State of the Nation Address Tells Voters to Scrutinize Manifestos

Posted by on 18th March 2017

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This year’s State of the Nation address, was the last as President Kenyatta first term winds up. The President was very calculative highlighting Jubilee’s successes and remaining vague on the failures. But a good score card should also bring out the failures and point out the way forward.

The Jubilee administration began on high tempo having made promises that resonated well with majority youthful Kenyans. Indeed the government has attempted to keep these promises but at a great corruption cost. Every mega Jubilee project benefited a cabal of Kenyansthrough kick-backs thereby inflating project’s original cost. Take The Standard Gauge Railway that was one of the key promises. The President evaded the politics surrounding the cost-benefit of the project especially after key landlocked countries appear to abandon it for Tanzania’s choice route to the Indian Ocean. And the fact that Tanzania’s SGR is four times longer than Kenya’s and still cost-effective.

President Kenyatta avoided mentioning the doctor’s strike that paralyzed the public for over 100 days and the Afya House scandal that was unearthed last November. Instead the President belabored the benefits of equipment in hospitals and the advantage NHIF has brought to the people. At the very least the President could’ve told us how he intended to make sure a doctor’s strike never happens again.

Moreover, the State of the Nation address evaded talking about the insecurity in the country and particularly North Rift where bandits are killing people and rendering them poor in the name of cattle rustling. Instead the President lashed out at unnamed politicians from these regions who are inciting the public. There was no mention of the exact plan or way forward; only that the government will use all means at its disposal to bring to justice the perpetrators.

President Uhuru proudly announced that under his administration the ratio of police to the population is 1 officer for 380 Kenyans which is indeed better considering the UN ratio is 1 officer for 450 citizens. The challenge with this however is the lack of impact. It’s actually funny that crime rate doesn’t reflect the ratio that admittedly supersedes UN’s standards. Cattle rustling remains a menace which means the government should re-think its training. Is six months enough to trust someone with a gun?

An opinion poll by Ipsos in June last year revealed the crime rate in Nairobi was almost twice the National average. The same poll revealed that majority crime victims do not report the crime and 40% arguing the police are inefficient in resolving crime. This can be confirmed by the grand corruption that has seen nobody significant charged in court.The Police ratio means nothing if the police have little value for human life and driven by corruption.

It has not escaped Kenyans, the corruption that has accompanied the realization of Jubilee’s mega projects. Perhaps learning from these, Kenyans should demand that this government and any other that promises mega projects must also show the most cost-effective way of achieving that project as well as the cost-benefits and stick with it failure to which there should be repercussions.

Nonetheless, we must give the devil his dues. Being the first government under devolution, Jubilee administration has performed impressively in ensuring devolution succeeds. Most of the teething problems and existing challenges are not so much the Executive’s making but the legislators as we opined in our last blog. This goes to confirm that all a government needs is political will to act and that’s what is missing in other key sectors.

Indeed the President has also supported the implementation of the new Constitution although the 11th Parliament failed terribly in its independence from the executive often acting as a rubber stamp rather than an oversight arm of the government. The attempt to change, or revise  laws to suit party interests as was the case with the legislation on election laws where CORD and Jubilee battled it out along party lines rather than in the interest of the public is a point in case.

If the 2017 State of the Nation highlighted anything, it is that the electorate needs to be keener when leaders are making promises this year. The public must also be more thorough in verifying the information and the ability to implement projects politicians promise. Regardless of the party, evaluate if their promises make sense. Is it deliverable and a priority to you?