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Jury still out on Uhuru’s promise to fix country’s myriad challenges

When he delivered his inaugural speech as Kenya’s fourth President on April 9, 2013, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta was vibrant, resolute and pregnant with promise.

When he climbed the podium to take the oath of office, he exuded confidence in fixing most of the country’s myriad challenges.

Even more heartening was the gesture to extend an olive branch to his competitors in the presidential race — Cord’s Raila Odinga and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka. Stating that the elections were now “behind us”, he promised to unite all Kenyans, irrespective of whom they had voted for. 

He encouraged the opposition to critique him and hold the government to account: “As President I will respect that role just as I will champion the right of every Kenyan to speak their mind free of fear of reprisal or condemnation.”

However, some opposition politicians believe President Kenyatta has not lived up to this particular promise and has projected himself more as a Jubilee party leader.

“Uhuru was President to some in a few select areas,” says Mr Jakoyo Midiwo, Deputy Minority Leader in the National Assembly and Gem MP.

SKEWED APPOINTMENTS

Mr Midiwo points to what he considers skewed appointments in the Cabinet which he perceives favoured people from the President’s and his deputy’s ethnic group.

In his 2013 speech, Mr Kenyatta had assured Kenyans that “my commitment to Kenya is that our national government shall and will reflect the true face of Kenya.” 

The President had sounded more reconciliatory and accommodative. But Mr William Ruto, his deputy, had a tinge of sarcasm when he observed that “everyone is monitoring this function across the world including in South Africa.” Mr Odinga, Mr Musyoka and fellow Cord co-principal Moses Wetang’ula had retreated to South Africa after the Supreme Court upheld the Jubilee win.

On healthcare, the President said: “Within the first 100 days – we will ensure that maternity fees are abolished and that all Kenyans are able to access government dispensaries and health centres free of charge.”

Then there was the promise to children, which earned the Jubilee a lot of accolades: “Within the first 100 days, we will put measures in place to ensure that all pupils joining Standard One next year in the public school system receive a laptop.”

Free maternity has had some success despite complaints from counties of delayed payments by the national government.

PROVIDED WITH LAPTOPS

However, “all children” joining Standard One have not been provided with laptops, but some have received tablets. Jubilee blamed this on tender wars.

Mr Midiwo singles out corruption as a cancer that has eaten into the Jubilee government and the President has failed to cure it.

The President’s speech is, however, spot on on several fronts. He, for instance, promised to “develop a framework to direct the Sh6 billion previously allocated for the election run-off towards establishing a new Youth and Women Fund” and did just that within four months! But the flagship National Youth Service was hit by allegations of corruption, creating a big scandal estimated to have caused the loss of at least Sh1.6 billion.

Targets of job creation have similarly not been met. The country has seen mass layoffs, especially in the private sector. The cost of living, highlighted by the rise of maize flour prices, but which the government is making efforts to reduce, is also a point the Opposition has used to criticise the government.  

Efforts to get a comment from National Assembly Leader of Majority Aden Duale on the President’s 2013 speech and achievements were futile. In an earlier interview with this writer, though, Mr Duale maintained the Jubilee government was committed to fulfilling all its electoral pledges.

INCREASING CONNECTIVITY

“In tarmacking roads, increasing electricity connectivity, this government has delivered more than any other since independence,” said the Garissa Town MP. The standard gauge railway, a Jubilee flagship project, is on course to completion and will provide a boost to Jubilee’s re-election campaign.

On his inauguration, the President promised to “expand electricity generation, extend the transmission network and ensure that electricity supply is more consistent and reliable.” He further undertook to “build on the accomplishments of the last administration in infrastructure, by increasing accessibility through roads and rail networks.” The Last Mile electricity connection project is often pointed out as a success story. 

An elated Yatta MP and deputy party leader of Chama Cha Uzalendo, Francis Mwangangi, terms the President’s projections accurate: “The Yatta canal in my constituency has, for instance, been completed, work on the Kitui-Mwingi Road is near completion, Mombasa Road has been expanded and power connectivity is a reality.”

With regard to insecurity, the President warned that “agents of terror, who disrupt the peace of our society, will be met with the full force of the law and the strength of Kenya’s security forces.”

Officers of the Defence and Interior ministries, who spoke to the Sunday Nation, confirmed they were resolute on this matter.

COUNTER TERRORISM

And it appears that counter-terrorism efforts have progressively been bearing fruit since the tragic September 2013 al-Shabaab assault on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, the 2014 Mpeketoni killings in Lamu and the Garissa University attack in April 2015.

Some of this is attributed to enhanced intelligence, increased police recruitment and the buying and leasing of vehicles and armoured personnel carriers. 

“We have similarly sustained pressure on terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in Somalia through engagement with Amisom, the Somali federal and state authorities and we are working to sustain the International Community’s engagement in a stable Somalia,” says Mr Mwenda Njoka, Interior Ministry spokesman.

One area in which lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi believes the President’s record is “excellent” is in foreign affairs where “he has transformed himself to become one of the most influential players in the international arena” to the country’s benefit.

Leaders often have very ambitious projections on being sworn into office. Mr Kenyatta’s predecessor, Mwai Kibaki, promised what seemed a near impossibility then – free primary education.

The jury is still out on whether President Kenyatta has fulfilled some of his many pledges.

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