Full Statement: President Kenyatta’s State of the Nation Address

May 3, 2018

Hon. Speakers,

Hon. Members of Parliament,

Today, it is a profound honour for me to deliver the first State of the Nation Address of my second term in office.

However, Mr. Speaker, before I proceed any further, let me pay tribute to the late Kenneth Matiba, whose patriotism inspired greatly the constitution under whose authority we meet today.

Let us all resolve to emulate the example he set, his desire for a strong, prosperous and inclusive Kenya.  I ask all of you to rise to honour his memory with a minute of silence. [Moment of silence]

Mr Speaker,

It is right and fitting to look back on the achievements of the Eleventh Parliament before setting out our plans for this Parliament.

The 11th Parliament was charged with the task of implementing our new constitution; making enabling laws to create institutions, which the new constitutional order called for.

Mr Speaker,

There is no doubt walking this part of the journey has not been easy.  But what is encouraging is that we have made significant progress in implementing the new constitution: the laws were passed, the counties were established; and as such the new constitutional order is in place.

I thank your predecessors for discharging their duty so well.

Now, Mr. Speaker, let me congratulate your members, both the newly elected and the returning ones, for winning the trust of the Kenyan people.  Hon. Members, you and I owe our presence here today to Kenyans who chose us to represent them.

The trust they have bestowed on us is sacred.  But we must always remember that, as leaders, we do not serve only those who voted for us; we serve all Kenyans as required by our constitution.

Mr Speaker,

Hon Members,

The Constitution that brings us here for this address is a guide, an instruction and a tool to help us craft a Kenya freer, fairer, wealthier and more united.  Let us consider whether we have preserved, protected, and honoured it.  Indeed, we have.

Our constitutional order is stable, secure, and growing in strength.  Devolution is no longer a baby; it is now an established framework for governing and delivering public services.

Five years of establishing the county governments have taught Kenyans what they want of devolution, and how to get it. Overall, the Government is becoming more responsive to the needs of Kenyans, as we all hoped it would when we passed the new law.

Mr Speaker,

There is no doubt there have been some challenges in the use of public resources, with some individuals fraudulently and corruptly diverting public resources to benefit themselves.

But, we are building preventive tools and ways for citizens to become more involved in reporting graft.

My Administration, I must emphasize, despite these challenges, has remained committed to the implementation of Devolution.  We are far above the 15% threshold for resource allocations to the counties provided for by the Constitution.  From an allocation of Ksh. 210 billion in the 2013/14 financial year, we now stand at Ksh. 327 billion for the financial year 2017/18: an increase of 56% in five years.

I also recently signed the Division of Revenue Bill, 2018, which sets aside Ksh. 372 billion for counties in the coming financial year 2018/19. The national government complemented county service delivery in the reporting year by injecting Ksh. 9.6 billion for the Managed Equipment Services, Ksh. 5.2 billion for free maternity, and Ksh. 900 million for user fees.

Moreover, two billion shillings was disbursed to 11 counties from the Equalisation Fund to improve services.

In addition, and in the spirit of upholding Devolution, my Administration further decentralized service delivery by initiating the “Huduma Mashinani Programme”.  This programme brought vital services – from registration services such as identity cards to the NSSF and NHIF Services – closer to the people.

Kenyans believe in devolution, and my Administration has matched that belief with strong and tangible support for it.

Mr Speaker,

Hon Members,

I now turn to the urgent matter of how we live our constitutional values as a people, before I report on their expression in governance.  Kenya is a country of God-fearing and generous people. In our moments of need, we are kept going by the compassion and empathy of our countrymen.  In our dealings, most of us are honest to a fault, and intolerant of the fraudulent.   In our private lives, we live together, whatever corner of the country we call home, whatever language we speak, and whatever faith we subscribe to.  In other words, the Kenyan people are ahead of you, their leaders.

That must change.  Leaders at every level of government must demonstrate a desire and commitment to serve; and in particular we must maintain highest degree of integrity.  Those days when you could enjoy public goods without fear that action may not be taken against you, are gone.   To demonstrate this point, last year, ill-gotten public assets valued at about Ksh. 500 million were recovered; and civil proceedings were instituted for the preservation and recovery of other assets valued at more than Ksh. 6 billion.

To deepen good governance, we have continued to digitize key services to seal loopholes used for fraud.  And I expect the new officials now in office in prosecution and investigations to bring cases against the most powerful and privileged, to show Kenyans that none of us are above the law.

I urge the Judiciary to do its part to ensure that orders are not frivolously used by the wealthy and corrupt individuals to avoid justice; I urge you, Hon. Members, to give us the legal tools we need to win the war against the lords of graft.

Having made all these efforts, I want to repeat what every Kenyan in their heart of hearts knows: we must all come together to fight this vice, if we are to conquer it.  The Government and the private sector also, must report fraud and protect whistleblowers without the slightest hesitation.

Kenyans, on their part, must report any crimes they may come across.  Families must feel ashamed by one of their member becoming involved in corruption; they must insist on the upholding of their name as a family.

Teachers and parents must explicitly teach children the value of honesty and the concept of honour.  It is only by coming together as a people that the values in our constitution will take life in the governance of Kenya.  And that is how we will manage to position Kenya to join the league of prosperous nations.

Hon Members,

These constitutional advances must, of course, be paid for, so it is natural to turn our attention to the economy.

Where goals are concerned, Hon. Members, we are all in broad agreement: Kenyans want to see lower cost of living; they want jobs for their sons and daughters; and affordable food on their table.  Kenyans want to see broad prosperity.

These goals are reasonable; some of them are constitutional requirements in their own right.  Let us consider whether we have lived up to them.

None of us in this August House today will have forgotten that last year was election year, or that the region was affected by severe drought.

Hon. Members,

It is encouraging to note that, despite these challenges, our economy remained resilient. Our real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 4.9 percent in 2017, much higher than 3.6 percent for World Real GDP and 2.6 percent for sub-Saharan Africa real GDP.

Even more encouraging was the performance of our tourism sector; tourism earnings grew twenty per cent — proof that even when our politics is at its hottest, Kenya keeps its visitors’ confidence.

Hon Members,

We remain on course to meet the tests that Kenyans set for us, but we must admit that we still have a long way to go.  Deeper reflection is, therefore, called for.

If we are to create the jobs for which Kenyans long, we need investment.  When I took office in 2013, my Administration promised and delivered the most aggressive surge of infrastructure development in Kenya’s history.

We knew that without radical renewal and improvement of our infrastructure and connectivity, we could not hope to attract the investment we needed to create jobs and prosperity, and to beat poverty.

Many of you will recall the success of that first phase of development: we started to build the SGR after the 11th Parliament was sworn in, and by the time members returned home to ask voters to renew their mandate, we had brought the SGR to Nairobi.

As I speak to you today, less than a year since that first train left Mombasa for Nairobi, nearly 700,000 passengers have taken the Madaraka Express.  On the cargo side, I am pleased to state that as promised, the SGR cargo services were up and running on the 1st of January, 2018 with an initial monthly load of 22,345 metric tonnes rising to an impressive 213,559 metric tonnes per month as of the end of April, 2018.

But that is not all.  I have already launched the second phase of the SGR project, which runs from Nairobi to Naivasha; and negotiations are in progress for the financing of the Naivasha- Malaba line.  In short, Hon. Members, I can report that last year we completed the most ambitious infrastructure development in Kenya’s history.

Hon Members,

It was not, of course, the only ambitious work in infrastructure that we undertook. Hon. Members will remember that we opened Terminal 2A at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport some time ago; we would almost certainly have earned less revenue from tourism this year had we not made that investment.

You might also recall the expansion of Last-Mile Connectivity, which has brought electricity to 71% of households, up from 27% in 2013.

I am particularly proud of this success, for I know its transformative power: I have seen for myself that on the day a family first switches on a bulb, their entire lives change.

Hon Members,

When I assumed office as President, we promised to tarmac 10,000 kms roads across the country; we are on target having completed 3,000 kms to-date and with a further 5,000 kms under construction.  Among the many roads we have constructed, I want to mention one, that is, the Isiolo – Moyale Road, part of the Trans Africa Highway Corridor, running to our border with Ethiopia.  This road is transforming the economy of this region, for the better of our people.

Our people from that part of the country can now easily travel to their national capital, Nairobi, in a matter of hours, contrary to the past when they used to take days.  They now feel they have reason to be proud to be Kenyans.

These investments in infrastructure laid the firmest of foundations for the broad and shared prosperity that Kenyans expect.  This term, Hon. Members, we must deliver it.

I have already spoken about the “Big Four” Agenda in other forums but it deserves me talking about it to you, Hon. Members, not least because I will rely on you to pass the legislation upon which it depends; but, more importantly, to convince you to join me as agents of the desired change.  I wish today to speak on the reasoning that informs this agenda.

If you Hon. Members leave the House today with a clearer idea of your role as leaders in this development programme, then I will be the happiest man.

Hon Members,

I conceptualised about the “Big Four” from discussions I held with Kenyans about their problems and prospects, particularly as we went about seeking their support.

The priorities they would want us to focus on are clear. Kenyans want their families kept safe from catastrophic bills for medical care; they want skilled jobs, especially in manufacturing; they want to be food secure, and they want dignified, affordable homes. The “Big Four” Agenda serves each of these.

By providing affordable universal healthcare, we will, quite simply, save lives. Already, extensive work has been done to bring access to quality and affordable health services.

We have increased health facilities from 9,000 in 2013 to 11,000 in 2017.  The NHIF coverage widened from a membership of 3.8 million in 2013 to 7.2 million currently.  We expanded NHIF coverage for expectant mothers and raised deliveries by skilled attendants from 44% in 2013 to 66% in 2017.

Access to anti-retroviral drugs to expectant mothers has significantly increased: today, 94% of HIV-positive expectant mothers attending antenatal clinics access the ARVs; mother-to-child HIV transmission has consequently fallen sharply.

As a result of our various health intervention programmes, including the mosquito net programme, incidences of malaria have dropped from 11% to 8%; infant mortality has fallen from 52 per 1,000 to 39 per 1,000 live births; under five years mortality came down from 74 per 1,000 to 52 per 1,000.  Maternal mortality dropped from 488 per 100,000 to 362 per 100,000.

Despite the improvements we have recorded, there is no doubt we still have a way to go.  We need to, in particular, take steps to improve immunization which has dropped from 90% to 70%.

Hon. Members, I am happy to inform you the county governments are keen and willing to work with the national government towards putting together a programme to up our immunisation to where we were, if not better.

We also addressed the medical needs of our older persons and persons with severe disability by extending NHIF coverage to 42,000 of them.

And while we are working to deliver food security, we are taking steps to help Kenyans impacted by a long drought that had hit the country.  The Hunger Safety Net Programme is cushioning Kenyans against hunger.  Through it, cash was transferred to vulnerable households in arid and semi-arid areas giving them the choice where and how to spend the stipend.

This method aids farmers and markets, while restoring the dignity of Kenyans who might once have been asked to line up in the hot sun to be given a few “goro goros” of pre-determined foods.

Hon Members,

With respect to housing, it is worth noting that demand for decent homes far outstrips supply, particularly in the low-cost and affordable segment.  A decent roof over one’s head is the most tangible symbol of a decent life, and it should be a critical part of a family’s wealth.

This new housing programme has been designed to incorporate the private sector so as to properly respond to the demand.  We expect hundreds of thousands of affordable new homes to follow, across the country, accompanied by a surge in jobs and incomes.

Mr Speaker,

My dream is one day, in the not-too-distant future, owning a decent home will be within reach of every Kenyan of median and modest incomes.

Families will retire in the evenings to clean, well organized and hygienic houses, and Kenya will go to sleep knowing that all its citizens have a sound roof over their heads.  This dream is going to become a reality if we all join hands to eliminate the barriers to its realization, through legislation and new policies to incentivize the private sector.

Hon Members, 

Turning to security, I can say without fear, we are a safer and stronger nation than we were when I last spoke to this House.

Our alliances are strong, and growing stronger.  Kenya has become indispensable to the international community’s pursuit of stability and security, environmental protection, and of a global community able to respond to large-scale crises when they come.

My Administration continues to treat its responsibility to protect Kenyans and their property from crime, terrorism, and other forms of insecurity as its core obligation. In the year under review, the country beat back challenges to security.

The general election was more secure than most in the past.  Regrettably, we had to respond, firmly, to deliberate disruptions of the process, to the destruction of property, and to isolated attempts to block voting.  In every case, the disciplined services did their duty.  I commend all our disciplined services for their dedication.

Going forward, I commit to strengthening their capacity to keep the peace, because without peace our desire for a better Kenya will remain a mere wish.

I have further empowered the National Administration Service, from the Regional Commissioner to the chief, to supervise security operations, to coordinate the work of national government in the counties, and to improve our engagement with the county governments as we serve Kenyans right across the country.

Hon Members,

The concerted and coordinated response by our disciplined service means that terrorists have less room to target our people.

There are fewer and less lethal attacks in Kenya today, even as terrorist groups elsewhere damage democracies.  I commend the diligent men and women from multiple agencies who detect and prevent attacks: they have kept Kenya safe, and sometimes paid the highest price for our safety.  May God comfort the families of the men and women we have lost, not just in the fight against terrorism, but in every effort to defend Kenya’s sovereignty and security.

We, however, cannot rest; the threat is ever present and all Kenyans must constantly be on the alert.

At this moment, I also recall with great sadness, the tragic loss of Principal Secretary, Mariamu el Maawy, to the consequences of a terrorist attack.  I pray that her family, friends, and colleagues may be comforted; and I pray, too, that this nation never forgets the selfless public service she gave it.

For all that, I repeat here what I have said elsewhere: ultimately, security will be found and sustained largely by transforming our politics, and in revitalizing the spirit of patriotism and of responsible citizenship.

For even though our democracy has become more competitive, and Kenyans have grown freer in the multiparty era, that liberty has come with a price.  All of us have endured an almost permanent state of political campaigning, which has divided Kenyans, sometimes tragically, as in 2008.

That disunity is a direct threat not just to our freedom, and not just to our prosperity, but also to our nation.

Beyond terrorism, we remain vulnerable to other security threats; many of them, from terrorism to trafficking, across borders.  So we cannot be self-absorbed: we must be our neighbour’s keeper no less than our brother’s.  The same principles that guide us at home govern relations with our neighbours.

We defend democracy abroad as we do at home; we want for others the peace that we enjoy here; we are grateful for the solidarity extended us by our brothers and sisters on the continent, so we offer it to others in return.  Last year’s events showed the soundness of these principles.

The region is not at peace.  Somalia remains troubled, largely by foreign agents who weaken its government, who divide its peoples, and who threaten to reverse the gains we have so painfully won under AMISOM.

Through it all, we remember that if our brothers and sisters in Somalia prosper, we prosper; if they are safe, so are we. It has been our policy, then, to help them regain the peace and prosperity they once knew.

We worked, and continue to work, to secure foreign funding and support commensurate to Somalia’s challenges; we helped, and will continue to help, the people of Somalia build a strong and stable government.

Indeed, that is why, only a few days after I spoke to this House last year, it was my pleasure to welcome President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed to State House in March, 2017, when we laid plans for a renewal of relations between our two nations.  An early outcome of our agreements that day was the resumption of flights between Nairobi and Mogadishu; members may be sure that more will follow.

I cannot resist mentioning a visit to Somalia in the first quarter of last year, during which I spoke to our soldiers deployed in Somalia.  Their courage and their devotion to their mission were extraordinarily inspiring.  I ask you, Hon. Members, to keep them in your prayers and in your deliberations; and to devote yourself as wholeheartedly as they have to our region’s peace and the security.

Mr. Speaker,

If Somalia remains unsettled, let us admit that South Sudan nation remains in crisis.

Thousands have died while hundreds of thousands more have been displaced. In the year since I last spoke to the House, we have hosted hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese refugees; and we have joined friends and partners to help those still suffering inside the country.  Equally, we have lent our support to the multilateral peace process, and we continue to urge the leaders of South Sudan to put the interests of their people and motherland above their own.  As we have in the past year, Kenya stands with the people of South Sudan in their search for lasting peace.

Elsewhere in the region, there is better news to report.  In the East African Community, we grow closer by the day.  Last year, I opened our borders to our brothers and sisters from the region: they can now live and work in Kenya more easily than they ever have, and they can now partner with us in the task of building a free, united and prosperous African nation.

That openness to our brothers and sisters is proof of our commitment to the unity not just of the region, but also of the continent.

For years, all sorts of barriers, legal and customary, have delayed Africa’s progress and prosperity.  In the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, we have, at last, a real chance of opening up the continent’s trade, once and for all.  If we succeed, then trade, goods and services will flow across Africa, not outside it, bringing jobs, skills, and unity.  That we are so close to a final agreement shows the vision of our generation of African leaders, among whom we must count you, Hon. Members of this House, for ratifying the agreement without delay.

I can only hope that every African nation will show the same foresight that you, our Hon. Members, displayed. Asanteni.

It remains to remind members that in the last year, Kenya has earned her designation as a United Nations Service Centre.  I single out for your attention two consequences: first and simply, it means jobs and training for a number of our young people; second, it brings the UN closer to Kenya and to Africa.

And this development, Mr Speaker, is a good example of Kenya’s continued recognition in the family of nations.  The truth is that in 2017, we defended the values we cherish — African solidarity; peace and prosperity; the rule of law between nations — and we grew in the respect of our partners and friends abroad.

So, Mr Speaker, it is quite clear that Kenya today is freer, safer, more prosperous, and held in higher regard than it has ever been.

We give thanks for these achievements, but we also recall that the truest measure of a nation’s strength is the character and unity of its people. The framers of our constitution were wise to ask us to reflect, annually, on the character of our people, and on our adherence to the precepts of the constitution.

And the precept of precepts, the animating value of our constitution, is unity.  We take pride in our diversity, as we say in the very preamble of our constitution, and we are determined to live as one sovereign people, undivided.

These are words of great beauty.  Whether we have let them guide us throughout the last year is the big question.

Hon Members,

Cast your minds back to last year’s political competition.  Kenyans twice cast their votes in peace; in the end, the result reflected the will of the people, and respected the law of the land.

Our institutions held firm.

To the Judiciary, we ask only that your independence be joined to even greater effort on your part to ensure that your arm of government attains the highest standards of conduct and integrity, and that it never loses sight of the interdependence of all arms and levels of government.

Hon Members,

We also learned, again, a hard truth.  Neither peace nor unity are a given; we have to work for them.  I say so because last year taught us that if we don’t put an end to unrestrained political competition, it will put an end to Kenya.

You saw what happened.  In the heat of the campaign, words of anger, malice, and hatred were spoken.  Politics was no longer a debate between opponents on issues; it was a clash of irreconcilable enemies.

You saw the consequences: lives lost, property destroyed, our unity sapped.

I want to be clear here: never again should Kenyan life be lost for politics’ sake; never again should Kenyans’ property be destroyed on account of politics.  But that will not just happen on its own.

All of us, and in particular we leaders here, will have to admit that last year, we failed in our duty to preserve the unity of this country. And we must make amends.

First, I pray that all of us will spend the days and weeks after this address repairing the bonds that frayed last year.  Let us apologize for our words, and for the anger and malice that Kenyans heard.

From Mandera to Maseno, from Mbita to Mvita, from Lodwar to Lunga Lunga, let us shake hands and embrace our neighbours, and let us celebrate the diversity that is God’s gift to us.

Let every leader in the country reach out to our sons and daughters, and remind them that they have it in them to forge a Kenya that speaks gently, that criticizes constructively, and that embraces and respects dissent and competition as healthy and civilized ways of collaboration.

And since leadership is best done not by exhortation but by example, let me do as I have asked you to do.

If there was anything I said last year that hurt or wounded you, if I damaged the unity of this country in any way, I ask you to forgive me, and to join me in repairing that harm.

Mr. Speaker,

I am not the only leader who deeply felt the need to restore unity: the Right Hon. Raila Odinga, did so too.  So let me praise the statesmanship he showed when, on 9 March this year, he and I publicly committed to reconciliation, with the Kenyan people as our witnesses.

When he and I met earlier in the year, we agreed to work together to strengthen the unity of our country.  We hoped to emphasize then that collaboration, comprises both competition and disagreement.  We did not immediately solve all Kenya’s most pressing problems, nor did we see eye-to-eye on every proposed answer.  It is important to emphasize that unity doesn’t mean unanimity.

Rt. Hon. Raila and I stood together not because we agreed on every item of politics or policy, but because we agreed that Kenya belongs to all of us.

None of us is less – or for that matter, more – Kenyan than his brother or sister.  All of us are entitled to be heard; all of us are entitled to our fair share of Kenya’s resources; and all of us are entitled to a government that honours these commitments.

Kenyans reacted with a surge of optimism to our meeting, because they wanted a return to unity.  Our handshake invited Kenyans to rediscover what they had known all along: when all the politics is said and done, we are each other’s keeper.

But if Kenya is to remain strong, we must change our approach to political competition.  We are proud, and rightly so, of our cultural heritage, but it does not follow that our ethnic identity is our political identity.

We have done that for half a century, and it has brought us very close to complete ruin. Too many of our leaders have manipulated our ethnicities to seize power, and then exploited it to avoid accountability.

We cannot afford another fifty years of farmers struggling to make a living, of families without proper sanitation, or of families bankrupted by healthcare costs.  We need change now, in this generation, so that our children grow to adulthood in a totally different Kenya.

We must demonstrate we are truly Kenyan citizens.   We must do this for our country; not for self.  That, Hon. Members, has been, and remains, my vision throughout my time as President.

That vision is within reach: all we have to do is to look up, and grasp it.  To see it, the leaders seated here can help.  Show us all a better way.

Teach us to criticize constructively; teach us to adore hard work and reject the easy shilling; and teach us always to preserve the Unity of the House we have inherited from our fathers and founders of this Great Nation.

If you do that, Hon. Members, then you will have the eternal gratitude of the Kenyan people; and of those born years from now into a Kenya whose politics revolve around service delivery.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, it is now my honour to present three reports to this House as obligated by our Constitution, namely: (i)Report on All the Measures Taken and the Progress Achieved in the Realisation of National Values; (ii) Progress made in fulfilling the International Obligations of the Republic; and (iii) the State of Security.

Thank You and God Bless Kenya.

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