State House, Nairobi
1 October 2017
Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to see so many of you here. Let me begin by paying tribute to the strength of Kenyans, and of our institutions. The last few weeks have seen a few twists and turns, but we have remained on course: the independence of our institutions has been affirmed, and our democracy has been strengthened.
That resilience is no accident: it’s a consequence of the optimism and strength of character that Kenyans have shown time and again. But it is also the fruit of a certainty that comes from strong institutions built patiently over many years. The strength of these institutions lies in their independence and their fidelity to the law. Their independence of partisan control means they can do their jobs to the best of their abilities, while remaining faithful to the law of the land. Whichever side we’re on, the independence of our institutions entails that we won’t always get our way, but it also gives Kenyans certainty that our country is governed by law, and reassures our foreign friends that their investments, and their trust in us, are safe.
Recently, however, we’ve seen more than odd behavior. Sections of the opposition political class are acting as though they, not our independent institutions, make and interpret the rules. The rest of us have to conform our actions to the rules; but for them? It is the rules that have to conform to their actions. That’s why we’re seeing blatant attempts to force independent bodies to change their advice and their operations by intimidation, crude threats, and actual violence.
Now, Kenyans work hard, and they’ve already seen their work disrupted, and their businesses held back — all because of wholly unacceptable and unnecessary provocation. Ordinary Kenyans have borne the brunt of it. Ordinary Kenyans are taking home less money because businesses, worried by the rhetoric of some of our leaders, have cut back. The uncertainty affects every sector: from your Mama Mboga to the most extensive retail chains in Kenya; from banks slowing down business lending, in the face of the uncertainty caused by the agitation, to the stock market, which has seen some serious volatility. Indeed, the uncertainty has even caused delay in substantial, growth-building foreign investment.
But even apart from these very troubling developments, there’s a point of principle here: we have no business giving in to those who think that the way to change rules in a democracy is to use force against civilians and institutions. As government, we won’t put up with systematic attempts to coerce institutions; and we certainly won’t put up with those who regard the lives and livelihoods of innocent Kenyans as nothing more than collateral damage. It’s the President’s duty to remind the ordinary Kenyan – the Kenyan who worries what all this uncertainty might mean for their job, for their income, for their children, for their small biashara – that this government will keep you and your family safe.
Equally, this administration continues with the business of running the country. As I mentioned a few days ago, the funds for our school children have already been factored for in the supplementary budget awaiting parliament’s approval, and we’re on course to begin free secondary education in January 2018. The Inua Jamii programme funds have also been enhanced, and the extension of our free maternity scheme remains on track.
Ladies and gentlemen, democracy is about pursuing our interests through the methods and institutions we gave ourselves in the Constitution. Are threats, intimidation, and actual violence what democracy is about? Not at all. That’s not democracy, because it disrespects those of differing views, because it threatens the innocents caught in between partisan politics, and because it threatens the certainty on which any democracy depends. Trust the President on this: It is he who bears the constitutional responsibility of keeping this country safe and will not let our democracy be weakened by those who prefer threats and violence to the hard work of persuasion.
It is easy to be parochial about this, and to mumble away about democracy being expensive. We already paid that price, which is why we are where we are now. At this point in time, certainty is a key commodity. We must treasure it. We have done it before. We can do it now.
Only on Thursday last week, Cabinet was informed that UNAIDS had now cancelled Kenya’s hosting of a Global Prevention Coalition Meeting scheduled for Nairobi October 10-11, informed by the perception of uncertainty fuelled by those who wish to see anarchy rein.
The meeting would have brought thousands of experts to our country to discuss strengthening and sustaining leadership and commitment to prevention of HIV and AIDS. That would have meant booming business for transport and logistics operations, restaurants, interpreters, and so on. Lost opportunities.
As a country we must return to certainty. We may not always agree with the institutions mandated to perform certain functions, but we must respect their decisions.
Tribute to Mariam El-Maawy
Lend me end with a tribute to Madam Mariam El-Maawy, the fallen Principal Secretary for Public Works who was buried yesterday. We mourn with her family. We stand with and by her family. She was a real gem in this administration and we will miss her deeply.
QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION:
On Police brutality, how police handled the demonstrators during the NASA demonstrations and also the students at the Nairobi university, when again the police went hostile, went to the classrooms and now some videos circulating on social media. What do you say about that?
And now about the issue of food shortage? We have people in Ganze, we have people even in Kajiado whereby they are selling their livestock at throwaway prices because of drought.
Ya mwisho, nitauliza kwa Kiswahili kuhusu hizi sheria. Mswaada wa sheria za uchaguzi ambazo zimewasilishwa na wabunge wa Jubilee, wengi wamesema ya kwamba ni sheria zinaturudisha enzi za kikoloni. Sijuia maoni yako ni nini?
Let me start with the police brutality. As you know, Police IPOA has already launched investigations and the IG of police is also investigating the matter.
No one wants to see any violence brought to any one, leave alone in a university campus. But the students also have to ensure that rogues that are robbing people along the streets and highways don’t end up in university hostels. University hostels must not be the refugee for thugs roaming the streets in the name of demonstrations. However, this is the matter I have just said is being investigated by IPOA and also is being investigated by the IG. And obviously, if any one is found culpable then they will be dealt with according to the police codes, terms of service.
In the second matter of drought, the PS for agriculture Mr. Lesiyampe was only saying last week that this is the matter the ministry has at hand. As you know, we have a livestock off-take programme for areas that continue to be affected by drought and the Ministry has also been given, in the supplementary budget, Kshs 3 billion to deal with drought. In terms of how they plan to do that, the Ministry has already said that the subsidy programme will end in October in terms of imports but they are going to start buying maize that is coming on stream from our key producing areas. That should be able to alleviate some of the immediate hustles related to the drought situation.
On the amendments, let me say them in English first, might help my head translate them faster.
Obviously if you are mentioning wengi, sijui hao wengi umetoa wapi, kwa sababu kwani umefanya research wapi, survey wapi ili useme wengi wa watu wanahofia sheria hizo zitakuwa sheria ambazo zinaturudisha nyuma. Kama hujafanya hiyo research tafadhali tuheshimiane, hakuna kitu cha wengi hapo. Kuna wachache ambao wamesema hivyo mimi pia nimewasikia lakini hakuna ukweli wowote kwa jambo hilo.
What I want to say is this, the Supreme Court clearly said that Parliament needed to do something about clarifying the laws. Parliament needed to clarify the laws. It didn’t say politicians at political rallies needed to clarify the laws. It didn’t say we, journalists, needed to seat at a pub and clarify the laws. It didn’t say high schools students should debate and clarify the laws. The Supreme Court said Parliament needs to clarify the laws. Parliament is now clarifying the laws and we cannot pretend that the Supreme Court didn’t say these things, it did and as the Deputy President was saying in Kakamega yesterday and his sound bite was good so I can repeat it here. He asked these leaders in Kakamega, if a chicken thief can be jailed for that crime, you are jailed for stealing chicken, why shouldn’t you be jailed as a returning officer for refusing to sign the form or omitting to sign the form or forgetting to sign the form, in which you then consciously, because you must that it has the consequence, you negate the will of the people. People have voted, you have not signed the forms, you have pretty much negated their vote. I think you have got to look at that and think, a presiding officer who doesn’t sign, a returning officer who doesn’t sign, they need to be punished for that it is a crime, it is a crime against all us Kenyans.
Secondly, if you have a rule that says only the chairman can declare and well for some reasons the chairman is not available so who should declare? Those are the things that the Supreme Court asked for, and I think these amendments clarify. So, if there is the vice chair and the chair is not available the vice chair takes that role. So, if you tell me these things return us to the dark ages, maybe those dark ages some of us were never in them so we wouldn’t know what dark ages mean. But I can assure you that I have been around as a journalist like yourself since the 1990’s. We have made a lot of progress and I don’t think that we have the potential, just the mere potential, of returning to the dark ages no! What the Supreme Court asked for is clarity. What Parliament is going to give the Supreme Court is clarity so that never again in our country can an election, leave alone that of the president, be nullified without checking actually what was the will of the Kenyan people.
You have already mentioned the situation in the country is already hurting business. Tomorrow is day one of the planned demonstrations by the opposition. I would want to know what steps or measures has the government taken to ensure that normal operations, normal business and operations are not interrupted by tomorrow’s demonstrations and what assurance do you give to members of the public?
We are telling Kenyans to turn up in large numbers to continue with their business as normal. That their businesses will be protected, that security will be in full force to ensure that people and their property are not infringed upon, and that to the extent that the demonstrations are peaceful, they are allowed under our Constitution, they can sing, they can match, they can walk, they cannot throw stones, they cannot beat up people, they cannot lynch at anyone. Those things that are not allowable within the Constitution, they cannot do. But we are telling Kenyans that demonstrations will not fix the problem. The Supreme Court clearly said, Parliament. Parliament is working on what it needs to do. Now also let me just mention on this, there is a group of people in this country who think that whenever there is a national issue that needs to be sorted it must be removed from Parliament. And I ask them why did we elect a Parliament? Why do we vote for these institutions? Why do we give them budget. If any time we have to make a decision , a decision that can be decided by the existing institutions, why do we move outside the institutions. Moving outside institutions that are established to do this work, you will know, is no more demagogue, so demagogues will do this type of things because you thrive outside the established space, you thrive in anarchy. But this country has institutions, so demagogues really have to find their place because institutions in this country will be allowed to run.