Happy New Year! Gigs, prayers as elated Kenyans welcome 2023

Fireworks captured from GTC Towers in Nairobi on January 1, 2023. [Kevin Maimba, Standard]

Kenyans ushered in 2023 in style, with entertainment joints and places of worship filled to the brim on Saturday night until Sunday, January 1. There were prayers and merry-making across the country. Fireworks and light shows rocked cities and urban centers.

From Busia to Mombasa, Nakuru to Muranga and Laikipia to Eldoret, the mood was ecstatic, with Kenyans hoping that the New Year will come with good tidings. 

Leaders led calls for urgent interventions to curb the high cost of living and the effects of drought that has led to hunger in more than 20 counties. 

In Mombasa, President William Ruto hosted dignitaries at a New Year's eve party where he commended Kenyans for persevering through what has been a challenging year.

“The county has experienced a myriad of challenges stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic to the economic challenges,” he said. 

“We thank God that Kenya has survived through those challenges and we look forward to a prosperous 2023,” the President said on December 31.

Ruto said he had taken measures to ensure the country recovers economically, including the removal of subsidy programmes. He said the move would hurt in the short term bit would have long-term benefits. 

“I am confident we have laid a foundation that will take our economy away from dependence on debts to dependence on revenue raised through taxes,” he said. The government has eliminated the 15 per cent low-cost Kenya Power electricity subsidy. It also stopped the fuel and maize flour subsidies.

Ruto said his administration will focus on addressing hunger water shortage, reduction of foreign borrowing, employment of teachers, and expansion of technical training institutions.

On food security, Ruto said the focus will be on providing affordable fertilisers to farmers and expansion of irrigation-fed agriculture. “We shall through Public Private Partnership PPP start to build 100 dams in the first phase to reduce water shortage and have enough,” he said.

He said his administration intends to build world-class human capital and will hire 30,000 school teachers and 3,000 Tvet tutors.

“We will equip 70 Tvets at a cost of Sh15 billion to ensure we churn out the best engineering graduates,” said the president.

On climate change, Ruto said the national government will hire 1,000 youths to team up with a similar number employed by the County Government of Mombasa to plant trees in the port city.

“Climate change is a reality. Our nation has lost two million livestock and wildlife due to human activities that contributed to climate change. The youths will restore the mangrove forest,” he said.

Ruto said he was ready to work with opposition leaders. He said all indications show that in the next year, the country’s revenue collection will rise from the current Sh2 trillion to Sh3 trillion, and double in the next five years.

“This will ensure we develop our country on sound footing using locally generated revenue rather than being trapped in debts,” said Ruto.

President William Ruto with a section of leaders in Mombasa on New Year's eve. [PPS]

Ruto said the “Hustler Fund” launched in November 2022 was a success, and that so far Kenyans have borrowed Sh20 billion. He said the government will inject more money into the fund.

“Next month we will launch the second phase of the fund. This will benefit saccos and co-operatives so that we make sure Kenyans are not exploited by shylocks,” he said.

Yesterday, he attended a Sunday service at Siloam Church, Bamburi where he said he was hopeful the New Year will be a good one for Kenyans.

Goodwill message

ODM leader Raila Odinga also sent a message of goodwill to Kenyans as they ushered in the New Year. “We thank God that we are able to celebrate the New Year but as we celebrate it is also paramount that as a nation we re-calibrate,” he said.

The former Prime Minister, like the president, listed challenges Kenyans faced in 2022.

“We had a difficult 2022 that had a hotly contested election and also tough economic times that continue as we usher in 2023,” the Azimio leader said. “I am however buoyed and looking forward to a better year and better times in 2023,” an optimistic Raila told the nation.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua also sent a message of goodwill to Kenyans. “A New Year means renewed hope and we look forward to a great Kenya in 2023,” the DP remarked. In Nakuru, churches were packed to capacity as clerics led congregants in celebrating the New Year. They prayed for grace and blessings in 2023.

Nakuru Town West MP Samuel Arama said: “It is a new year and we have to begin it on the right footing.”

In Laikipia and Murang’a counties, locals ushered the new year in churches and social joints. Musicians and other entertainers kept them engaged throughout Saturday night.

In Murang’a, hundreds of revellers were at Nokras Riverine and Golden Palm where Kikuyu musicians entertained them. Musicians Samido and Jose Gatutura were at Nokras Riverine.

Mombasa's Jomo Kenyatta Public Beach was thronged by merrymakers on January 1, 2023. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

In Nanyuki, entertainment joints Buens Lugar, Sportsmans Arm, Moran Grill and The Prime were full to capacity. Mburu wa Wanja was at Buens Luger thrilling the fans as they celebrated.

Peter Kuria, a resident of Kamahuha market at Nokras Riverine said he was hopeful that the new year would usher in positive changes.

“We should focus on the well-being of the country starting with food security and availability of water,” said Kuria. In Uasin Gishu County, Soy MP David Kiplagat said he expected the government to begin rolling out mega development projects in 2023.

Mr Kiplagat, who is the former speaker of Uasin Gishu, said he was confident that the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF), which was declared illegal, will continue supporting needy students and building schools.

“Everything will be in order this new year and the country will start witnessing progress in many aspects,” he said. 

He said MPs from the region will work closely with the Agriculture ministry to lower the prices of maize seeds to lower the cost of production. Residents of Trans Nzoia County ushered in the New Year expressing optimism that the cost of living will come down. Many residents trooped to churches where they braved the cold night. Those interviewed said the burden of high cost of living was a major challenge and expressed hope that the situation will change this year.

“The economic hardship has frustrated many Kenyans and we are optimistic that God is going to unburden us,” said Douglas Mireri.

Residents said they are hopeful that the county government will improve service delivery.

-Story by Bernard Sanga, Joackim Bwana, Willis Oketch, Kennedy Gachuhi, Boniface Gikandi, Stephen Rutto and Osinde Obare