[Speech] Uhuru's top concerns as Kenyans mark 54th Jamhuri Day

President Uhuru Kenyatta at the Kasarani Stadium to mark the 54th Jamhuri Day celebrations, December 12, 2017. /PSCU
President Uhuru Kenyatta at the Kasarani Stadium to mark the 54th Jamhuri Day celebrations, December 12, 2017. /PSCU

Distinguished Guests,

Fellow Kenyans,

Today we commemorate our 54th Birthday as an independent nation. On this day, 54 years ago, the Union Jack came down and the Kenyan flag went up. As a symbol of our nationhood, it was designed to fix our eyes and minds on, and to remember always, three things.

First, and foremost, is that our independence was bought at a great price. The Founding Fathers of this nation gave their lives for our liberty. The red in our flag is a reminder of the price paid by the veterans of our independence struggle.

Second, the flag is a symbol of our identity as Africans. The Founding Fathers, such as the Kapenguria Six – Achieng’ Oneko, Bildad Kaggia, Kung’u Karumba, Fred Kubai, Paul Ngei and Jomo Kenyatta – were proud Africans.

The black in our flag celebrates our African identity.

Third, when the Founding Fathers designed our flag, they wrote our future on it. The green symbolizes the natural wealth we have been given by God, and white the peace they won for us. Ours is to turn them into a shared prosperity.

We thank our Founding Fathers and pledge to protect the heritage and the liberty for which they sacrificed so dearly; more importantly, we commit to work hard, together and in unity, to build a prosperous and peaceful nation.

Fellow Kenyans,

Unity is paramount to the realization of a peaceful and prosperous nation. Every Kenyan must understand its value and how our individual choices, particularly in the politics we support, play into building or destroying it.

The unity of our nation is the shield against the dangers that have shattered other countries; it protects us against any enemy by frustrating attempts to divide and, therefore, weaken us.

Unity allows us to forge forward, together, in building families, communities, counties, and a nation that knows what it wants and where it is going.

Every day, we see evidence of how much stronger and well-off united families are. It is, indeed, the same with a nation.

Families that are united may disagree on some matters, but they are always guided by the wellbeing of the family, and know that disagreement must never lead to discord.

Let us bring this understanding to all our citizens so that in our words and in our actions, we reject the politics of divisiveness and confrontation.

Fellow Kenyans,

Today we also celebrate a re-birth of the nation; a shift from the old to the new.

Today, we celebrate what our founding fathers imagined and created, but we also celebrate the generational transition from their generation to ours.

When our Founding Fathers constituted Kenya, they did it with fresh wounds from the independence war. They had conquered the enemy, but the daunting task of uniting our communities into one nation remained.

That was why they taught us to celebrate our diversity and to preserve our traditions. But they cautioned us not to poison the minds of our young people with ethnic disharmony.

As your 4th President, I will not tire of reminding you that we will have a 5th, and even a 10th President. But we will not have a second, third or fourth Kenya. Preserving Kenya is preserving yourself because Kenya is you, and you are Kenya.

Fellow Kenyans,

I am proud to be a Kenyan, to belong to a nation that has, within a few short decades, shown the world the excellence of its people, its love of democracy and liberty, and its ambition to be a force for good in our region and the world.

I call on all Kenyans to join me in proclaiming pride in our beloved country. Celebrate being part of a generation that will be remembered fondly by those yet to be born, for the achievements you will add to those of our forefathers.

As your President, I also pledge to you today, to continue to work to bring harmony between communities, to deepen our unity, and to foster national cohesion.

I want you, in this spirit, to turn to the person sitting or standing next to you. Greet them and say how proud you are, to be Kenyan. Tell them that you are their keeper because, to be Kenyan, at its core is about loving your neighbour.

My friends, our Founding Fathers taught us one more thing: that “…The person who plants is not always the one who harvests”. They toiled to plant this nation, though they knew that it was their children who would harvest the fruit of their labour.

If my generation has reaped that harvest, we have the responsibility of protecting our inheritance, and renewing it periodically, so that our children, and our children’s children, can harvest the fruit of our labour.

Fellow Kenyans,

There is a different thinking that has been evolving, a thinking that offends the principles the founding fathers laid down for us.

This thinking promotes the belief that we strengthen the weak by weakening the strong; it wants us to believe that a Kenyan can climb the ladder of prosperity only if he brings down a fellow Kenyan.

This thinking has cost us lives and property, in these last few months. I condole with those who lost their loved ones and property in the recent disturbances.

Fellow Kenyans,

For a long time now, many in our political arena have believed that politics matters more than economic development. We have drawn Kenyans into our squabbles. For fifty years, we have squabbled over politics for politics’ sake, and squandered economic opportunities that would have made a difference in the lives of our people.

My Friends, there is abundant evidence that focusing on economic development transforms nations.

Over the fifty years, we have seen countries that focused on development, and nothing but development, leap from poverty to prosperity.

Singapore, a city State, is a shining example. It focused on using politics to build its economy, and was so ambitious and disciplined that it became a world leader in multiple sectors.

Fellow Kenyans,

As Africans we should not accept poverty as our fate. It is merely the outcome of the wrong solutions and priorities by leaders and their followers. For proof of this, you only need to take a look at the countries that have focused on politics for its own sake, and they abound on our continent.

Not one has been able to break out into real and sustained prosperity for its people. And many have even been destroyed through war and conflict.

It is time to reject this false notion of politics for politics’ sake. Our founding fathers knew that we would never be totally free unless we were also prosperous.

Fellow Kenyans,

I have seen the future, and it is at hand. The pursuit of politics for politics’ sake is the past; the pursuit of political leadership for economic liberation is the future. And it up to us, as Kenyans, to deliver it.

The future is now. It is about a healthy nation, built on equal opportunity for all, dignity for all, and the pursuit of material prosperity for all.

Fellow Kenyans,

As I have stated before, as President of all Kenyans, I am willing and commit to engage all Kenyans, and all Kenyan leaders, including my worthy competitors, irrespective or their religious or ethnic affiliation, in fashioning this paradigm shift.

During my inauguration address on the 28th of November, I mentioned the more than 700 campaign rallies I attended across the entire country. During these rallies, you and I had a lengthy and productive national conversation.

In our interactions, four things emerged as the major concerns that deserved our focus. You told me that a jobless Kenyan is a desperate Kenyan; you told me that a hungry Kenyan is a negative Kenyan; you told me that a sick Kenyan is a weak Kenyan; and you told me that a homeless Kenyan is a Kenyan without hope.

You, the Kenyan people, spoke clearly. We want dignity; we want to put enough food on our tables; and we want a lower cost of living. I listened.

On reflection, I came up with four responses to your concerns. I call them the Big Four: food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and affordable healthcare for all. During the next 5 years, I will dedicate the energy, time and resources of my Administration to the Big Four.

The Big Four will create jobs, which will enable our people to meet their basic needs. Jobs will transform the lives of our people from that of hardship and want, to new lives of greater comfort and wellbeing. And that is the future I have seen.

In the first pillar of the Big Four, we will create jobs by expanding our manufacturing sector. Manufacturing is about believing that we, as Kenyans, can be competitive and ambitious enough, to make products that are as good as any other in the world. Lazima Tujiamini.

The selfishness and corruption of some amongst us have allowed counterfeiters and cartels to flourish at the expense of local manufacturers. As result some companies have gravely suffered. It’s time to say that enough is enough: We must face and defeat these enemies. To conquer these enemies and boost manufacturing requires we keep a common vision, and remain focused; and equally critical, that our workers must remain in harmony with our employers.

Let me emphasize that political stability and harmonious labour relations are the bedrock on which we will achieve a robust manufacturing sector.

In boosting the manufacturing sector, my Administration will focus on 4 sub-sectors; the Blue Economy, Agro-Processing, Leather and Textiles.

I will start with the Blue Economy. We have over 400 kilometres of rich coastline, and a share of the second-largest freshwater lake in the world.

It is shameful that we exploit only a small fraction of these God-given resources. Our coastal and marine ecosystems, if properly exploited, would create tens of thousands of jobs for our people: Instead, we have allowed others to take our resources, build their economies and create jobs for their people, at our expense.

Today, foreign trawlers enter our waters and return to their countries filled with our fish. This must end.

I direct the Ministries of Defence and Agriculture to immediately intercept all illegal fishing vessels, and to suspend the fishing licenses of all international trawlers operating in Kenya’s territorial waters, until they comply with our requirement for local input.

These boats must land their catches in Kenya. The work of cleaning and packaging fish for export must be done in Kenya, by Kenyans.

We also want to significantly expand fishing. Instead of the current 2,500 metric tonnes of fish we process annually, our intention is to process 18,000 metric tonnes and grow the Blue Economy sevenfold. This means that young people from Migingo to Mbita, from Kiunga to Vanga, and from Faza to Chale, will find jobs and reliable incomes as fishermen, as fishmongers, as processors, as wholesalers and retailers. We will also expand our shipping industry in order to maximize on our maritime opportunities.

Let me turn to leather. Every year, Kenyans buy more than 30 million pairs of shoes. As the holder of the third-largest cattle herd in Africa, Kenya has enough leather to make all these shoes. Yet we make only a tiny fraction of them. We must change this and make leather products locally. This way, we will transform the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of families in our pastoralist communities.

We will ensure that all hides and skins are fully processed locally, to support our leather industry. In this spirit, I direct that all boots, leather products and textiles for our disciplined forces be procured from local manufacturers, with effect from financial year 2018/19. However, a word of caution: our disciplined forces are among the best in the world; they deserve first-class goods and services. I expect our local manufacturers to meet that high standard.

Fellow Kenyans,

On textiles, the American market through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is open but we have not taken full advantage. We must now strive to make the most of this market.

Today, we realize only a fraction of potential value from the clothes we export to the US. If the cotton for the fabric were grown and woven locally, we would raise revenues from the current 30 billion shillings to 200 billion shillings.

Under the Big Four plan, we will support farmers to plant cotton, which we guarantee to buy. We have revived Rivatex, our premier textile manufacturer; and we will now give incentives to investors to build more modern ginneries and textile manufacturing plants.

On agro-processing, my Administration will support value addition for our agricultural produce. Kenyans need to know that at present 70% of the value of our export produce goes to processors abroad. When Kanyenyaini Tea Factory produces tea, it is packed, auctioned and exported.

The dealer who brands it for a supermarket abroad makes more than ten times what the farmer in Kanyenyaini makes.

We receive only 30 percent of the real value of our produce, in addition to losing out on jobs. Did you also know that coffee is one of the most traded commodities in the world? Kenya is one of the world’s leading producers of high-quality Arabica coffee, yet our returns from the end product of coffee production are minimal.

As part of the Big Four, our tea, coffee, meat, fruits and vegetables will be processed locally. This way, we will obtain more value from our produce, and create more jobs and wealth for Kenyans.

Fellow Kenyans,

My Government has already made some early decisions, to give our manufacturing the very best chance of growth. First, and as I mentioned during my inauguration speech, we have cut the cost of off-peak power to heavy industry by half.

Second, we will review our work permit regime, and encourage expatriates whose skills support the Big Four. As part of the arrangement, we expect our partners to train Kenyans in these skills.

Third, the protection of intellectual property rights is a critical factor in supporting the growth of our local manufacturing. Even as we Buy Kenya and Build Kenya, we cannot enrich fraudsters who, masquerading as well-known brands, produce dangerous fakes.

To protect our manufacturers and consumers from fake detergents, fake cosmetics, fake batteries, and fake kerosene – sham products that endanger the lives of Kenyans – I have directed that the Kenya Revenue Authority, and the Kenya Anti-Counterfeit Authority, destroy counterfeits on seizure. Any public officers found colluding to frustrate this process, will be summarily dismissed and prosecuted.

Fellow Kenyans,

We know from experience in other parts of the world the central role small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) play in an economy. Here in Kenya, the bulk of employment comes from SMEs, which are an important contributor to our gross domestic product (GDP). Our plan is to create an additional 1,000 SMEs focused on manufacturing: they will have access to affordable capital, skills and markets; and they will accelerate the growth in manufacturing, upon which the success of the Big Four depends.

I will now speak to the second question you raised in our conversations: access to affordable and decent shelter.

If the fight for independence was about ownership, the dream of my generation is to make every Kenyan a property owner. Owning a decent home is a Kenyan dream. We will make that dream come true.

Take Nairobi as an example. If you rent a house in Kawangware, Kangemi, Githurai, or Dandora, then, under my Big Four plan, for the same amount of money you pay today as rent, you will be able to own your home. And it will be a decent house, built to modern standards.

By the end of my term, 500,000 more Kenyans will own their homes. We shall do this by reducing the cost of mortgages; by cutting the cost of construction through the use of innovative technologies and materials; and by raising low-cost funds from private and public sector for investment in large-scale housing construction.

The beauty of this plan is that it creates decent homes, jobs and a market for our manufacturers and suppliers.

During construction, each of these new homes will require a mason, a plumber, a carpenter, an electrician, a painter and a welder. I urge our young people to make the most of the technical and vocational training institutions (TVETs), to acquire these skills.

We can look forward to millions of new jobs. But we will not engage our young people to build these homes as mere labour; we will develop their skills, their acumen, and their excellence.

We will review legislation on urban planning and zoning to ensure that homes remain affordable. We will continue to issue more title deeds to enable landowners to unlock the financial potential of their property.

In this context, we will shortly present far-reaching amendments to the laws that govern our lands and housing; and we will map and use the entirety of our strategic housing land bank.

I turn to the third element of the Big Four. It is universal healthcare. In our conversations, it was obvious that the cost of healthcare still stresses our families. We can end that pain by providing medical insurance cover for every Kenyan within the next five years.

That entails major policy and administrative reforms in the medical sector, to ensure that all of us have access to quality and affordable medical cover by 2022.

That plan will, of necessity, require strong collaboration between the NHIF (National Hospital Insurance Fund) and our private sector insurance providers.

We will review the rules governing private insurers, to bring the cost of cover within the reach of every Kenyan; to protect both government and Kenyans from fraud and abuse; and to let private insurers invest more in covering Kenyans.

The Fourth element of the Big Four is Food Security and Nutrition. Since independence, we as a people have sought to ensure that all our citizens enjoy food security and proper nutrition. While we have made good progress, the challenge, however, remains yet fully conquered. It is time to address, once and for all, the multiple and inter-locking factors that leave too many Kenyans at risk of hunger.

Our immediate actions start now. We will bring targeted taxation to bear to put idle arable land to use. We will continue to encourage and facilitate large-scale commercial agriculture to diversify our staples through irrigation and other technologies. We will protect our water towers. Small-scale farmers will receive better extension services and market access. Subsidies will be redesigned to improve food yields and production quality. With the private sector, we will deal with the challenges of distribution, waste, storage and value addition that have so long hampered production.

The Ministries of Agriculture and Irrigation will shortly publish the terms and conditions by which commercial farmers will be able to lease idle agricultural land owned by the government, the better to raise our production of strategic crops.

Fellow Kenyans,

The Big Four requires brave steps to lower the cost of doing business across the country. In the last four years we made tremendous progress in this direction.

We cut the cost of doing business by modernizing and expanding our infrastructure. We improved the ease of doing business so successfully that we jumped from number 136 in the world to 80th. We will build on this rapid progress by taking measures such as cutting the number and cost of permits and licenses at both national and county levels.

To deliver the Big Four, we will need skilled Kenyans. That is why we are implementing the new education curriculum to prepare our children to compete with the best in the world.

We are also improving the enabling industry-led technical and vocational education and training. We have taken steps to ensure that the same high standards and professional rigour we use to train our best graduate engineers are replicated also in the vocational training of our fundis, plumbers, welders and masons.

We will also develop more skilled and competitive workers through my Administration’s planned "paid for" internship programme that will lead to the absorption of more than 100,000 young Kenyans into the job market every year.

Most of all, the Big Four requires that we build on the foundation we laid in my first term in sectors such as transport, electricity distribution, education and ICT.

Fellow Kenyans,

The big shift from politics for politics’ sake to the politics of production is a beacon of hope. However, I know it will attract cynics and pessimists but we will not be distracted. Let me emphasize that the big shift cannot and will not be achieved by me and Jubilee alone; it will need all of us.

Once again, I reach out to all Kenyans to help in achieving our common goal of peace, stability and prosperity for all. It is our shared responsibility to work for these ends, knowing that we all have a role to play, and that we all must listen to one another. After all, a good idea must give way to a better idea, wherever it comes from.

Fellow Kenyans,

At independence, our young people were filled with optimism. The architects of our republic were young people guided by a few elder statesmen. The independence constitution was negotiated and crafted by young people.

Though a few of our young people have been led astray by ethnic-based, divisive politics, I am encouraged by the much larger number of our youth who are working hard, who are hustling, and who approach challenges as an opportunity to overcome.

You are uplifting your families, your communities, and our nation. My Administration is working every day to open up a path for your energy and optimism. Together, we can make of Kenya anything you can imagine. This is your moment.

I believe in you. You are my partners. And this is why my Big Four plan is centred on you. You will drive the big shift from politics to prosperity.

We will support your small and medium-sized businesses so that you can become even more productive, profitable and able to hire other young people. My Administration will complement the financing by commercial banks by increasing and consolidating all SMEs financing currently provided under the umbrella of Kenya Industrial Estates.

I also direct the Ministry of Trade and Industry to establish an "SME Support Initiative" that will work to help ease the barriers that make it difficult to run and scale up your businesses.

Finally, Fellow Kenyans,

When I took the oath of office in 2013, which was renewed last month, Kenyans bestowed two instruments of Power. The first one was the constitution; the second one was the sword. I swore to use them to defend and protect Kenya from any form of aggression, internal and external.

That is why I have the responsibility of serving you as President, and Commander-in-Chief of our Defence Forces. I will not fail you.

Today, I serve notice to those treating our constitutional order with casual recklessness. The Constitution is the general will of all. No one is above it: no matter who you are, you are subject to its authority. Anything outside the constitution is a hostile intrusion.

Whoever destroys property, whoever chooses senseless violence over constitutional order – all these are enemies of the Republic. That is how they will be treated.

Fellow Kenyans,

In closing, I wish to reiterate the point I made earlier. There will be a 5th, 6thand even 10thPresident of Kenya but there will not be a second, third or fourth Kenya. Leaders come and go; but Kenya remains.

Our duties are clear: we must preserve that nationhood; and we must achieve the freedom and prosperity that are ours by right. Nawasihi: tutembee pamoja, bega kwa bega!

If we do, then we will have proved ourselves rightful heirs of the nation God has given us.

God Bless you. God Bless your neighbor. God Bless Kenya.

Thank you very much!

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