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January 17, 2019

Read: President Uhuru Kenyatta's speech during 53rd Jamhuri Day celebrations

President Uhuru Kenyatta. /PSCU
President Uhuru Kenyatta. /PSCU

Fellow Kenyans,

My Brother President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe of Togo, who has graciously joined us for our celebrations today,

Deputy Prime Minister of Jordan,

Distinguished Guests,

Let me begin by asking you all to stand, and to observe a moment of silence for those men, women and children who lost their lives in Naivasha.

Thank you. It is indeed appropriate to begin this day of commemoration with a word of encouragement and condolences to all those immediate family members and their relatives that are touched by this tragedy. I assure you we are all together with you at this trying moment.

Fellow Kenyans,

Fifty-three years ago today, for the very first time our flag flew over a free Nation called Kenya. We were finally free — free to rule ourselves; free to direct our destiny; and free to meet other nations as equals.

We are the children of the brave men and women who won our freedom, men like Mr Ali Mohammed, popularly known as Mzee Kabati, of the Isahakia community, who I met a few days ago.

That meeting reminded me of the unity our fathers believed in, and enjoyed, unity without which they would not have won the independence war.

We are heirs of these men and women, who forged many tribes into a single Nation; who vowed that brother would never again turn against brother; and who swore that Kenyans would be free and equal under law.

That agreement — our nationalist covenant, is the foundation of our nationhood, and the inspiration for our continued struggle against poverty, disease, and ignorance.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our duty today is to honour the heroism of those who won our liberty, and to consider the journey we have travelled as a free people. We should ask ourselves this question: if, today, our fathers returned and asked what we have made of our inheritance, would we give them a satisfying answer?

Yes, we have. We have built on their legacy. Just look around you.

Our fathers went to war to ensure we are a society free of ignorance. Today, Kenya’s education system is ranked the best in Africa, and 30th in the World – and we are still improving. Today, nine in ten of our children have access to a place in a public primary school; recall that fifty years ago, only 35% of our sons and daughters had that opportunity.

And that is not all. In expanding the public primary school network, previous Administrations stayed true to the Vision of the founding fathers. My Administration has kept faith with that vision by connecting every primary school in the republic to electricity; in abolishing exam fees for our students; and in gradually increasing access to free secondary education.

And, as we promised, we are rolling out the digital learning project: eighty thousand teachers have been trained, and the digital content has been finalised.

By next year, every child from Standard 1 to Standard 3 will have access to the digital devices, bringing digital learning to every corner of this Republic. Our children will take their place alongside those from the richest nations, ready to compete with them.

Digital learning may be new, but our pursuit for this new modern way of learning is true to the principles for which our fathers fought. They knew that knowledge was the key to freedom and prosperity.

That is why they resisted the limiting colonial vision of education. And, indeed, that is why they fought for the right to build their own schools.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 When our fathers won our freedom, they knew that poverty was our arch enemy. And so they set out to end it; to make certain that every Kenyan could make a decent living.

They believed in a Kenya that rewarded hard work, productivity and innovation. But they also knew that we had to build a caring nation that protected its most vulnerable citizens.

It has been my overriding commitment to make my Administration’s contribution to this cause. That is why we established a cash-transfer programme — known as Inua Jamii — that now reaches more than 700,000 elderly and disabled Kenyans. Equally, the Presidential Bursary Scheme for orphans and vulnerable children has changed the lives of more than 49,000 such children.

Again, it was this Administration that set aside 30 percent of public procurement for women, youth and persons living with disabilities; and it is this Administration, which is enforcing that policy.

 As we seek to empower our youth, I will not shy away from making reference to the NYS. Despite the challenges that our National Youth Service Programme has faced, it has delivered some very clear and tangible successes.

For instance, since 2013 the programme has employed over 91,334 cohorts spread over 21 constituencies across the country. The programme has expended Ksh 5.4 Bn of which Ksh 3.4 Bn has been paid out as direct wages to those recruited while the balance has gone towards savings. As part of the Cohort programme, we have given special emphasis to our young women, who through the Huduma Kitchen have received Ksh. 365 million shillings in financial support.

Further, through the support of my Government, these youth have so far organized themselves in to 300 SACCOS and with our support they have been able to mobilize Ksh 1.4 billion in savings. I would like to urge Kenyans to draw a clear distinction between the positive impact of the NYS Programme and the deplorable mismanagement of the past orchestrated by individuals who were determined to railroad its success. Please have comfort that all those involved in pilfering resources earmarked for our youth will be held to account.

Fellow Kenyans,

Our fathers had a special attachment to the land of this Nation. They knew that prosperity and freedom for their children depended on the land. That is why they fought for it, that is why they tended it with care, and that is why they charged us not to let even an inch of it be lost.

Today, we can be proud of our management of that inheritance — we can be proud of our support for farmers, our promotion of agriculture, and of the deepening of our agricultural development since independence.

Indeed, in just the three years since 2013, we have distributed more than half a million tons of subsidised fertiliser to our farmers, cutting prices, and improving productivity. Two more fertilizer-blending plants have been established with an annual capacity of 300,000 tons.

Of course, we remember that tea and coffee, sugar and other crops matter deeply to Kenyans. Many of us were educated by proceeds from farming. But let us be clear: we shall have to do far more to regain the productivity that our fathers attained. That restoration begins now.

My Administration is already applying a Ksh. 2.4 billion debt waiver for coffee farmers. Similar waivers have been extended to farmers of other crops, such as sugar. These waivers will be extended equitably.

Most our people make their living in agriculture. We must therefore refocus on returning to the levels of productivity our predecessors had achieved and going far beyond them. It is this that will raise incomes across the country, and this is a goal to which my Administration is fully committed.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our Nation is proud of its young people. Their energy and innovation are this nation’s greatest gifts. We remember that the founding generation was made up of young men and women.

Indeed, their honesty, seriousness, courage, and patriotism should be standards to be emulated by our sons and daughters.

But in truth, that our young people have not reached the heights our founders attained is not their fault. Too often, we see leaders who exploit their energy and eagerness to reduce them to poverty, and to drive them to violence.

I must remind Kenya’s young people of the words of the Good Book: let no man despise your youth. Let no one make a fool of you. Let no one steal these years from you. Do not be led astray by politicians whose careers are built on division and manipulation.

For my part, my Administration has set out its vision for the youth of this Nation. Kenya belongs to its young people. You will determine our destiny. It is our responsibility to prepare you for that day, and to give you every opportunity to become the new heroes of this Nation.

The Kenya of the future is an industrialised country which does not just consume the products of other nations, but rather makes its own, and sells them to markets near and far. It is our young people who will be the driver of this transformation.

That is why our investments in education are so important. If we raise the productivity, skill and entrepreneurial ambition in our youth, we will have given them what they need to transform our Nation, and the continent.

Our forefathers did their part; it is up to us to do ours. And let me repeat this point. That is why we have ensured every public primary school in the Republic has electricity.

That is why we have worked so hard to reform our education system, and to preserve the integrity of public examinations.

That is why we have improved the quality of free primary education. Soon every child will have their own set of study materials. And it is why we have invested so much in the technical education that is an important foundation for industrialization.

The objective of all these efforts is to create a sufficient number of jobs for the young people we have educated.

This is the time to do so. The opportunities are here. That’s why we see new plants in Kenya – for example, the first Volkswagen made in Kenya will roll off the assembly line later this month. Dozens of global companies have recognized this opportunity and are setting up their regional and continental headquarters in Kenya.

While we appreciate foreign investment, we must do our part to drive production in Kenya. That is why my Administration has urged Kenyans to buy Kenyan products. We have also established policies to requiring government ministries and agencies to buy Kenyan products as first priority.

We remain on course to industrialize. Plants that had once lain dormant have been refurbished. For example, the first phase of the revival of Panpaper is due for commissioning. And by the time we meet again to celebrate Jamhuri, the revival of Rivatex will be complete.

In the new world order, we must strive to deepen economic integration of our region and the continent. Our growth will be accelerated by that of our neighbors and the same applies to them. If Tanzania prospers, we prosper. If Uganda prospers, we prosper. We must have the infrastructure and policies to make this happen.

We need to invest in railways, the roads, and the airways. That is why my Administration has spent so much time and effort building the Northern Corridor among other initiatives.

These are the links that will drive our prosperity. They will make us the centre of a rising Africa and produce the jobs and prosperity our young people need.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our fathers struggled for freedom because they wanted to determine their own destiny. That is what it means to be sovereign. They knew that free choices are not always the right choices but they demanded the right to choose for themselves.

That spirit of free choice still lives. One of the monumental choices we have made as a people is to devolve the way we govern ourselves to ensure that better service delivery. My Administration is profoundly committed to this cause of including every Kenyan in decision-making.

 The transition to devolution has been a success. We embraced all aspects of devolution with a speed and commitment that has not been matched by any other country that has adopted devolution.

The numbers demonstrate this progress. Over a trillion Kenya shillings has been transferred to the counties, both directly and in the form of conditional grants. Essential functions, once delivered by national government, have been devolved. Additional funds under the Equalization Fund have been set aside and sent to parts of the country previously disadvantaged.

Most importantly, the citizens of this country have been empowered to make decisions that have improved their lives.

Our citizens now have the opportunity to engage their governors and county assemblies in shaping the policies and allocation of resources that will be of most benefit to them. That is what sovereignty allows us to enjoy as a free people.

However, freedom does not mean you will not experience challenges. These are the early days of devolution. There are bound to be difficulties in implementation but the focus should be on overcoming them so that we can realize the full potential of our choice.

Our job as parents of devolution is to nurture it: to criticize bad habits; to encourage good ones; and to keep faith that one day, this child will mature. I will always defend the principle of devolution because I believe, better managed, it is the surest way of achieving our desire for an equitable society. I ask you all to stand with me.

Fellow Kenyans,

Our choices are the basis of how we will steer our country to its destiny as a sovereign state. Our founders fought bravely to have the right to make choices free of external interference.

Today, the World is full of wars driven by the desire of some to exploit the resources of independent nations.

In our pursuit of a more stable and just order, we are champions of global institutions grounded in fairness and respect for national sovereignty. The Kenyan cases at the International Criminal Court have ended but the experience has given us cause to observe that this institution has become a tool of global power politics and not the justice it was built to dispense.

We are not the world’s richest or most powerful nation, but we are entitled to an equal share of respect for our nationhood, our sovereignty, and our laws. Our experience at the ICC demonstrated a glaring lack of impartiality in this institution. We have started to see many more nations openly recognizing that the ICC is not impartial. Some have withdrawn. Others have considered that step. Twice, our Parliament has passed motions to withdraw.

We have sought the changes that will align the ICC to respect for national sovereignty. Those changes have not been forthcoming. We will therefore need to give serious thought to our membership.

The ICC is only one instrument in seeking to shape the choices of free people.

Fellow Kenyans,

In the United States, following the last election, much has been said about potential foreign interference with the electoral process. We are also going into elections next year.

There is already money coming into Kenya from abroad in the guise of supporting good governance or civic education. However, its true intention is to influence our electoral choices.

I want to caution those members of the International Community taking these actions that the Kenyan people do not look kindly on such actions. I urge all Kenyans to reject such interference. This is our country, and no one should ever try and control our choices for their selfish interests.

Fellow Kenyans,

Our fathers and mothers faced an empire that could import soldiers by the thousands, and guns by the ton. And yet, because our fathers and mothers were united, not even the might of this empire could keep them in bondage. Have we maintained that vital unity? Have we been each other’s keepers? Have we shared what we have with those who have less?

We know the answers to those questions. Where our founders forged a new Nation out of many peoples, we, their children, have retreated into tribalism. Where our founders debated the politics of the day in sobriety, we have resorted to name-calling, to slander, to blatant untruth. Let me emphasize truth is the best guarantee of freedom and democracy.

Too many of us have forgotten the power of our unity. Even in the darkness of colonial slavery, our fathers and mothers were one.

Patriots like Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga; Tom Mboya and Makhan Singh; Masinde Muliro and Paul Ngei; Bildad Kaggia and Achieng’ Oneko set aside their differences, and joined hands to overthrow the colonial order. In their unity, they were indomitable; in our disunity, we are defense-less.

I stress their achievement: this was Kenya’s first age of heroes, and we who come after them should always remember what a precious gift they left us.

How, then, dare we soil that achievement by tearing apart what they so painfully united? The founding generation would disown whoever makes a Kenyan feel unworthy because of his ethnicity or faith. The founding generation would remind us that whoever steals from the common purse is not just a thief, but an enemy of our unity.

And, truly, anyone who lets political competition tip into hatred of another Kenyan is utterly unworthy of their sacrifice.

The founders of this nation taught us that a Kenyan is anyone devoted to this country. Let us never forget their lessons.

Fellow Kenyans,

Our fathers were one. We too are one. We are one family.

We know that no family ever sees things all exactly the same way. But even when we disagree at home, we don’t burn the house down. Fellow Kenyans that is the story of next year.

We will disagree robustly because we are a democracy. But that disagreement will have limits. We will not fight.

We will either accept the results, or challenge them following the legal means laid down for that purpose. Those who win will use their offices to serve in humility.

Let me be perfectly clear here. I believe I have done what Kenyans asked me to do when they gave me the mandate to lead. I believe I have earned their support. I believe that next year, they will give me a second and final term in an open and transparent election. But the choice is theirs. They have the final say. Not divisive politicians, or external powers. Our choice is sovereign, our nation is ours to shape and build.

 That is what unity is all about. I do not have to remind you what disunity looks like. We know all too well what happened the last time we failed to treat each other as one family. So I will close by asking every Kenyan one single thing: in 2017, I ask you to be your brother’s keeper.

I cannot close without stressing the urgency for Kenyans to unite as this is the basis for defeating poverty. The unity we seek is found when every Kenyan is free and equal, when the dignity every Kenyan is protected.

Fellow Kenyans,

None of us can do this alone. We will either do it together, or not at all. Come, and let us be our brother’s keeper. Pamoja tutashinda.

I urge every citizen of this nation to make a bold determination that we are going to stick together. That we are going to work together.

Thank you. God Bless you.


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