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10 years at the helm: Uhuru Kenyatta’s scores, regrets

NATIONAL
By Allan Mungai | December 1st 2021

President Uhuru Kenyatta hands during the 8th State of the Nation Address on November 30, 2021. [PSCU]

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday delivered The State of the Nation address, giving an account of his scores for the country in the last eight years, but sorely mourning the loss of constitutional amendment moment earlier this year.

Uhuru fell short of saying the country will live to regret turning down the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), a joint project of himself and ODM leader Raila Odinga, and which would have crowned his achievements as the country's fourth president.

In a speech that largely spelt out the progress the country had made during his tenure, Uhuru said his government had also tried to solve the issue of political stability by suggesting amendments to the 2010 Constitution.

"The parliamentary record, as well as history, reflects that during this reporting period, my administration did attempt to resolve the constitutional dilemma facing our country," said Uhuru.

The president accused the Judiciary of subverting the will of the people by finding that the attempt to amend the constitution was illegal.

"We went to the people, and five million Kenyans agreed to initiate the process of putting the First Amendment to the 2010 constitution to a vote," he said.

Uhuru said the will of the people had been taken by "a few individuals in a backroom", before further declaring his belief that "that which did not happen, will happen."

"We cannot behave like the proverbial ostrich and bury our heads in the sand. A constitutional moment does not resolve itself simply by being ignored. The need for political stabilisation is, I believe, the most urgent task facing Kenyans today," said Uhuru.

His gripe was that the endorsement of the people, as well as their elected representatives through the County Assembly and Parliament, counted for nothing in the end.

"If indeed Article One of the 2010 constitution states that power rests in the people of Kenya and can be exercised, either directly or through their representatives, then the people made their voices heard with regard to the First Amendment," Uhuru said.

Uhuru's speech, intended to bridge the partisan divide between himself, his deputy, and his allies, had the effect of polarising the House into MPs who support a law change and those against it.

Uhuru opened his eighth address to a joint sitting of the National Assembly and Senate by rehashing his journey to State House, speaking about his failed bid in 2002 and about sitting on both sides of the House.

That message was telling, particularly coming as his deputy William Ruto and Raila - the two men leading the race to succeed him, sat in the public gallery.

He said his was a political journey of mixed fortunes and one that should be instructive that a leader could serve the country from any position.

"This journey of misfortunes taught me that you could serve your country in any capacity because service is not a position. It is action," he said.

The speech also spoke about the need to heal the country, to build bridges and that personal ambition should not come before the peace and safety of the country.

Of all the lessons he had learnt, Uhuru said, the enduring one is that Kenya is always greater than "any one of us."

"Indeed, in times of great political turmoil, men and women must be spurred by the love of their country, to bridge the partisan divide, and to come together to put Kenya first. It is not always easy." 

Uhuru largely spoke about the initiatives the government put in place to keep the economy resilient amid a battering from the coronavirus pandemic.

He warned Somalia that Kenya would not cede any of its territory and was prepared to defend its claims of the waters of the Indian Ocean.

Uhuru also criticised foreign countries for issuing travel restrictions against African countries over the Omicron Covid-19 variant.

Uhuru spoke for more than two hours, pausing in between to sip water as he spoke about improving housing for security officers, building hospitals, improved education, and healthcare.

Eventually, Uhuru skipped to the end.

The speech served as a summary of Uhuru's tenure in office. He compared the status of various sectors at the beginning of his tenure in 2013 to this year, just months before he is constitutionality mandated to leave office. 

Mr Kenyatta gave an account of his Big 4 agenda, telling MPs that the programme was still on course. 

When he took power in 2013, he said, Kenya had only 26 dialysis machines across the country and now the number stands at 603 machines.

Kenya also has the largest number of domestic electricity connections, he said.

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