Keep off Kenya's affairs, Uhuru tells Western countries

President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta launches the County Covid-19 Social Economic Re-Engineering Recovery Strategy 2020/21-2022/23 in Hurlingham, Nairobi County, on December 4, 2020.

Photo credit: PSCU

President Uhuru Kenyatta has warned development partners against interfering with the running of the country even as Kenya opened itself up to tough conditions that come with debt suspension requests. 

President Kenyatta on Friday took a swipe at the unnamed development partners, saying "nchi ina wenyewe (the country has owners)".

Kenya is seeking debt suspension from the club of rich nations, by participating in the G-20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI). This does not come without conditions.

The stock of Kenya's public debt stood at Sh7.06 trillion (US$ 65.4 billion) amounting to 69.2 per cent of GDP as at August 2020.  The pandemic has only increased that. The current stock of public debt, if added to the undisbursed debt, translates to Sh8.41 trillion.

This is just Sh600 billion shy of the Sh9 trillion ceiling, meaning that Kenya has very limited space for additional borrowing.

No "lectures"

Despite not naming the development partners, the Head of State was referring to international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank who give cash strapped nations aid but which comes with unpopular conditions.

The tough-talking President said although his government appreciates the support it receives from the various partners where development is concerned, he will not take kindly any efforts by the external forces to "lecture" his administration or push vested agendas.

The Head of State, who was accompanied by his Deputy William Ruto, spoke during the launch of County Covid-19 Social Economic Re-engineering Recovery Strategy hosted by the Council of Governors in Nairobi.

In his speech, Mr Kenyatta appreciated development partners, especially mentioning the United Nations and others who he said had been close collaborators and instrumental in achieving the agenda.

"But at this juncture, I must also make it clear that while we appreciate your support and look forward to your collaboration, you must always remember that Kenya has its owners, and its owners are the 50 million Kenyans," said the President.

He did not mention his target or what exactly was being interfered with.

"Please, I ask you to refrain from interfering, telling us or trying to direct us on which way we should go. We are clear about where we want to go. We ask you to join us to support us in that endeavour. But do not interfere because we shall not allow you to dictate to us which direction that should be because that is up to Kenyans," he added.

"Tafadhali nawaomba kwa heshima kubwa ... Mtuheshimu ndio tuwaheshimu. (Please, I ask you respectfully, respect us to earn our respect).

"Everyone has problems. Even they have their own problems at home. They have no business lecturing us on how to fix ours. I say that in very good faith," the President concluded. 

Estimated growth

In regard to the strategy unveiled Friday, Mr Kenyatta said it will anchor the national effort to bounce back better and stronger from the negative impacts of Covid-19 whose outbreak and measures taken to mitigate it have devastated not only the local but also global economy.

He said available estimates show that overall in 2020, the world economy will reduce by 4.4 per cent, made up of a reduction in advanced economies of 5.8 per cent, emerging and developing economies (3.8 per cent) and sub-Saharan Africa where Kenya falls at three per cent decline.

"Kenya's economy estimates to register a growth of only 0.6 per cent in 2020, a sharp drop from the growth of 5.4 per cent in 2019. This drop largely registers a negative growth in tourism and overall hospitality sector, education and transport sectors which crowded out the growth that we managed to register in agriculture, financial and insurance activities, construction and real estate development," he stated.

At the same time, Mr Kenyatta called for proper and diligent use of the scarce resources which he said have further diminished due to the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.

"I call upon all relevant units and internal agencies to exercise heightened vigilance and oversight to ensure that funds are used prudently and lawfully for the purposes of elevating our nation. They must be used faithfully and with utmost transparency and accountability.

"We will not have a second chance at implementing recovery and resurgence strategies for the enduring benefit of Kenyans as we do now. If we waste this chance, we will certainly confine our motherland to years of being mired in economic slowdown and social injustice," Mr Kenyatta said.

County Centre

Dr Ruto lauded the move by the CoG to set up a County Centre in Nairobi, saying the building will house crucial offices for county governments, liaison offices of the treasury and ministries concerned and departments like Kenya Revenue Authority, hence will make it easy for devolution to succeed.

"The arrangement will provide the paradigm shift we have all been looking for; a bottoms-up approach of development other than the old trickle down approach," said the DP.

He said the newly launched post-Covid-19 strategy has tapped into the expertise and will re-engineer  socio-economic matters in the counties by ensuring that incentives, investments and programmes are targeted at the grassroots' lowest possible unit.

"That is a great opportunity to ensure that there is a clear framework in the partnership between national and counties, to avoid duplicating but synergise services, especially on provision of water, housing and agro-processing, value addition and industrialisation, in order to get results better, faster and in a much more cost-effective manner," said Dr Ruto.