RESPONSE TO THE PRESIDENT’S STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS IN PARLIAMENT ON 2nd MAY 2018 AND RELATED MATTERS
Fellow Kenyans, we have studied President Kenyatta’s state of the nation address, and below, we offer our concerns and response to the president’s address. We also bring on board other aspects that we thought the President missed in such an important address to the nation. The bottom-line is that, this administration under President Kenyatta must get more serious if it cares about our country, its people and our image as the nation we perceive ourselves to be. Government must be truthful to what it tells Kenyans and the world; the President must lead in that regard when delivering such statements to the Nation. This is our response to the various subjects in the President’s address:
ON THE ROLE OF PARLIAMENT
We take exception with the praises showered on the 11th Parliament. If the President was truthful in his address, he would have concluded that the 11th Parliament was a disgrace because it did more harm than good to Kenyans. We encourage the President and Kenyans to acknowledge the following:
- First, that Parliament failed miserably in its role as a public watchdog in all three of its fundamental roles: representation, oversight of government and legislating. For example, it is worth noting that the Auditor General completed audits for Fiscal Years 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16, as well as 2016/17 but Parliament refused and failed to debate and approve the audit reports within the timelines provided in Article 229 of our Constitution. That failure alone, denied the Counties and their own constituents the rightful share of money for development and services. A parliament that failed to perform its representational and oversight role was as good as dead. Dead as a dodo bird. In fact, the 11th Parliament passed an unconstitutional law, The Division of Revenue Bill (no. 8) of 2018 under the watch of the President. It is time Kenyans invoked Article 104 of the Constitution and recalled all their Parliamentarians over dismal performance.
- Secondly, the last Parliament failed to lead in the fight against theft of public money that took place (and continues to happen even today) in all the 47 Counties and in all National ministries and departments of national Government. We remind President Uhuru that the fight against theft of public money, will always be a dead exercise as long as audit findings are not taken seriously and enforced. Why have the office of the Auditor General who we task to audit spending of public money, and when he makes incriminating findings, we ignore him and his office? Is government in conspiracy with thieves of public money?
- Thirdly, that the last parliament legislated to operationalize the new Constitution, is not true at all; in fact, we are appalled by the delayed operationalization of Article 204 of the Constitution relating to Equalization Fund. The inaction by parliament delayed the disbursement of equalization funds, denying residents of the marginalized counties access to the essential services that informed the necessity of Article 204. Parliament is engendering inequity in our Country.
- Fourth, Parliament has failed to condemn, as it should, the actions of fellow Parliamentarians who are advocating for violence in some regions of this country. Particular cases are those of Kapedo, Kainuk and Baragoi areas of Turkana and Samburu Counties respectively. Known Parliamentarians are publicly claiming those areas as a result of which violence is meted out to even the innocent including the killing of three students and a driver in the Kapedo area of Turkana East last Friday. If Parliament was worth its name, it would have by now summoned the Interior CS, the Education CS as well as Inspector General of the Police to explain why the persistent killings, and why insecurity is denying other Kenyans the right to education; and more particularly why known parliamentarians are at the centre of these conflicts? – we expect Parliament to question the following Parliamentarians on their role in those conflict areas: Baringo Senator, Gedion Moi, Tiaty MP, William Kamket, Samburu North MP, Alois Lentoimaga and others, as well as the role of our security forces on the ground. How can vehicle be sprayed with bullets outside a KDF camp? Why did our security forces refuse to respond to the call for rescue from occupants of that vehicle?
ON COUNTIES AND DIVISION OF REVENUE
We point out to President Uhuru that the growth percentages cited in point number 15 of his speech are grossly misleading. The Division of Revenue Bill (no.8) of 2018, whichthe President signed into law, was based on the wrong financial year of 2013/2014. We presented our memorandum to the senate committee on revenue allocation on the same, but we have noted that the Revenue Bill was passed without reference to public views and against the provisions of the constitution, which require that the most recent audited reports be used in determining the division of revenue to counties. The President swore to protect the Constitution and ought not to have signed into law the Revenue Bill that was in contravention of Article 229 of the Constitution. Basing division of revenue on old audited reports has denied counties an estimated KES 150 billion in the year 2018/19 alone. This is clearly a conspiracy both on the part of Parliament (by passing a bad law), and on the part of the President (by signing into law such a bad and unconstitutional law).
ON THE JUDICIARY
In the last one year, we have noted how the Executive has distinguished itself as being notorious for disregarding court orders. It is in the public domain that the Executive has very little regard for the Judiciary; in fact, members of the Executive including the President have even voiced disregard for the Judiciary publicly. This was also followed by their then counterparts in position (now in government). It is our opinion that the State of the Nation address should have been read together with a public apology to the Judiciary, for insults that both political coalitions (who are now in government) directed at the Judiciary after the Supreme Court ruling of 1st September 2017 as well as repeat poll of 26th October 2017; We hardly see any efforts being made to bridge the gap that currently exists between the two arms of Government. The gap and rift are widening just like the gap between the poor and the rich in our country today. We are also aware that many of the President’s foot soldiers threatened the Judiciary and specifically with the “we shall revisit” slur. We expect the President to take the moral high ground as the father of the nation and lead his lieutenants in apologizing for the verbal onslaught against the Judiciary that was reminiscent of the 2017 post-election period. The State of the Nation address provided that opportunity.
ON THEFT OF PUBLIC MONEY
While we agree with President Uhuru that Kenyans should report crimes they may come across, we strongly differ on use of that avenue as far as theft of public funds is concerned. Our party, the Thirdway Alliance Kenya has severally advised the executive to use Audit Reports as the first piece of evidence in prosecuting thieves of public money that the Auditor General lists every year; we have also advised repeatedly that the office of the DPP should use the Auditor General as their expert witness in prosecuting thieves of public money. Because the Executive has refused and failed to use the tools available to end this theft of public money, all talk about fighting corruption is just another joke. Looking elsewhere for solutions will only help ensure that corruption thrives unabated. We advise the President to look at the proposed solutions in Thirdway’s 14-point towards a National Conversation. As the President stated in his inaugural speech, he would not shy from using good ideas from his political competitors. Thirdway generously offers the President ideas and ways of ending theft of public money. Lastly, the President failed to speak to measures his government is undertaking to recover the stolen money, and how that money could be used to address the current ongoing strike by Teachers, and the long outstanding disquiet by our medics and nurses in all hospitals across the country.
ON CONSTITUTIONAL VALUES
While we agree with the President that teachers must explicitly teach children the value of honesty, we are of the opinion that it is the President, his cabinet and other elected leaders who must demonstrate that they do in deed live up to the values set out in Article 10 of our Constitution of Kenya. Our children do not learn in schools only, they also learn from outside classroom; they watch politicians on televisions declaring war, preaching how their tribes are superior than others; they read newspapers serializing cases of unpunished theft of public funds; they read about voter bribery; they see desperate religious leaders who run after politicians for Harambee money; they see religious leaders who do not condemn the evil in our politics. Our children saw the recent hooliganism meted out on Mr. Muriuki at Boulevard Hotel; they heard and know that over 300 people were killed during the last elections and to date nothing has been done about it; they know that over 1300 people were killed during electoral violence in 2007 and no one has ever been punished for that; they have had that 4 people (including three students on their way to school) were killed by Pokot bandits in Kapedo on Friday at 9a.m, and they are waiting to hear if the government of President Uhuru will be tracking down the known killers so that they can face justice in a court of law. We also now remind the government and the concerned authorities that nobody has the monopoly of violence. It’s just that some people choose to follow the law. But if the law and government fail to defend the people, they may be forced to resort to self-defence. That, too, is constitutional and lawful.
We also point out to President Uhuru that our children have heard that peoples’ businesses were razed down and robbed during the 2017 elections period, and no action has been taken against the people who organized the crimes; instead they have heard that President Uhuru shook hands with one of the ring leaders of that spirited economic sabotage; our children now see that the President happily associates with political protagonists and are ready to sweep under the carpet all the injustices meted out on the people of Kenya during the election and post-election periods last year. We cannot speak of constitutional values when those the President fraternizes with disrespect those very constitutional values in our Constitution.
ON THE COST OF LIVING
We surprisingly heard President Uhuru tell parliament that he wants to see a lower cost of living. However, it is the government of President Uhuru that has tabled the Tax Laws Amendment Bill 2018, which intends to move Unga, processed milk, agricultural pesticides and LPG from Zero rated to Exempt VAT status. Manufacturers of these goods will no longer recover VAT input tax and will have no option but to pass it on as a cost to consumers making the goods more expensive. We advise President Uhuru’s government to amend this Bill to shield the common mwananchi from price increases. We forwarded our memorandum on 30/04/2018 to Parliament urging parliament to reject the proposals in that Bill in order to cut down the cost of living. We challenge the Mr. President to demonstrate that what he told parliament was not a public relations exercise.
ON THE GDP GROWTH RATE
We congratulate the President and his government for having attained the meagre GDP growth rate of 4.9%. However, we are tired of GDP growth justification as a measure of growth; we expected the President to explain further on who benefits from the growth?; how many new jobs were created?: how many Kenyans were lifted above the poverty line?; what is the new per capita income and how does the growth impact on the lives of the poor. These are the glaringly and missing statistics in the President’s state of the nation address.
ON THE UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE
We take great exception with details of paragraph 50 of the President’s speech. The word affordable, cannot be used in the same sentence with universal health care; it is either universal healthcare or not. What is affordable? We proposed in our 14-point agenda towards national conversation that NHIF must become mandatory and must cover all medical expenses incurred in public hospitals. This is not a new concept since it is practiced elsewhere in the world. As part of the President’s big four agenda, we urge the President to have his government look at ways of having this policy implemented fully. We have further proposed that the government must pay NHIF for those below poverty line, this is the only way we can talk of universal health care. After all, we cannot talk of “affordable” universal healthcare when our own NHIF pays to Indian hospitals KES 10 billion per year; this is more than the money our level 4 & 5 hospitals, and our doctors and nurses have been asking for in their various CBAs in order to improve healthcare in Kenya.
Conspicuously, missing in the President speech relating to healthcare is the achievements of the government on the welfare of healthcare Workers. Universal healthcare will remain a pipe dream as long as the state is silent on training and the welfare of medical doctors, paramedics and other healthcare workers. Our message to President Uhuru is this: we are against “Affordable” health care. Instead, we demand Universal health care. Nothing less.
ON FOOD SECURITY
We are concerned that after 55 years of independence, our successive governments including the present one is still talking about food security. Food security is a choice and it is a derivative of good public management practice. Drought does not cause famine; below average management does. Many desert countries in the world never experience food shortage because they realized long time ago that food security is as important as security of a country; those countries realized long time ago that food security is realized through application of good agricultural practices and management. For example, Kenya imports oranges from Egypt, while we who are at the source of the Nile, cannot produce the adequate food using Lake Victoria basin waters. Today, we are unable to harvest water from torrential rains, yet we keep talking about food insecurity; we are not truthful on this important issue. We expected the President’s address to outline realistic measures going forward on how to end food insecurity in Kenya.
ON LOW COST HOUSING
While we acknowledge the government’s effort to facilitate the construction of low cost housing, we are disturbed that the Tax laws (Amendment) Bill 2018, which is before parliament, and that is sponsored by government under President Uhuru’s leadership, vests absolute powers on the Cabinet Secretary in the housing Ministry to determine what goods are to be exempt from VAT and which traders qualify for the same. We have so far expressed our disappointment to parliament via a memorandum that was submitted on 30th April 2018. The said proposal does not in any way address whether contractors who fail to construct the minimum 5,000 units will be required to pay VAT for the materials.
ON APOLOGIES AND HAND SHAKES
We appreciate that President Uhuru recognized the damage that came with dangerous tribal politics in paragraphs 97 to 102 of his address to the Country. In fact, we congratulate the President for echoing Thirdway Alliance Kenya’s call for public apology by political leaders who aggressively pursued dangerous and divisive politics during and after the campaign period of 2017. However, we are concerned that the president did not tell the public when he intends to parade the said leaders (now that he works with them all) before the public to apologize for the specific crimes committed by them. A general and conditional apology serves no purpose in reconciliation as the catalysts of dangerous politics will not have owned up their mistakes. In fact, we call on all leaders who promoted bad and divisive politics that led to the deaths of innocent Kenyans to show leadership and vacate the public offices they currently occupy, and to stop pursuing political leadership positions as an admission of guilt. For our country to heal, and even for the “bridges to be built”, leaders must stop hypocrisy.
The deaths of Kenyans killed in 2017 due to divisive politics must not just be wished away by mere apologies; we are therefore appalled by the President’s failure to give a clear road map on how the bereaved families will be compensated for the loss of their loved ones. Our further message to President Uhuru is this: before we all kiss and hug in a cosmetic effort of “building political bridges”, we demand that there be retribution and compensation for all the deaths, damage, and displacement of persons that took place in 2017. This will send a powerful message to anybody with intentions of inciting/funding/fuelling violence against others that we are not a lawless society. Then and only then can we be sure of a peaceful election period in future.
We point out to President Uhuru that the blanket apology serves no purpose. As the supreme head of our Country, the President need to show leadership by getting off the high horse he is on and apologise to individuals/institutions that his administration fought publicly. Then and only then will the President change our country’s trajectory towards a successful healing process. The handshake was and is not enough. It, in fact, reeks of a conspiracy between two people bent on changing this country’s Constitution for their own selfish gains. The handshake is not tenable and cannot be a substitute to the law of the Land.
ON PURPORTED RECONCILIATION
While we welcome reconciliation, we are still concerned that reconciliation is not as simple as a handshake. We call on President Uhuru and Mr. Raila Odinga to publicly apologize for the specific roles they and their political foot soldiers played in fueling dangerous politics in our country. On the one hand, we specifically call on Mr. Raila Odinga to apologize for running a hate campaign against a legitimately elected government; he must also stand down as the illegally declared “peoples’ president”, which action ignited unrest in the country resulting into deaths. This cannot be swept under the carpet now that we are talking about and encouraging reconciliation. We contend that reconciliation will be incomplete without prosecuting the politicians who incited the public into violence and other acrimony. Reconciling without specific public apologies to specific individuals, and prosecutions will encourage such actions in the future. We advise the President to work on solutions that will stand the test of time. On the same breath, we ask President Uhuru to apologize for the deaths of citizens in the hands of state security agents and other players; we remind the President that he is in charge of the security for all Kenyans and that when taking oath of office, he swore to protect and uphold the Constitution that guarantees right to life of every Kenyan.
While we agree with the President that Kenya belongs to all of us in equal measure, we are disturbed that ordinary citizens are taken through legal processes and punished for petty offences, while political leaders have immunity when they incite the public to violence. While we may use fancy words to claim that we are a young democracy, we wish to point out that democracy cannot thrive in an environment where political leaders believe that they have a right to lead. To cite an example from a developed democracy, one year ago Hilary Clinton, who is an age-mate of Mr. Raila Odinga won the majority votes in the US presidential election by about 3 million votes but lost the college votes to President Donald Trump, yet she accepted defeat and went on with life. Surely, the wisdom of a 70-year-old American should resonate with her age mates in Africa. Lastly, we warn that any move that may be intended to incorporate a person who boycotted elections into government will set a very bad precedent, where individuals who boycott and attempted to sabotage elections will see an opportunity of using violence and disturbance as a political bargaining tool.
As loyal patriots of our beloved country, and to affirm our commitment to helping the government of President Uhuru achieve lasting solutions in pursuit of true reconciliation, peace and harmony, we would be incorporating further proposals to our #PunguzaMizigo initiative to include additional constitutional amendments that will help Kenya to weed out the main drivers of dangerous tribal politics from public office. We seek the support of all Kenyans including that of President Uhuru in this regard in order that he may go down in history as the president who vanquished impunity and dangerous politics in Kenya. In fact, further proposals below speak to the idea of “building bridges” by President Uhuru and Mr. Raila Odinga, and once we all adopt these proposals, we shall have built permanent bridges in the one and only Country we all love, one and inclusive Kenya.
Our proposals to bring further constitutional amendments will create a Kenyan legacy worth being told to future generations of Kenya and beyond: in the spirit of building bridges, and in addition to the #PunguMizigo campaign, we propose as follows:
- That we change presidential term limit from current two terms of five years to one 7-year term limit after which the holder of office permanently retires from politics;
- That to enhance the qualifications of running for president, we propose to exclude anyone who served in the following executive positions before and after this amendment:
- Vice President
- Deputy President
- Prime Minister
- Deputy Prime Minister
- That we deem the individuals named in (ii) above to have retired on public pension and bar them from running for any other elective office and not to be appointed in any public office
The above amendments when effected, will give birth to a true and inclusive Kenya from one that is currently the preserve of few individuals who claim to represent their communities. This would be the best legacy President Kenyatta can leave behind for our country. We believe this will give credence to President Kenyatta and Mr. Odinga’s intended national reconciliation, and it will be seen as opening up the Nation’s top leadership to the other pool of 45 million Kenyans. Some politicians currently think that the Presidency is a relay team business only available to their tribal coalitions. If we truly care about one Kenya, let us encourage the Presidency of Kenya to go to those communities that have never had it before. That would be the true spirit of inclusion and ones.
Lastly, on 2022 elections, we expected the President to condemn and chastise those already on the campaign trail for 2022 even before they delivered services they promised Kenyans; it is hardly one year since the last elections; political wounds are still very raw; no healing yet for those affected, and politicians are already on the campaign trail mobilizing their tribes for 2022! This must stop.
For and on behalf of the Thirdway Alliance Kenya,