The much publicized State of the Nation address by President Uhuru Kenyatta was marred with drama, confusion and some madness. Hell broke loose when the head of state rose to speak. Members of the opposition who were opposed to the address broke into loud whistling, shouting, singing and even some like John Mbadi (MP, Suba Constituency) and Millie Ojiambo (MP, Mbita Constituency) broke into a dance after being ejected out of the chambers.
For a while, parliament looked more or less like Mathare Mental Hospital (with due respect to those at the facility) and efforts of the Speaker of the National Assembly Justine Muturi and his counterpart from the Senate, Ekwe Ethuro to calm them down fell on deaf ears. At long last, standing orders were invoked, rowdy members were ejected out of the chambers and the floor of the house attained some normalcy.
The action by some Members of the opposition to try and hinder the speech of the president should not just be ignored. Some leaders are already dismissing the incident as childish and a joke but that incidence should serve a red flag to the president. Members of the opposition had a message to pass across but nobody was willing to listen to them. Most felt that the State of the Nation address was being abused contrary with the constitution and being turned into a PR affair for the ruling coalition to try and cleanse its name.
Chapter 9 of the Constitution of Kenya Part 2 on the functions of the President and Deputy Presidents states that:
(1) The President shall–
(a) Address the opening of each newly elected Parliament;
(b) Address a special sitting of Parliament once every year and may address Parliament at any other time; and
(c) Once every year–
(i) Report, in an address to the nation, on all the measures taken and the progress achieved in the realization of the national values, referred to in Article 10;
(ii) Publish in the Gazette the details of the measures and progress under sub-paragraph and
(iii) Submit a report for debate to the National Assembly on the progress made in fulfilling the international obligations of the Republic.
According to this, the President is supposed to address the nation as the head of state but not as the leader of the ruling coalition. This implies that the development that the president will be enumerating must be what the government has done but not what the ruling coalition has done. What the opposition were opposed of is for the president to come to the floor of the house and elaborate on what Jubilee has done and not on what the government has done. The first two state of the nation addresses that the president has delivered have just been displayed as a PR exercise to sanctify the already sinking boat.
What has changed from the first State of the Nation address? The president widely took credit for initiating free maternity services in all the public hospitals in Kenya. The question is, was free maternity a government initiative or a constitution requirement? It is a constitution requirement. Article 43(1) (a) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 states that: Every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to health care services, including reproductive health care. Reproductive health is widely recognized to include family planning, antenatal, delivery, and postnatal health services. The Constitution of Kenya 2010 further provides that a person has the right to emergency treatment in the Article 43 (2). The government was therefore mandated to implement the free maternity services across the country as stipulated in the Constitution of Kenya.
The president, during the second State of the Nation address received a standing ovation from members of parliament from both sides when he talked tough about corruption. He presented some names before parliament as gave the bodies concerned a total of 60 days to make sure that those named are investigated and prosecuted. Who has been prosecuted? Name any single individual who is behind bars because of corruption? In fact, instead of corruption reducing, it escalated. Talk of the National Youth Service, the Youth Fund, the Tourism Fund, corruption in the police force and the list is endless. Apart from the President talking tough, little is being done on the ground. During the recent State of the Nation address, the president reiterated that ‘there are no sacred cows’ within his government in the fight against corruption. Whatever the head of state meant, am sure it was not about corruption because the vice starts right away from his backyard. Aden Duale (Majority Leader, National Assembly), Kipchumba Murkomen (Deputy Majority Leader, Senate) and some close associates to the Deputy President were adversely mentioned in an affidavit released by former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru. What happened after the mention? Nothing.
Chapter Six of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 on Leadership and Integrity states that (2) A State Officer shall not (a) maintain a bank account outside Kenya except in accordance with an Act of Parliament; or (b) seek or accept a personal loan or benefit in circumstances that compromise the integrity of the State officer.
In his speech yesterday, the president said, “We have joined the realm of middle-income countries, with the consequence that we can now access non-concessional credit from institutions such as the African Development Bank and the World Bank at significantly cheaper cost…” which is a good initiative but does the country has the mechanisms to ensure how the funds from our financial partners will be spend and used? What happened with the Eurobond? Is even the government itself aware of what came of the Eurobond mystery?
Other issues that the president raised were legitimate. They were good. The only worry is implementation. What can we do now? It is just to watch, fold our hands and wait.
Article by Juma Fred.