This year marks not only Kenya’s 50th anniversary, but it also highlights a critical turning point in this nation’s history as it tackles major constitutional changes such as the momentous devolution policy
“In the last year and a half we Kenyans have seen some of the most striking events of our national life. There have been achievements to lift the hearts of every Kenyan: we have finally established our new constitution, and devolved power and resources, as it demands. There have also been tragedies that cut our hearts to the quick, terrorist atrocities among them. It is right to pause, before looking ahead to what is to come.
2010 was a crossroads in our history. Kenyans peacefully chose a radical reform of their public life. They re-distributed resources and power to new institutions, trusting their leaders to obey their settled will.
As the first President elected under the new constitution, I recognized my special responsibility to honor the new supreme law. No sooner had my government been inaugurated than we began to implement it.
The new county governments were established with minimal disruption. Staff and budgets were found for them. The most extensive reorganization of our public service commenced: we sent thousands of staff from national government to the counties, where they could serve Kenyans more closely. Functions were devolved even faster than the constitution required: where it envisioned a three-year transition period, many were transferred long before that deadline. To meet the needs of the counties, we allocated them more than double the constitutional minimum of 15%.
This – perhaps the most extensive reorganization of an African state in peacetime – is a remarkable achievement by any standard, especially when we remember the number of institutions that had to be established, and coordinated. Our success – the fact that our county governments were able to begin work so soon after last year’s elections – bears witness to the goodwill of Kenyans, the skill with which the transition mechanisms were designed, and the devotion of my government to the cause of devolution. It is the firmest of replies to those who doubt this administration’s transformative agenda.
Of course, there are those who will ask about the most basic necessities of life: have we brought water to the Kenyans who need it most?
Again, the facts speak for themselves: in the last year alone, we have brought safe drinking water to more than a million Kenyans – among the quickest increases in the supply of safe drinking water in our history.
Areas that had previously been marginalized saw quick progress in the quality of their water provision. In the north of our country, long afflicted by water scarcity, new sources of water have been found and surveyed, and now serve adjacent communities. My government invested over a hundred million dollars in these and other water projects; we have already begun to see a return on that investment.
If water troubles Kenyans, then it is no exaggeration to say that land often divides us. In keeping with our transformation agenda, here too my government has set the pace. More than 139,000 title deeds have been issued in the last year; a further 900,000 titles will be ready for issue by the end of December. We recognize the importance of land rights; and we appreciate that equitable growth demands wider access to them. The new automated title-issuing centre in Nairobi, which will produce documents on a digital platform, is central to our plans. The idea is to defeat counterfeiting, and secure the property rights without which there can be no lasting development.
Now, much of our concern about land is driven by our knowledge that it cushions us from the vagaries of the market: if prices rise, Kenyans have something to call our own. Kenyans rightly want reassurance that my government takes seriously their concerns about the cost of living.
We should begin by recognizing that in the last year, under prudent management, and despite the pressure of establishing the new administrative units, our economy saw substantial growth – about 5%. But contrary to expectations in some quarters, that did not raise the prices of some our most common household supplies: in fact, the prices of fuel, sugar and cooking fats were lower in February this year than they were in February 2013.
But the problem of higher living costs also calls for a larger response. Our cost of living is high in part because our infrastructure is weak, and our energy too expensive.
It has been one of our priorities, then, to solve these problems. My ministry of energy intends to generate an additional 5,000 megawatts of power for the national grid within the next three years. When this new energy comes on stream, it will sharply reduce the cost of power, and hence the cost of living. In our first year, and with the program just begun, we have already seen the results: the average price of power to consumers and industry has fallen slightly, and more than 100,000 Kenyans have new connections to the national grid.
This, and other efforts, has been aided greatly by a number of friends and development partners. We welcome the expertise of those who would join with us in work that raises living standards, and ensures reasonable returns.
The fact of the matter is that we are a freer, more prosperous country than we were a year ago. There is no doubt that we are closer to fulfilling our potential now than we were a year ago.
These facts have been recognised and given due weight by our friends and investors abroad, as they showed their faith in our future by oversubscribing our initial Eurobond offering.
That faith in Kenyan is not misplaced. The cynics have been wrong too often. It would have been easy to sneer at the prospect of independence and majority rule in 1945. Yet here we are, with more than 50 years of freedom to our name. It would have been easy to sneer at the prospect of a new constitution 20 years ago. Yet here we are, in the fourth year under a new supreme law. Time and again, Kenyans have shown that they are willing to do the hard work of developing their nation, deaf to the murmurs of the cynics, and grateful for help of their friends. The challenges of our first year in government will not derail our transformation agenda. The toughness and resilience Kenyans have shown in the past is our example, and we will not falter in following it.” – Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya and Chair of the East African Community