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Uhuru's State of the Nation address: Key highlights


Friday March 17, 2017
By AGGREY MUTAMBO



President Uhuru Kenyatta stuck to his pet subjects in his annual State of the Nation address, even as he spoke to Parliament for the last time under his first term.

The address given under Article 132 of the Constitution allows the President to tell the nation how his government is working, the achievements and challenges.

In his 2017 speech, the President highlighted infrastructure, health, education, security and corruption; the issues he has always talked about during his annual address.

In 2013, the notable challenges facing his government included incessant terror attacks, rise in crime, IC trials. But then he promised to give free laptops to school children, creating more jobs, taming runaway corruption and building the standard-gauge railways and improving government service delivery. 

Here are the key points of the president’s address.

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Security and Somalia

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s address to Parliament has consistently involved his tribute to the Kenya Defence Forces pursuing al-Shabaab under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom). Yesterday, he asked MPs to stand for a moment of silence.

But, like before, he rejected arguments that KDF be recalled following deadly blunders last year against the Shabaabs.

“We continue our mission in Somalia. We know that if we fight the enemy in Somalia, we won’t have to fight them here at home,” he argued.

“I urge you all to stand firm in the support of our men and women as we continue our critical mission in Somalia.

In his first address in 2014, he argued it was Kenya’s obligation to help neighbours secure and stable. In 2015, he said Kenya will remain part of global efforts to seek for peace and security in the region. Last year, he told Parliament the challenge of insecurity remains, said his government was investing in better security equipment and paid tribute to the soldiers and the police back home for defending the country

“Our solders in Somalia, their police and intelligence counterparts at home are all keeping their part of the bargain by defending the nation.

“They are protecting the republic; but more fundamentally, they are securing the broader Nationalist Covenant,” he argued even though that session was interrupted routinely by whistling MPs.

Corruption

When he spoke to the nation in March 2014, the President admitted corruption and financial wastage is rife in government. Yesterday, he admitted the purge has been slow.

“Many Kenyans are frustrated at the seeming lack of progress in the fight against corruption.

“Coming into government in 2013, we knew that eliminating corruption would be a journey on a rocky path,” he said.

In between these years, the President tabled a list of shame in 2015 from the EACC, consisting of senior government officials among them cabinet secretaries and permanent secretaries suspected of having a hand in corrupt dealings. It saw five cabinet secretaries step aside before finally leaving office.

When most of the suspects had their cases terminated or acquitted, the public felt further frustrations.

“However, the time has come to send a strong signal to the country that my administration will accept nothing less than the highest standard of integrity from those that hold high office.

Yet President Uhuru would tell Kenyans it was not in his powers to determine guilty of suspects. At another session on anti-corruption efforts last year, he lambasted judicial officers for doing little despite massive resource allocation. All the officers in turn blamed each other.

On Wednesday, he argued the country has 90 Special Prosecutors for economic crimes, and that there is a special anti-corruption and economic crimes Division of the High Court.

“One of the proudest achievements on my administration is in delivering honest exams in 2016. This was a first in many years, and it was a blow against corruption. “

Economy

When he came to power, he had promised a double-digit economy. In the four years though, the economy has averaged just five per cent annually.

In his address this time, the President was defending his record, saying despite 5.9 per cent growth, the global rise has been 3 per cent. He argued the economy has created 2.3 million new jobs since 2013, and despite national debt rising to Sh3.6 trillion, the President argued Kenya has borrowed only what it can repay.

“Every year since the start of my administration, we have made adequate budgetary provisions to service the debt,” he said.

“I want to assure Kenyans that at no point has the country been at risk of default or shown any inability to pay its creditors.”

As before, the President spoke of government efforts to increase power generation, invest in mining and petroleum sectors and connect more villages to electricity and tarmac more roads. These, he argued will continue to create jobs.

Health

The President pledged to have all expectant mothers deliver for free in public hospitals as means to reduce number of newborn babies dying after birth. In 2016, he told Parliament the number of women delivering in hospitals had doubled to 1.2 million.

But the programme still ran into challenges, the government could not pay the subsidy on time and county governments routinely accused the Treasury of delaying disbursements to but useful drugs and other facilities.

On Wednesday, he argued 92 hospitals across the country are now equipped with what he called modern equipment.

“In 2013, we guaranteed the provision of free primary healthcare for expectant mothers. Today, we have doubled the numbers of expectant mothers delivering under the care of skilled medical attendants to over 1.2 million by the end of 2016.”

There still remains that sticky issue of leasing as opposed to buying new equipment.



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