Running out of time: An incumbent president whose term must come to an end in August 2022, Uhuru Kenyatta has a daunting task to fix an ailing economy, create jobs, tame debt, tackle graft and navigate a delicate political landscape in less than 1,000 days.
Unfulfilled pledges haunt Uhuru as term nears end
President Uhuru Kenyatta ushers in the New Year facing the daunting task of fulfilling his pledges and mending the broken fabric of a nation within just 950 days.
The period represents the sum total of the president’s remaining days in office – from today to August 8, 2022, when his term officially ends as provided for in the Constitution.
With many of the promises made by the Jubilee administration, both in 2013 and 2017, still a long way from being fulfilled, the year 2020 presents President Kenyatta with the challenge of deciding on priority projects and interventions to implement to ensure a decent legacy.
From fixing the wanting state of the economy that has accelerated unemployment among the youth, to arresting runaway corruption, addressing housing challenges as promised in the revised Jubilee manifesto – now dubbed the Big Four Agenda – to arresting his government’s insatiable appetite for debt, the president will have to race against time to achieve these promises.
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Last year, Parliament gave a boost to the Jubilee administration in its allocation of funds, with the bulk of the 2019-20 Budget allocated to the Big Four Agenda: manufacturing, universal healthcare, affordable housing and food security.
With little so far done on the ground, however, the year could prove a defining one for a government that was twice voted in on the basis of its promising blueprint.
It will also be the year when all eyes will be on him regarding the resolution of challenges plaguing his administration.
Pressing ills Coupled with this will be how he navigates the implementation of the recently released Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) task force report, which portends changes to the Constitution and has presented politicians with a platform for debate.
Of import will be whether the implementation of the report – meant to address some of the country’s most pressing ills such as cyclic post-election violence, corruption, marginalisation and negative ethnicity – will help cure the country’s rifts, or further divide it.
Why Jubilee may fail in education reforms
As President Uhuru Kenyatta’s term comes to an end, the government is yet to achieve meaningful reforms in education.
In its manifesto, the Jubilee administration had committed to work towards achieving a 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary school.
This was to be done by making both primary and secondary education free. Jubilee also promised to double the funds allocated to the Higher Education Loans Board in order to provide loans for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (Tvet).
Jubilee also promised to establish centres of excellence and innovation to tap into the talent pool of the youth.
Spur innovation The Kenya Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Kaist) was to be established at Konza Technopolis.
It was meant to spur innovation in the country. All these plans are yet to be fulfilled, with Mr Kenyatta left with only 950 days in office.
Experts say it will be a tall order for Jubilee to realise these promises. Universities Academic Staff Union Secretary General Constantine Wasonga said it will be hard for the administration to achieve what it drafted in its manifesto.
“Higher education is in a shambles. It has many problems, it is underfunded, has poor infrastructure, Collective Bargaining Agreements are not honoured, there are no lecturers,” he said.
Knut Secretary General William Sossion said the Competency Based Curriculum is one thing the government needs to implement properly if it is to achieve its education agenda
All eyes on Uhuru in fight against corruption amid demand for answers
All eyes on the president in the fight against corruption amid demand for results President Uhuru Kenyatta has vowed to ruthlessly deal with individuals implicated in corruption, insisting that the culprits would be forced to “vomit the money”.
In turn, Kenyans have lauded his resilience in pursuing those perceived to have squandered money from public coffers.
Their patience is, however, quickly running out as there has not been any high-profile conviction since Jubilee came into office in 2013.
With fresh leadership at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), expectations are very high as the war on graft is pegged to the president’s legacy.
There is also the aspect of funding and political goodwill as some leaders claim the war on graft has been politicised and selective.
Seeking votes Last year, during the funeral of Benga maestro John Mwangi Nganga, alias John DeMathew, the president declared that the war on corruption is informed by the fact he will not be seeking votes after his current term and, therefore, his loyalty is with Kenyans and not a few individuals.
The Judiciary has been censured as the missing link in the graft war, despite the president of the Supreme Court, Justice David Maraga, dismissing the claims and defending his institution, insisting that weak cases would be dismissed.
In 2019, three governors, Moses Lenolkulal (Samburu), Mike Sonko (Nairobi) and Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu) were charged with graft related cases. Similarly, suspended Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge were arraigned in court over the multi-billion-shilling Arror and Kimwarer dams scandal.
“The commission has managed to recover assets worth Sh22.5 billion and averted a loss of about Sh135 billion of major county and national government tender awards,” said EACC Chief Executive Twalib Mbarak.
“During the period, we have filed several cases to recover government assets, especially land and property allocated irregularly to former powerful government officers and their associates.”
Baying for blood Head of Asset Recovery Unit Muthoni Kimani once told legislators that Kenyans are baying for blood and want a quick fix, as many cases are stuck in court.
Attorney General Kihara Kariuki, in Nakuru County last year, also faulted the Judiciary, saying it is the missing link in the criminal justice system.
“While positive and constructive criticism is welcomed, delivering convictions is a multi-sectorial responsibility within the criminal justice chain. As ODPP, we shall strive to deliver depending on a level playing field and the lack of underarm dealings by corrupt cartels,” said DPP Noordin Haji.
In his re-election campaign in 2017, the president outlined his administration’s commitment to fight the vice.
In his final five-year term, with two years already gone, his government was to increase the penalty to include jail time for economic crimes, and work with the Judiciary to ensure all economic crime cases are resolved within six months.
Other promises included the immediate deployment of an enhanced protection and reward framework for whistleblowers in 2017, supporting and enhancing investment in the capacity of the Judiciary to expedite the hearing and disposal of economic crime cases, and publishing annual details of all the procurement awards for major government projects.
Settle pending bills to boost sector
When President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto swept to power in 2013, they told Kenyans that they would help the country bake a bigger cake so as to create one million jobs.
To create a million jobs, they cast their eyes on economic growth of between seven per cent and 10 per cent in their first two years in office.
“Our fundamental aim is the attainment of high and sustainable levels of economic development within a stable and secure environment,” read part of the Jubilee party’s manifesto.
Faster economic growth would also reduce the rate of poverty and meet the requirements of Kenya’s growing population.
With 950 days to the end of Mr Kenyatta’s second and final term, double-digit growth remains a pipe dream.
In Jubilee’s eight years in office, the country has yet to manage more than seven per cent growth. When Jubilee came to power in 2013, economic performance in the previous five years had been on an upward trajectory from a 2008 low when it grew by 1.5 per cent.
In 2010, 2011 and 2012, the economy grew annually at 5.8 per cent, 4.4 per cent and 4.5 per cent, respectively. In 2013, it leapt to 6.9 per cent.
Manufacturing, which was a pillar of Jubilee’s ambition to create jobs, has shrunk to less than eight per cent, despite the government giving incentives to expand it to 15 per cent of GDP.
The president, in his manifesto, committed to create at least 6.5 million jobs over five years so Kenyans, particularly the youth, could secure and maintain good jobs and enjoy a decent life. The president has since come up with the Big Four Agenda.
The head of State hopes by the time he leaves office in 2022, the share of manufacturing as a fraction of total national output will have increased to 15 per cent from the current 9.2 per cent.
The Jubilee administration would also like to build half a million affordable homes and provide critical healthcare services to every Kenyan by 2022.
Instead, Kenyans are grappling with reduced circulation of money, punitive taxes and unsustainable fiscal debt, according to Scholastica Odhiambo, a lecturer from Maseno University.
The national and county government have crippled the private sector by failing to pay pending bills, which are estimated to be more than Sh100 billion.
There is also over Sh30 billion owed to manufacturers in tax refunds. Taxes, as a fraction of GDP, have dropped from a high of 24 per cent to less than 15 per cent.
Poor revenue collection has seen the government go on a borrowing spree, with public debt surging to Sh5.8 trillion, or close to 60 per cent of GDP.
Access to power But to Uhuru’s credit, nearly every Kenyan has access to electricity. The country is among the few African countries on course to attain universal access to power by 2022.
However, Dr Odhiambo explains that the cost of living is high and businesses are facing a repressive period.
She thinks that in the remaining days, the president can promote policies that will give consumers and businesses a reprieve, allowing them to thrive.
“This can be done by enabling effective money circulation through payment of debts owed to businesses by the government, and tax relief on household necessities,” said Odhiambo.
The Treasury mandarins, led by acting Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani, also think payment of pending bills will go a long way towards rebooting the economy. Asked about his goals for 2020, Mr Yatani said his ministry would seek to “enforce and sustain austerity measures for all public institutions”.
Police reforms yet to pay off as abuse against civilians rise
If the recent images and videos of Kenyan police officers brutalising a student during recent protests at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology that circulated widely on social media are anything to go by, then the much touted police reforms are still a long way off from being realised.
The images resulted in public outcry, prompting the Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai to take action that saw the implicated officers promptly interdicted.
They are currently under investigation.
Similarly, a former police informer and five police officers were charged with the murder of a lawyer and his client.
However, during trial, a confession from the police informer emerged, revealing graphic details of a double murder.
A recent survey conducted by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) revealed that police abuse in Kenya has seen “significant increase” over the past six years, rather than a decline.
Efforts at transforming the police force have been ongoing since the early 2000s, however, their impact is yet to be felt.
On September 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta commissioned major reforms at the National Police Service (NPS) which sought to alter its structure, welfare and control.
According to the head of State, the reforms were aimed at making the police service respected rather than feared.
The objective of police reforms is to transform the force into a professional, efficient and accountable police service that is trusted by the public.
This was informed by the extreme violence that followed the disputed 2007 presidential polls, and the subsequent allegations of police involvement.
A task force was established to investigate and recommend reforms to the police service.
The Police Reform Task force Report (Ransley Report) chaired by Philip Ransley, reviewed the police structures and systems and recommended wide-ranging reforms, including the restructuring of the force.
Ambitious pledge, However, despite the ambitious pledge from the president, nothing significant has been recorded yet.
Cases of police brutality continue to be reported across the country. Part of the reforms also included paying low-ranking officers a housing allowance so they could seek accommodation outside the camps within 90 days after Uhuru enacted the reforms.
The move was billed as a strategy to ensure that officers were integrated into the community.
The president had instructed the Treasury to factor in the new allowances in the Supplementary Budget.
However, junior police officers continue to live in congested houses within their bases. There was also the unveiling of a new uniform consisting of a Persian-blue shirt and trousers to make officers “more visible”.
Although some officers have been seen with the uniform, several others are still wearing the old dark blue uniform.
Push and pull between Uhuru, county chiefs
President Uhuru Kenyatta begins the New Year with the dispute between national and county governments over the sharing of resources yet to be resolved.
Governors have accused Mr Kenyatta’s administration of plotting to weaken devolution by denying them money, effectively crippling functions at the devolved units.
County chiefs have continuously expressed displeasure with a myriad of pending issues, such as inadequate funding, attempts to claw back devolved functions, duplication of roles, functions retained at the centre and the fight against graft.
For instance, governors have censured the government over the Road Maintenance Levy Fund, pushing for Sh80 billion to go to counties, the devolution of roads functions, agricultural mechanisation and regional boards, among others.
Financial hygiene a major drawback last year was the stalemate on the Division of Revenue Bill, which shares revenue raised nationally between the two levels of government that saw the county bosses move to the Supreme Court for resolution on the matter.
The National Assembly stuck at Sh316 billion, while Senate demanded Sh327 billion to counties as an equitable share.
Governors attributed the impasse to government functionaries trying to weaken devolution instead of strengthening it, with Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati not mincing his words on the matter.
“It seems the president and his deputy are against devolution. What is happening now is what happened in 1966 when the national government came out so strongly and killed the Senate and Majimbo,” said Mr Wangamati.
Governors moved to court over the matter and were recently back there over pending bills after Acting Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani faulted them for not practicing financial hygiene and threatened to suspended disbursement to 35 counties over the same.
Governors have been pushing for at least 45 per cent of the revenue raised nationally to go to counties.
The law presently stipulates at least 15 per cent. The Building Bridges Initiative report released last month proposes at least 35 per cent.
Uhuru has maintained his government’s commitment to fully implementing devolution.
Since 2013, counties have cumulatively received more than Sh1.57 trillion.
Executive, Judiciary bad blood worrying
President Uhuru Kenyatta must as a matter of urgency fix what has been seen as a strenuous relationship between the Executive, which he heads, and the Judiciary, another independent arm of government.
During his term, and especially after nullification of his election in 2017 by the Supreme Court when he promised that Jubilee would “revisit” the judgement, the Executive has appeared to be at war with the Judiciary.
This situation has pricked Chief Justice David Maraga to the point of his publicly expressing frustrations over how the arm of government was being treated.
Recent cuts on the Judiciary’s budget by the Treasury by Sh3 billion has seriously affected the dispensation of justice as it has, among other things, led to the suspension of sittings of the Court of Appeal in some major stations and affected the development budget, especially establishment of more courts.
Further, the president’s failure to appoint 41 judges who had been approved for appointment by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), headed by Mr Maraga, enhanced the rift between the president and the stakeholders in the justice system, who have accused Jubilee of attempting to clamp down on the Judiciary.
This partly informed the decision by Maraga to openly complain about the poor treatment that his arm of government, and even he as the head of the Judiciary, continues to receive from the Executive, including the humiliation from junior officers in government.
The Chief Justice has skipped two major functions, including the December 12 Jamhuri Day national celebrations.
Seasoned lawyer Charles Kanjama says the wanting relationship between the two arms is one of the challenges that the president will have to address if he is to leave a legacy in the administration of justice in the country.
“He needs to address the contentious issue of judges and appoint them without further delay, increase funding to the Judiciary and stop these budgetary interferences we have lately seen, and abide by the rule of the law,” said Mr Kanjama.