Let speech be on the rule of law

Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta delivers his Seventh State of the Nation Address during a Joint Sitting of Parliament.

Photo credit: File | PSCU

What you need to know:

  • There have been a number of good and not-so-good things to be said of the Jubilee Administration.
  • Five years would not have been enough to put in place all that is required to spur the manufacturing sector.

The State of the Nation address by President Kenyatta is slated for tomorrow. It is time for the government to show its progress report and share its goals for the future. 

There have been a number of good and not-so-good things to be said of the Jubilee Administration. Their first term came and went in a blinker. The second has seen a number of projects initiated with the ‘Big Four Agenda’ being the prime one. This was to establish a foundation for universal health coverage (UHC), affordable housing, food security and manufacturing.

UHC and affordable housing policies have had some beef put on them, but there are still a lot of rough edges. NHIF is a thorn in the UHC flesh, failing to adequately help poor Kenyans to access healthcare without undue financial hardship. 

Corruption in the Ministry of Health, many would agree, has been the biggest stumbling block to accessibility of healthcare. There has been slow progress in tackling the vice with scandals such as those of Kemsa on procurement of medicine and hospital equipment unresolved and still hampering delivery of UHC.

The housing agenda has seen a sizeable number of affordable units built, mainly in Nairobi, but not sufficient to address a shortage of such houses in the cities. Manufacturing and food security has barely had a lift-off. 

Five years would not have been enough to put in place all that is required to spur the manufacturing sector. Lack of cheaper energy and water, corruption and the complexity of doing business for investors dogs the sector. Yet that is crucial for creating thousands of jobs.

Issues crucial to the economy

The food security dream was always going to fly in the face of unreliable rain patterns, corruption in the distribution chains and dam construction. Climate change and perennial drought, especially in the north, has not helped much but the revival of Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) offers the much-needed lifeline to livestock herders.

Overall, the Big Four has established a space in which to discuss and build on issues crucial to the economy and citizens’ lives. Where we’re facing challenges is in the democratic space, which has been shrinking at an alarming rate. 

The ongoing battle over the appointment of judges portrays an Executive struggling to loosen its grip on the Judiciary. The constant disregard of court orders by the Executive adds onto its refusal to accept the role of the Judiciary in a democratic society—to check and balance abuse of power by leaders.

On the flip side, the Judiciary is also playing its part in waning democracy by issuing rulings to unfairly favour individuals or political parties at the detriment of legitimate leaders or processes. 

The governorship of Ann Kananu in Nairobi and that of impeached governor of Wajir, Mohammed Abdi Mohamud, is worth a critique. In both cases, the residents’ civic rights were overridden by illegal rulings that gave criminality legitimacy. No wonder, former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko is aggrieved. He lost his seat for being accused of wrong acts but ended up being replaced by a wrongful decision. 

It also defies logic that the impeached Wajir governor could be allowed to resume his seat on a default court order that essentially legitimises the criminal conduct. No court worth its salt would make such a ruling but one inspired by impunity.

Kidnappings and extrajudicial killings

Human rights abuses were to be minimised, if not reduced, by the current Constitution but it’s of concern to see increased cases of police brutality. 

This was more pronounced during the Covid-19 pandemic as actions by overzealous officers caused untold fear and anxiety in the society and, in some cases, brought death unto innocent civilians. 

The numbers of kidnappings and extrajudicial killings are at a record high, according to the latest reports. Notably, the government is yet to come out strongly and reassure Kenyans or deal with the injustices. Silence and inaction make it complicit.

Key aspects of the Constitution on equality and freedom of expression and speech seem concepts that are still difficult to grasp by believers of past impunity. They have not familiarised themselves with the spirit of the Constitution. 

Their actions have hampered creativity in the arts and media and silenced the citizens, who deservedly have the legal right to be heard at the policy-making table through public participation and when their rights are trampled upon.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. President Kenyatta has time to reflect, especially on how he has handled corruption matters. A few promises he made to Kenyans are still outstanding, starting with holding Kemsa officials accountable for the latest million-dollar scandal. 

First, he must prioritise security by tackling the increasing kidnappings and extrajudicial killings. Insecurity does not augur well for the image of the country or attract the much-needed investment and tourists.

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected] @kdiguyo

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