Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, we celebrate the day, fifty-two years ago, when we declared Kenya a republic. We decided that we would be governed by our own laws; and that we would manage our own affairs. It was the culmination of a long and painful struggle to become masters of our destiny.
Our journey since then has seen many triumphs. Today, we remember our forefathers who laid the foundation on which this nation rests; equally, we celebrate the youth who have inherited that nation.
We honour the bravery and integrity of our troops. They are helping to liberate Somalia from the grip of brutal terrorism for the sake of stability and democracy. They are protecting our country and advancing global peace and security. Their professionalism in challenging conditions is an inspiration to us all.
Madam President, you will recall that our son, Lt. Gen. Leonard Ngodi, led the UN Mission in Liberia between 2012 and 2015. Indeed, the first UN Peace Keeping Force was headed by another Kenyan, Lt Gen. Daniel Opande. We celebrate the peace your people have built and your strong record of accomplishment.
That drive for excellence is also exemplified by our athletes. In August, they topped the overall medal table at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing, China. Our innovators continue to make us proud by developing new technologies and business models.
Economically, we have made major progress. Our national income per head is more than 13 times what it was half a century ago, thanks to our hard working Kenyans and prudent national policies.
Today, we are one of Africa’s most attractive investment destinations, and our companies are among the largest investors in East and Central Africa.
We have become healthier and are living longer. Life expectancy has risen from 48 years in 1963 to more than 60 in 2014. We are steadily winning the war on HIV/AIDS; and child mortality has halved since 1998.
We are a better-informed, and far more empowered nation today than we were at independence. There are nearly 10 million children enrolled in primary school.
From 151 secondary schools in 1963 we now have more than 7,000. In 1964 we had no universities; we now have more than 60. Few countries can boast this speed of growth in educational access for their people. That achievement demonstrates that our governance, reflecting our aspirations, has always prioritized investment in people.
An estimated 3 million of our people are in the Diaspora. In 2014 they sent home US$1.4 billion, money that has educated Kenyans, started businesses, and provided healthcare.
While we have made remarkable progress, our journey is unfinished. Many of our young people still have not found productive work, in part because they lack the appropriate skills. Some mothers still die in childbirth; many Kenyans endure entirely preventable diseases.
We need education that prepares our youth for a more competitive marketplace. That is why we are revitalizing our Technical and Vocational Education and Training system.
The skills gained will allow many more Kenyans to be productive and competitive enough to secure decent employment.
My Government is committed to providing better health care for everyone. My administration is working closely with the counties to increase the number and raise the quality of health care facilities. We have provided medical equipment to Level 5 hospitals in all the counties.
I wish to thank the First Lady for championing the health of mothers and children through the Beyond Zero Campaign.
Over the past 50 years, Kenya’s stature in the community of nations has grown. We host the only global UN headquarters in the southern hemisphere. Major multi-nationals have chosen Kenya as their continental headquarters. These decisions are testament to our skills, our democracy, and the openness of our culture and economy.
The events of the past year have demonstrated our global standing. Kenya was the first stop for Pope Francis’ maiden visit to Africa.
We were honoured to host President Obama in July, the first visit by a sitting American President. Next week, we host over 5,000 delegates to the 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation; the first time this meeting has been held in Africa. I thank you all for showing these visitors the warmth of a Kenyan welcome.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our experiences over the past 50 years remind us that nation building is a delicate task and that hard-won peace and freedom must be jealously protected.
During my State of the Nation Address in March, I apologized, on behalf of the Kenya Government, for the wrongs we had committed against each other since Independence.
I did it in recognition that we needed to look ahead together, to resist being drawn into the dangerous bitterness that would hold us back. I did it so that we could get beyond the dark parts of the past and move forward together as one nation.
Most Kenyans embraced this act of choosing hope and a bright future. However, there are still some among us whose entire political existence is based on resisting our will to move forward as a nation.
I urge every Kenyan to reject their calls for negative politics, hatred, finger-pointing and manipulation, and to reject their desire to ignore the facts of the solid achievements we have made since the peaceful elections in 2013, and certainly since becoming a Republic in 1964.
As a country, we have chosen peace and progress for all our people. To achieve these objectives, we must transform our social and political life, and make our economy more competitive.
We began with our new Constitution, which my Administration is implementing quickly and decisively. The transformation of our economy requires that we scale up our investment in infrastructure, in education, in health, and in security in order to create jobs for our people.
The transformation remains on course. We have made unprecedented progress in increasing access to affordable electricity. Between 1908, when the first power company in Kenya was established, and 2008, connection to electricity was only 20 percent.
In took a whole century to reach a fifth of our people. In the past three years, my Administration has raised the connection rate from 28 percent to above 50 percent. I dare say it is one of the fastest increases in energy connection in the world.
Every Primary school with be connected to electricity before the beginning of next term. What this means is that our children can now study longer, and do better in school. Businesses are more competitive, and the 24-hour economy is becoming a reality in a number of towns.
To ensure that expansion of energy access does not compromise our environment, my Administration has focused on developing renewable energy. Last year, we added 280MW of geothermal power to the grid. We will sustain the pace: by 2025, Kenya will be the 4th largest geothermal energy generator in the world. This is truly transformative.
We are also transforming our transport infrastructure. In 1963 there were 2,219 kilometres of tarmacked road; today, we have 8,879, most developed in the last decade; another 1,200 kilometres are under development; and contracts for a further 3,000Km have been concluded and we expect works to start in January 2016.
The Standard Gauge Railway from Mombasa to Nairobi is now 60 percent complete and we have begun the process of extending it to Naivasha, and eventually to Kisumu and Malaba.
We are also ensuring that the vulnerable among us are better protected. In the last three years, we have doubled the number of cash-transfer beneficiaries to reach over 700,000 Kenyans.
The Presidential Bursary Scheme for orphans and vulnerable children in secondary schools has grown from one million shillings in 2012 to 400 million in 2015. In addition we have allocated sufficient resources for children with diasabilities at primary, secondary and university education. We urge parents of the affected children to take advantage of the programme to ensure all Kenyan children got to school.
Entrenching a culture of service has been a priority for my Administration. In the Huduma Centres, we have brought rapid and efficient services, where, once upon a time, constant delays and corruption were common.
We are making these investments to strengthen the foundation for sustained and inclusive prosperity. We are succeeding, as reflected in our strong economic growth, despite a global slowdown.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Devolution means the benefits of that growth are reaching many more Kenyans, as achievements in the counties show. Kisii town has a 24-hour economy, after the installation of 300 solar lights, while Mombasa County has introduced a feeding programme for children up to Standard three.
In Mandera the first caesarean birth since independence has been performed. Virtually all counties have ambulance services.
During my visit to Kapenguria a month ago, I saw fresh proof of these impressive gains. I opened the first medical training college built by a county government, where more than 200 nursing students are already enrolled.
This is what we hoped for when we voted for the new Constitution. As always, there is room for improvement. But there is no going back on the principle of devolution.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Alive in our minds and hearts is the brutal mass murder of young Kenyans by terrorists at Garissa University College in April. We remember in our prayers the victims and their families. Let the deaths of these young people strengthen our resolve to deal as a united nation, with those who threaten our peace and stability, as well as the Kenyan spirit of religious and inclusivity as enshrined in our Constitution. Together, as Kenyans, we must reject this evil ideology.
Like young Anastasia, who walked out of hospital after six months of a difficult recovery following the Garissa attack, we must continue to demonstrate our resilience and courage.
I am pleased to announce that Garissa University will reopen soon.
As Commander-in-Chief, I will do all in my power to protect Kenyans and defeat the enemy. We have modernized our forces, improved their mobility, and strengthened inter-agency coordination. Our allies in this struggle have rallied to our side. Some of them have suffered similarly painful attacks.
We offer our heartfelt condolences to the people of France for the attacks in Paris; to Nigerians, who have so valiantly resisted Boko Haram; to the United States for the brutal attack in California; and to the thousands in Mali, Syria and Iraq who have endured extremist violence.
The global nature of these attacks reminds us that an attack on one is an attack on all of us. We resolve to play an important part in the effort to build a more robust global peace and security architecture.
Corruption is our great enemy: we need to fight it with the same tenacity and unity of purpose with which we have fought, and won, other battles.
Corruption is corrosive: it has brought us destructive ethnic politics which associate public office with the accumulation of wealth. A bribe is given to let a faulty public service vehicle go through a roadblock; later the vehicle crashes and kills innocent Kenyans. Terrorists offer bribes hoping to cross our borders. Corruption kills.
The time has come for Kenyans to fight this vice by mounting a truly national campaign. Experience teaches us that this is no one-time effort; it will need to be sustained.
Those who believe they are entitled to steal our resources, will try to manipulate our political debate. Others will wring political capital from the fight against corruption. We will not defeat them unless we all keep our eyes on the prize - a country in which corruption is shunned.
Everyone - the three arms of Government, the private sector, religious and community leaders, every Kenyan - must play their role in this fight. After all, every Kenyan is hurt by corruption.
As your President, I have sought to create an environment that resists dishonest and unethical practices. I have used my office to concentrate the attention of the nation on this menace. I have taken strong action. We have intensified our efforts to recover stolen money.
Indeed, these efforts have paid dividends, with KSh. 2.24 billion of corruptly-acquired money and property either frozen or recovered.
At the start of this month, 337 cases related to corruption were in court. Of those, 68 involve senior Kenyans, among them Members of Parliament, Governors, and Cabinet and Principal Secretaries. Meantime, the Cabinet and Principal Secretaries under investigation have been relieved of their duties.
It is time now for the Judiciary to act decisively to conclude the cases before it, for our constitution requires that justice be served without undue procedural delay.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Yesterday, preservation orders were gazetted, prohibiting the transfer of property that may have been purchased with funds embezzled from the National Youth Service. The property will be held until all relevant legal matters are concluded.
In the same vein, working with Swiss Authorities, 200 million shillings held abroad in connection with the Anglo-Leasing fraud has also been frozen. We are working with other friendly Governments to ensure that illegally acquired assets hidden in their countries are returned. It doesn’t matter what is acquired with the proceeds of corruption; ultimately, all will be forfeited.
Nobody is above the law. No one called to account should ever again hide under the false claim that their community or religion is under siege. Your community or religion was not there when you were stealing.
We embrace and truly believe in media freedom. But lies for the sake of sensation and sales that hurt our economy, our cohesion, and our nation’s name must come to an end. If you make allegations, you must be prepared to prove them.
It is not good enough to broadcast allegations merely because they were uttered by a politician. Those who bear false witness will be held responsible. We should all recall that Article 33 of our Constitution holds that “in the exercise of the right of freedom of expression, every person shall respect the rights and reputation of others.”
While on this subject, let me reflect on the Eurobond. Ours was one of the best issues ever on the African continent. It was oversubscribed. Yet some of us contrived to talk it down, undermining the credibility of our institutions, and investor confidence in our country.
Yes, I agree that those entrusted with public positions must be held to account. If found guilty, the maximum punishment must be meted out. But the sword of justice cuts both ways. If you make accusations and fail to prove them, you will also be held accountable.
Kenyans want to see those who rob them of their hard-earned money prosecuted, their ill-gotten gains frozen and reclaimed, and jail terms handed out. That is the standard I will uphold. Together, we can ensure that it is achieved and that no Kenyan - regardless of position - is immune to accountability.
We will win this war because we are all tired of suffering for the selfishness and dishonesty of a few. We will win because we have the legal capacity and tools to fight this war.
We will win because we have heard you. We will win because all patriotic Kenyans, no matter their political persuasion, are disgusted by corruption. And we will win because we Kenyans have demonstrated time and again that no fight is too difficult for us.
We ought to take a moment to acknowledge the best in us. If we do, we renew our unity, and the strength we need to face our challenges.
Our economy is maturing: we are now a middle income country. Our society is also maturing. Our artists and musicians are recognized the world over; our athletes lead the world. Our innovators attract the world’s leading companies such as Google and IBM.
Our teachers educate children across the continent. Our nurses bring healing beyond our borders. Our researchers and academics, some of whom I will honour today, advance the frontiers of knowledge worldwide.
I will be the first to accept that in spite of these successes, challenges remain. But if we cannot appreciate our successes, how will we find the strength to fight for our future? When I look at our achievements, and the daunting challenges ahead, I must ask: have our politics matured in tandem with our economy? Has our reporting of our economy and society matured?
I will say only this: if you support my Administration, support it in a mature way. If you oppose it, oppose in a mature way. After all, it may be your Administration one day – that’s democracy.
To those in the fourth estate, be constructive. This is your country after all, and your constructive criticism will only improve it.
What matters most is Kenya. By the grace of God, we are 52 years old. By the grace of God, we will continue to prosper in the future. But for us to achieve our desired prosperity, we must learn to work together as a people.
Let me close by recalling truths that have sometimes been forgotten. Kenya is more prosperous than it has ever been. Kenya is attracting more investment than it ever has. Kenya is more democratic than it has ever been. And let it be said: every challenge we have faced, we have overcome. This time is no different.
Let us see the best in each other. Let us lift each other. Let us protect each other. Thank you. God Bless you. God Bless Kenya.