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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Agenda 2012: The hope of a nation



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By MUGUMO MUNENE mmunene@ke.nationmedia.com
Posted  Saturday, December 31  2011 at  22:00
IN SUMMARY
  • Kenyans have ushered in the New Year with cautious optimism coming from President Kibaki as he begins his last year in office. The pressing issues include the high price of basic commodities and the desire to have peaceful campaigns.
Kenyans ushered in the New Year full of hope that the new Constitution will bring home the promise of a better future but hard pressed by an economy battered by high fuel prices and a fluctuating shilling.
Foremost on the minds of Kenyans will be the General Election, which will be the first under the new Constitution, and which will bring a new devolved political structure.
For the first time, Kenyans will have an opportunity to elect not just the President, MPs and councillors but also governors, senators and county assembly representatives.
It will also be a landmark election for women since every county will elect a women’s representative to Parliament and the Constitution requires a one-third gender representation. It will lead to the highest number of women in political positions since independence 48 years ago.
Kenyans are also optimistic that this year will mark the departure from the cycle of election violence that has visited the country every five years in the heat of the battle for political seats and that new structures and institutions created under the Constitution will bring home the promise.
At war
It will also be the first time that the country will go into election campaigns while at war against Al-Shabaab militants who have been designated as a threat to the economy and national security.
Kenyans will also be entering an election year with the burden of a fledgling economy and high fuel prices that have in turn pushed up transport costs and the prices of every commodity.
In their New Year’s messages, President Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta were cautiously optimistic, warning of tough times ahead and hope that there is a better tomorrow.
In what would be his last New Year message to the nation as Head of State, President Kibaki celebrated the new Constitution, saying it has put the country “firmly on the path of national transformation”.
He said that improved infrastructure would empower Kenyans to move goods and services in a faster and cheap manner.
The President then painted the legacy he would like to leave behind when he leaves office later this year and asked Kenyans to take full advantage of the devolved government that will emerge from the General Election.
“2012 will be a transitional year. We begin a transition from a centralised to a devolved government. We start the journey of empowering 47 county governments that will be charged with managing the affairs of the people, at the grassroots level. I see this as a great opportunity to devolve responsibility to the people. Let us embrace this new concept of governance with a renewed sense of hope and confidence,” the President said.
To this end, the government will put in place measures to ensure that all counties are adequately prepared to embrace the new opportunities and overcome the likely challenges, he added.
The message also served as a farewell message from the President after two terms at the helm.
“After two terms as your President, I will be happy to oversee a smooth transition to the new leadership that you the people will vote into office. I thank you the Kenyan people for the support you have extended to me during my time in office. I wish to assure you all that we will put in place all the necessary measures to ensure a free and fair General Election,” he said.
“As we prepare for these transition milestones, let us all be reminded that Kenya is one nation. We must, therefore, take actions which guarantee that we remain one united nation. Elections will come and go but the country remains. Let us, therefore, safeguard our nation’s peace, stability and progress, realising that Kenya is bigger than any single individual.”
In his message, the Prime Minister called on Kenyans to be prepared to tackle the challenges that will come their way in the new year.
Mr Odinga called for continued moral support and prayers for the soldiers fighting Al-Shabaab in Somalia.
“We have been through tough times these past four years. We continue to go through tough times. We may go through even tougher times this coming year. But we must continue believing in ourselves. Let us rise as one nation and make 2012 the year in which we restored Kenya’s place on the globe and secured our nation’s future for our children,” the PM said.
He said Kenyans should embrace a radical change in the conduct of politics and put an end to the cycle of violence that has come with elections every five years since 1991.Conduct of politics
On his part, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka urged Kenyans to be proud of the achievements made in 2011, noting that there had been gains in the economic, political and social spheres. He added that while addressing the challenges facing the country, Kenyans should strive for cohesion and reconciliation.
“Besides, our strengths and weaknesses will further be tested this year during the General Election. It will be a defining moment, an opportunity for us to shape our destiny by embracing restraint, sobriety, love and peace throughout the electioneering period,” Mr Musyoka said.
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta assured Kenyans that the country would overcome the current economic challenges. He termed the strengthening of the shilling and drop in inflation as key indicators of a better economic environment in 2012.
Election year
“Let’s use the lessons to prepare for the challenges and possibilities of 2012. It’s an election year and I urge Kenyans to listen to those who seek elective seats and make their choices peacefully. We must put the ghosts of 2007/8 behind us,” Mr Kenyatta said.
Calling for peace, Mr Odinga said the country will never attain the much needed double digit economic growth that is necessary for creation of jobs as long as elections come with uncertainty and violence.
The PM outlined sustained economic growth, increased investment in infrastructure, especially the takeoff of the construction of the Lamu Port, conservation of the country’s water towers, resettlement of internally displaced persons, increased dam construction and water harvesting, putting more land under irrigation, containing corruption and ensuring free, fair and peaceful polls as the nation’s priorities in 2012.
The PM said one of the most critical challenges the country faces in 2012 is to ensure campaigns and subsequent elections are conducted in an atmosphere that is free of scare-mongering and ethnic-based competition that have led to violence in the past.
He appealed to politicians not to reduce the campaign into a contest or war between tribes or regions.
“Elections have become very disruptive in our country. We have seen periodic cycle of economic growth, followed by a period of slump and stagnation as campaigns set in with fear and uncertainty. In this period, economic activity slows down, growth stagnates, then election comes and full-blown violence reduces growth to zero and the new regime begins from scratch. We cannot continue running the economy this way. We must stop this cycle of failure in 2012,” the PM said.
Noting that the coming elections are historic because they will be the first under the new Constitution and will involve picking more leaders than in the past, the PM appealed to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to embark on massive education of voters.
The PM appealed to Kenyans to prepare for vigorous environmental conservation work, saying efforts to protect the country’s water towers, particularly the Mau, are bearing fruit.
On the economic front, a World Bank report predicts that Kenyans will be hard pressed in the new year to deal with multiple challenges including elections under a new Constitution and economic shocks transmitted from the global economy.

But the report says that if Kenyans manage these challenges well, they may set the foundation for a more prosperous future.
The World Bank’s Kenya Economic Update says 2012 will be a defining year for the country due to national elections, the establishment of a new system of devolved government in 47 counties, and deteriorating global economic conditions.
The theme of the report, the fifth in a series, is “Navigating the Storm, Delivering the Promise,” with a special focus on Kenya’s momentous devolution.
Financial crisis
The indicators of brighter prospects include peaceful elections and transition to a new government, successful introduction of a new system of devolved government and continued growth during a global financial crisis.
“Kenyans have another opportunity to turn political and economic challenges into the foundations of a better future,” says Johannes Zutt, World Bank Country Director for Kenya.
“The government has managed past economic challenges well, and can do so again. The key challenge for 2012 will be managing the political transition well, to avoid a repeat of the post-election violence seen in 2008 and to ensure continued growth in investment and job creation.”

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