SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY HON. UHURU KENYATTA, C.G.H., PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA AND COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE FORCES DURING THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE 4TH ANNUAL DEVOLUTION CONFERENCE, KENYA WILDLIFE SERVICE TRAINING INSTITUTE, NAIVASHA, NAKURU COUNTY, 7THMARCH 2017
Governors, Members of Parliament, Members of the County Assembly Present,Distinguished Guests,Ladies and Gentlemen,I am delighted to join you today in this great County of Nakuru. I am especially pleased to join you in celebrating the progress of devolution, and in considering how we can do even better in time to come.But before we talk about all that, let me thank the people of Nakuru, as well as their county government, for welcoming us all so warmly, and for their hospitality in hosting this Conference.Let me also commend the Council of Governors. In rotating the conference venue across the counties,you have shown your dedication to the principles of devolution. Asanteni.Ladies and Gentlemen,Seven years ago, we chose to transform the way we governed ourselves. Then, as now, Kenyans wanted a few simple things. They wanted to be at the centre of Government. They wanted fair access to basic services. They wanted leaders who respected their needs and choices. And they wanted honest leaders,directly accountable to them. We Kenyans disagree about many things, but I dare say that none will deny that this is what we wanted from devolution.Four years ago, the Kenyan people handed me the privilege to implement this fundamental change. I am pleased to see that the institutions we set up to support the aspirations of Kenyans stand firm. Devolutionis here to stay.What remains is simple: we, and here I mean we leaders in particular, need constantly to ask ourselves if we have met the expectations of those who have placed so much faith in us. Are ordinary Kenyans at the heart of government?Do ordinary Kenyans have fair access to the basics? Are we honest?Are we accountable to those who sent us here? To determine the success of devolution, all we need to do is answer those questions.Fellow Kenyans,For my part, I am privileged to have overseen the establishment of devolution. I am proud that we — always working together with other parts of government, and lifted by the goodwill and participation of ordinary Kenyans right across the country — have been able to change so much so quickly. I want to thank both levels of Government for working so hard to make devolution a success. Let me also insist that without the commitment of ordinary Kenyans right across the country, none of us would have a success to our names. I am grateful for the work we have all done, and I am humbled by the energy and patriotism I have seen these last few years. Asanteni.The effort of all must be recognized. But each of us must also account for his part. So let me make myself perfectly clear: devolution ranks at the very top of my Administration’s priority list.That’s why we fully support it, knowing that it promises a future of shared prosperity for every Kenyan.Our deeds match our words. By the time the next budget is read, we will have transferred more than a trillion shillings to the 47 county governments — at least double the constitutional minimum of 15% of shareable revenue to the counties.The transition arrangements for our people, and the identification and transition of assets and liabilities,are close to complete. The facilitation of county governments has been effected through the National Capacity Building Framework for County Governments.And the critical oversight functions of the National Treasury, the Senate, the Controller of Budget, and the Auditor General have ensured that systems and persons are accountable and transparent. Some have been left unhappy by their recent findings of impropriety and financial mismanagement. In fact, these findings reflect the fact that the systems which track the spending of public money are in good working order. That is how we keep leaders honest and accountable. That is how we serve the Kenyans who sent us here. And that is how we make a success of devolution.We have also established intergovernmental mechanisms to support devolution, and through these, we have seen better consultation and closer cooperation between the national and county governments. It would be idle to pretend that all this has been smooth sailing: we have had our disagreements; we have had our differences. But that is life in a democracy.And, truth be told, working relations between my Government and the counties have been warm.I am especially pleased by the spirit of cooperation between the two tiers of Government in the face of the troubling drought which parts of the country have had to endure. The infrastructure laid on by many of the counties – boreholes, water pans, ambulances, and so on – has saved lives. On the part of national government, the substantial emergency funding provided through the Ministry of Water and the Department of Livestock, and our investment in the social safety net programme and medical infrastructure, have eased the burden of this disaster on our people.In this, as in many other instances, the national and county governments are working to save lives, and to bring development, growth, and jobs.Indeed, Kenyans across the country have benefited from our partnership in healthcare. Together, we have improved medical service delivery. Maternal deaths and infant mortality rates have fallen quickly, proof that the joint free maternity programme between the national and county governments works.The Medical Equipment Scheme, in which nearly every county has played a part, has given Kenyans access to life-saving screenings for cancer and other diseases. We will continue to work together,because the bottom line, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that when we work together, Kenyans do better.That is not to say, of course, that every challenge will fall away at once. One challenge that has persisted is the doctors’ union strike. We are all committed to a fair resolution to the dispute – fair to the Kenyans who pay for medical services; fair to the doctors; fair to other public servants.Doctors occupy a special place in our Republic,alongside other public servants, such as the military and the police, who save and protect Kenyan lives. Doctors have earned our respect. And I want also to acknowledge that they have legitimate concerns.But we also need clarity about the consequences of their strike: the better off still have access to a doctor’s care, while poorer Kenyans must do without. There is no fairness in that. I know that the doctors feel aggrieved. But it is also clear to me that doctors’s grievances will not be addressed by creating new grievances of their own. Quite simply:two wrongs don’t make a right.There is a better way to do this. Fairness and compassion are at the heart of the medical professions. But other Kenyans also have legitimate concerns. Fairness to you cannot come at the expense of fairness to other Kenyans.Yours is a calling. Your duty is to serve all; to protect and care for all. My Government wants you to have the very best conditions — and not just for you, but for your patients too. Yet our aim to bring world-class care to Kenya cannot be realized immediately. We remain a developing, not a wealthy, nation. Right now, it seems to me that the doctors and all those at the negotiating table should pay attention to our national circumstances. It seems to me that they should remember the higher duty to protect life. And it seems to me that it would be wise for them to be guided by patience and practicality.Having said that, I want to commend the Clinical Officers and Nurses who continue to turn up to work every day. Your service is appreciated by a grateful nation.Ladies and Gentlemen,I also want to point out a big change that is going on around us. It is having a big impact on the country, counties and households. The Last Mile Projectconnecting Kenyan households and businesses to electricity is changing our lives. Kenyans who had never had the benefit of switching on lights in their own homes, can now flip the switch. The electricity penetration has increased to nearly 60 percent now from about 27 percent in 2013.That means better results for children in our schools; it means our streets, our towns, and our homes are safer; and it means many small businesses can stay open longer. This is what transformation looks like. This is what building communities looks like.We have also managed to sharply reduce the blackouts that were once so common. More reliable access to electricity, for more Kenyans. This is benefiting county economies and development.I urge all Governors and County Governments to strongly support our efforts and to help your constituents take advantage of this vital programme.I also want to commend, very heartily, the good work that has been done by County Governments, the Governors and their Officials, as well as the Members of County Assemblies who have taken their work seriously. Together, you have delivered services needed by our people. On behalf of all Kenyans, I want to thank you for the good works that you have undertaken.That work has gone well because, by and large,people of goodwill have accepted a basic truth: both levels of Government are distinct but complementary. The Constitution has delineated functions for our two levels of Government, and has clearly outlined the powers and operations of each. National Government has been tasked with policy formulation and standard setting; service delivery, in a number of key areas, is the province of county governments.This division of roles is designed to achieve operational efficiency. We would serve Kenyans well if we respected that division of labour, and let the constitution remain our guide.Ladies and Gentlemen,Nothing truly worthwhile ever comes easy. Devolution is no exception: we have challenges with which to deal.Kenya is indivisible. Out of many peoples, of different regions, and religions, different tongues and tribes, we have forged a nation.And yet, time and again, we see ethnic polarisation and discrimination in some counties. There is not one county that is not multi-ethnic, and multi-religious. How can it be that some of us still refuse to embrace every Kenyan? After all, no single group has a monopoly on solutions or ideas or excellence.Look. The matter is particularly pressing as the elections draw nearer. It is our duty, as leaders, to remind every Kenyan that someone who does not share your mother tongue or your religion can ably represent your interests. It is our duty, as leaders, to bring Kenyans together,not to divide them. It is our duty to build our communities, and our nation, not to tear it apart.So, it is particularly unpleasant to see, as the elections approach, new cases of intimidation and even violence to shape local political dynamics. Every public servant, at the county and national level, has a special responsibility to root out this sort of conduct, wherever it may be found. I have pledged to do my utmost to ensure that Kenyans are protected from intimidation, incitement and violence. I think it is time for the governors to join me in quite explicitly committing to this campaign to protect Kenyans from those who would harm them.The coming General Elections will be robustly contested. It is for us all to act and speak, privately and publicly, in ways that honour the country. Don’t the words of the anthem we sing every day tell us that Kenya istahili heshima?Do your words and actions — especially in this year — bring honour to the Republic?Kenyans, and the world, are watching us. It is time for us to show that our leadership is equal to their expectations. It is time for Kenya’s leaders to truly honour the Republic.For myself, and the party I lead, we look forward to a free, fair and credible democratic process. We are ready. We call upon national and county officials across the country and all parties to work with IEBC in an open,transparent way that supports Kenyan democracy and does not undermine it.It is important to say so, because it is up to us, as leaders, to lead. We are the ones who are called upon to defend our democracy. Our democracy is precious. Show Kenyans that you are worthy to lead by protecting and honouring that democracy.Let me close with a tribute to a leader who honoured this Republic. I speak, of course, of the late Governor Nderitu Gachagua: a dedicated public servant, who served with distinction, and whom we mourn. May the good he did long outlive him.In truth, devolution is a great journey, whose end is the freedom and prosperity of the people of this Republic. We have begun that journey, but we are not at its end. I ask God’s blessings, and his guidance, for all of us who have been chosen to lead our people on the journey. May He light our way. May He give us the courage always to keep going, however rocky the path.God bless you. God bless Kenya.