NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 15 – It was the final State of the Nation address of his first term in office and no, there were none of the outbursts that have characterised his public addresses of late.
Instead, President Kenyatta took the opportunity to outline what it is his administration has championed and achieved in his four years in office and explain what it is he plans to address before the August 8 General Election.
Adopting a somber tone, President Kenyatta called on Kenyans not to let the upcoming elections divide them and instead honour the vision of the nation’s founding fathers.
“We must continue marching forward to build a prosperous Kenya, a Kenya that resonates with the dreams of our founding fathers. A Kenya that is stable and secure and a Kenya whose people are united in their ambition and determination.”
That’s not to say the ‘straight talking’ President Kenyans have been treated to in the past few days didn’t elicit laughter on more than one occasion in his delivery.
First, when he first stopped to take a sip of water and declared, “umenikumbuka.”
He then caused furious stomping of feet, in approval, of his invitation to the legislators to join him on the inaugural Standard Gauge Railway train ride from Mombasa to Nairobi.
That was before he broke into song, hailing the strides his administration has made in growing Kenya’s road network.
“In Taveta, banana farmers in Kimundia and Mboghoni can now get their produce to markets in Mombasa in under 4 hours as the Mwatate-Taveta Road nears completion. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a road that had been promised by 4 different Governments in the last 55 years but has only been delivered by one. The Jubilee Government.
In Kilifi, the construction of the 51 kilometre Mariakani-Bamba road means that the famous song Safari Ya Bamba ni Machero needs to be recomposed to Safari Ya Bamba ni Rero.”
The President also earned himself stomps of approval when he announced measures to one, improve co-ordination of functions between the two levels of government. “I have directed the Attorney General, in consultation with the Council of Governors, to review the scope and mandate of the Inter-Governmental Technical Relations Committee.”
Two, he announced that his government was developing a framework on how funds and assets lost through corruption and recovered would be put to use. “Going forward we are creating a framework of how recovered funds will be used in a transparent and accountable manner.”
And third, he emphasised the urgent need for the burgeoning wage bill to be brought under control and have fairness rule the day.
He therefore championed the adoption of the SRC’s recommendation that those elected in August, “from MCA to the President,” take a pay cut.
“Earlier today, I received from the Salaries and Remuneration Commission an interim report outlining the Review of Remuneration and Benefits for State Officers for the period 2017-2022. This report recommends, amongst other measures, a rationalisation of the salaries and allowances paid to senior state officers, public servants, elected officials.”
He did however defend the debt the country has entered into since he took up office saying that the acceleration of the nation’s development necessitated it.
“Others are worried that the government debt might too heavy a burden for our economy to carry… the borrowing my administration has undertaking both from domestic and international creditors has been solely to finance the most aggressive development agenda witnessed in Kenya’s history.
“Like a farmer who must sow their seeds before they can expect a harvest, our investment in infrastructure will be the seed that will produce the harvest of faster economic growth and more jobs for our people.”
He also addressed the, “unintended,” consequence of placing a cap on loan interest rates, “a slow-down in lending by our commercial banks,” to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) saying his administration would, “actively seek to resolve (it) so that credit can start to flow again to the real drivers of our economy.”
He used the word, “promise,” 29 times in his address. “We promise(d),” and, “we have kept our promise,” he said over and over again before making a final appeal for re-election.