should fast-track and conclude pending corruption cases. All inter corruption agencies have also been directed to enhance preventive measures. Secondly we will enhance the investigative and prosecution capacity of the respective agencies. Thirdly, the judiciary should also speed up the court process because speedy conclusion of corruption related cases is a key pillar in this fight. The government will provide adequate resources to improve the capacity of these institutions to speed up the processes.
The public service has been directed to apply the law and regulations firmly and impartially. The government is also consulting with the judiciary into ways of placing a time frame on the period within which a corruption related case should be concluded.
I now turn to the matter of national cohesion. Honourable Members will be aware that nearly two years after signing the National Accord, we have made substantial progress in managing our diversity as a country. We now have a National Cohesion and Integration Commission, and a new law that prescribes tough penalties for those promoting hate speech and ethnic tendencies.
I call on Honourable Members to make national cohesion a main agenda for this Fourth Session, and the remaining two sessions of the Tenth Parliament. I encourage all Members of this august House to lead by example. All Kenyans are looking upon us to champion a uniting agenda.
They are looking upon us to leading them as a united and patriotic people of this country. Kenyans should trust the leadership of the country and abandon the temptation to look externally for solutions that can easily be found locally.
Kenya belongs to all of us. We should be a caring and working nation. In that regard we should spend more of our time discussing ideas and programs that create jobs and opportunities for our youth. These Ideas should uplift the standards of living of our people.
We need to squarely confront poverty, which is so prevalent among our people. The best thing we can do is to invest in the education of our children and unleash the potential and productive capacities of our people.
Let us have mixed delegations of Members of this House reaching out to the people with one message of unity of all Kenyans. Although we come from diverse origins, we are one people. We are one family! Let us strive to ensure every Kenyan is treated with respect and has the opportunity to live a dignified life, wherever they choose to settle. Never, shall we fight one another again.
Turning to the economy, Honourable members will appreciate that economic growth and shared prosperity will go a long way in creating the much needed opportunities for our people.
It will be recalled that in 2007 we recorded a G.D.P. growth rate of 7.1 per cent. This was the highest growth rate in three decades. In 2008, due to unfortunate events in our country as well as on the global arena, the economy grew by only 1.7 per cent.
Last year, the recovery in tourism, and in some other key sectors, mitigated effects of the severe drought that caused food, water and energy shortages. As a result, the economy grew at 2.5 per cent. This year we are optimistic that the forecasted 4.5 per cent growth rate will be achieved.
However, to experience real growth and success in the war against poverty, we must get our act together on two fronts. First our politics must promote political stability and public confidence in the future of our country. Secondly we must take policy initiatives that will reduce and maintain low interest rates. This will enable Kenyans access affordable credit for investments in wealth creation and expansion of employment opportunities.
In this regard I wish to thank the Kenyan people for heeding my call to engage in increased production. In particular I note that dairy farmers have tremendously increased milk production. I commend them for their hard work. I assure them of continued government support that began with the revival of K.C.C. The challenges we are facing now of excess milk calls for diversification of our dairy products and markets. The government is encouraging the industry to take up this challenge.
At the same time we have instructed the Ministry of Special Programs and livestock and Co-operatives to incorporate powder milk into the national food security reserves.
Before I outline this Session’s legislative and policy agenda, I wish to express my appreciation to the House for the bills passed in the Third Session of the Tenth Parliament. The laws addressed several policy concerns. For instance, the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act will go a long way in reducing the emergence of organized crime in our country.
Some of the laws passed in the last session include:
1. National Youth Council Act;
2. Arbitration (Amendment) Act;
3. Office of Minister Act;
4. Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act;
5. Supplementary appropriations Act;
6. Appropriations Act; and
7. Finance Act.
I thank Honourable Members for their contributions during the last session.
During this session the government will be tabling a wide range of bills including those which will arise out of the new constitution. In the sector of law enforcement and administration of justice the government will be tabling a number of bills.
With regard to police reforms, this house and the Kenyan people have been urging for reforms of the police. The government is responding to these concerns by presenting two bills namely:
1. Independent Policing Oversight Commission Bill;
2. Police Reforms Bill.
The proposed laws are expected to improve police accountability and enhance the public image of the police as servants of the people.
Public concerns have also been constantly raised on the need to improve efficiency and integrity of our judicial system. The Government will therefore re-introduce the Judicial Service Bill which will entrench the independence of the judiciary, and make it more effective in the administration of justice. This will also enable the judiciary to recruit judges and magistrates more efficiently. It will also lead to the required numbers to cope with the national case load. There should be no reason why at this point of our development, Kenya should not have enough judges and magistrates. Indeed, an efficient and effective judiciary will be the cornerstone of a revived economy as well as creating confidence in the justice system.
One of the key elements in fighting crime is the effective protection of whistle blowers and witnesses. To this end, the Government will soon table amendments to the Witness Protection Act. The aim is to establish an autonomous Witness Protection Agency that is capable of effectively protecting any witnesses to corruption, organized crimes and international crimes from reprisals. It will also cover witnesses who have crucial information in regard to the post-election violence that rocked our country.
In regard to reforms in our electoral system, we are all agreed on the urgent need to put in place a credible and efficient system. This is the best way of ensuring that the public have confidence in the final outcome of our elections. The Government will table before this House the Election Bill which will consolidate all election laws in Kenya. This will prevent malpractices in general elections as well as provide the procedures for conducting referendums.
Similarly, the Government proposes to table the Local Government Bill, with the principal objective of repealing the current Local Government Act. The bill will provide for a legal framework that will enhance accountable and effective management at the local government level. It will provide for the direct election of mayors and deputy mayors of city and municipal councils. Direct elections will also be held for chairpersons and deputy chairpersons of country councils. The bill also provides for the re-organisation of local authorities and establishment of metropolitan councils.
VISION TWENTY THIRTY seeks to transform Kenya into a competitive and prosperous middle income economy. In order to achieve this goal, we must change the way we carry out business in our country. We must provide an enabling legal environment to make Kenya more competitive for business and investment. The Government will, therefore, table several business-friendly bills in this Session.
The current outdated Companies Act will be replaced by the proposed Companies Bill. The bill will seek to amend, and simplify the law relating to companies. The bill will be accompanied by the Partnership bill and the limited liability partnerships bill.
The Government will also table the Insolvency Bill to replace the Bankruptcy Act, and streamline procedures in bankruptcy and insolvency law. The bill will also provide for the rehabilitation of the insolvent debtor, unlike the present situation where insolvency almost always results in liquidation.
Other business-related bills that will be tabled during this session include:
1. Kenya Deposit Insurance Bill;
2. The Nairobi Stock Exchange Bill, to review ownership of the exchange;
3. Tourism Bill;
4. National Housing Bill; and
5. Special Economic Zones Bill.
Mr Speaker, Honourable members
The year TWENTY TEN will be a momentous year for our region. Last year, Kenya together with its partner states in the East African Community signed the Common Market Protocol that is set to take effect in July this year. As a result, there will be no duty charged on goods originating from within the community. Later this year, other elements of this Protocol such as the free movement of persons will also take effect. These developments are of enormous economic importance for our country.
Given the sustained high economic growth rates enjoyed by the regional economies, we must place ourselves strategically to supply the region with much needed goods and services. In this regard, the Government has proposed several policies and projects, some of which will be tabled before this House. We shall be tabling the Special Economic Zones Bill and Sessional Paper, both of which will seek to transform Kenya into regional hub. I appeal to members of parliament to educate Kenyans on the opportunities that are being offered by the East African Community.
We shall also be presenting to this house financing approvals for new infrastructure projects and other national investment projects including.
1. Standard gauge railway to Uganda border;
2. Free port at Dongo Kundu;
3. The new transport corridor in Northern Kenya which incorporates the Lamu Port – Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport and Development Corridor.
All the business and economy related bills, policies and projects that I have mentioned are important. They are critical to reducing poverty, achieving equitable development throughout the country and creating numerous jobs and decent incomes for our youth. I, therefore, urge the House to give them priority in their discussions and passage during this session.
As we commence the Fourth Session of the Tenth Parliament, I appeal to Honourable members to shun divisive partisan politics and focus on the greater good of our country. Whatever differences may arise between us should be amicably resolved in the national interest.
In conclusion, may I note that in my nearly half a century as a legislator, there has not been a Session of Parliament with the potential to bring as much positive change to Kenya as this one. Honourable Members, I have confidence that this House is up to the task and that it will fulfill its national duty and secure a memorable place in history.
It is, therefore, my pleasure to declare the Fourth Session of the Tenth Parliament officially opened.
Thank you and God bless you all.