By Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o
Fellow Kenyans, yesterday, you heard from the President on the state of our nation.
We urge you to spend a few minutes with us as we give our side of the story.
We are ODM. But it really should not matter because today, we are all hurting. One year after elections, millions of Kenyans are watching and asking; does this government want to stand on our side or in our way.
Ours is therefore a national call to action on behalf of all the struggling Kenyans. Our main point this morning is; Kenyans deserve far much better than this.
UNITY OF THE NATION:
We are too divided to build a nation ready to confront its challenges.
Jubilee has run the country as a collection of tribes, allies and enemies.
Every appointment to a public position has been handed down as a gift to supporters, along tribal and party lines. This skewed balance of power poses grave danger to our progress and it must not tilt any further in favour of one or two communities. It must be reversed.
ECONOMY AND COST OF LIVING:
Our economy requires urgent, immediate and sustained rethink.
The absurd policy of tax and spend has traumatised Kenyans.
Families can’t pay rent, can’t afford food, can’t pay school fees and cannot afford bus fare.
In response, we are seeing and hearing the same-old ideology that we’ve heard before â€” over and over again: Salary cuts, retrenchment of workers, cleaning up the payroll of ghost workers and how there will be just a little more pain before it gets better. Kenyans are going through tremendous pain. It must not get worse.
We urge the government to focus on eliminating corruption, inefficiency and wastage. Savings from these areas would be sufficient to finance recovery and growth.
We advise that the government to put singular focus on food as the biggest driver of cost of living, particularly for the poor.
Let’s focus on pro-poor agricultural investment as this will result in jobs, containing poverty and reduction in cost of living. Let’s pay particular attention to job creation, expansion of economic opportunities particularly for farmers, informal sector, and economically disadvantaged communities.
The time has come for the government to treat unemployment as a crisis.
We need a clear road map towards putting millions of Kenyans to work and encouraging companies to hire and not fire people. We have seen no such steps in the last one year.
Jubilee must use its numerical strength in the Houses of Parliament to come up with administrative, regulatory and legislative measures to help small firms start and expand. The cost of bank loans remains unbelievably high despite so much rhetoric about it. But if we are to create job creators and not job seekers, the cost of loans have to fall. Jubilee must use its numbers to champion these positive measures.
The government must embrace and engage small contractors and change the way it does business with them. Startups cannot afford to chase payments for months. A simpler engagement would help turn many enterprising young Kenyans into job creators, not job seekers. Small businesses must be treated as the engine of growth, and essential to economic recovery.
The greatest responsibility of any government is to protect its people and their property. Yet the last one year has brought us a lot of pain and loses. Lives and property have been lost; thousands have been wounded, businesses have underperformed or closed as a result of spiraling crime.
This comes after Kenyans worked so hard in the last ten years to create a largely secure nation. By the time Jubilee took over, we had a largely secure nation in which operating a 24 hour economy looked increasingly realistic, not rhetoric.
Today, criminals hunt us in the streets, from our houses, in churches, in mosques, in matatus and in schools.
We are approaching the first anniversary of the attack on the Westgate Mall. Our hopes and prayers remain with the families that fell victim to this attack. We stand with families who have lost loved ones to criminals across our country. Their pain and horror remain with us.
But as we moan, we are not convinced that the gaps in our security exposed by those attacks have been closed. The Government is saying the right words about the threat we face. But it has failed to take action commensurate with the threat.
When terrorists issue threats and act on them while the government issues threats and fail to track those it is threatening, we know we are on our own as citizens.
Goods and weapons still enter our borders unnoticed. Fire fighters are still pleading for the tools they need to prevent or respond to an attack.
Poachers have invaded our world famous wildlife heritage with abandon.
Police are still waiting for comprehensive insurance cover even as we ask them to stand in the line of fire on our behalf.
The Government has inexplicably refused to form an inquiry into how the attackers in Westgate got here, even after the president promised this. Yesterday, the National Assembly rejected the report by the National Assembly Security Committee on the attack.
We are therefore calling for the constitution of a Parliamentary Select Committee to investigate the Westgate attack.
We are also calling for a Parliamentary Select Committee to investigate the rising problem of poaching. We suspect there is more to it than meets the eye. In any case, poaching is part and parcel of our growing security, economic and corruption problems.
When a bomb that failed to detonate near the British Airways check-in counter at JKIA late last year, the government shrugged it off as an exploding light-bulb.
After the latest attack in Likoni, the Inspector General of Police considered it beneath him to offer an explanation to Kenyans. He let his juniors deal with it. The President and his deputy did not see this as a matter worth their urgent attention. They addressed it in passing on their way to Tanzania.
These are signs that the government is off track and does not care.
Any discussion of our national security must include recognition and respect for our men and women in uniform.
Whether they are fighting in Somalia or walking our increasingly dangerous streets and borders, we salute them.
These officers and troops have the gratitude of every Kenya for their courage and the sacrifice they are willing to make on our behalf.
But we decry the lack of modern equipment, the absence of opportunities for best training that our officers deserve and their dismal working conditions.
Above all, we ask the government to address the issues of deployments and promotions in the police force, especially now that we are under attack and we are counting on these men and women to be motivated enough to protect us.
Promotions and deployment in the police force is still dogged by tribalism, nepotism and cronyism, not merit.
We must also talk about our military whose prowess we are all too proud of.
Because of the courage of our military, Somalia is a much better place today. We know that Somalia still has persistent insurgency to deal with. It continues to be a magnet for international terrorists.
But we feel it is time for the Government to present to us a clear plan for ending our presence in Somalia. We are not suggesting that we simply declare the job done and pull out. We are not suggesting we sneak out through the back door.
We want a clear plan for transferring responsibility for Somalia’s security to the Somalis. We believe training the Somali forces to take charge must be expedited. We must accelerate Somalia’s economic development, particularly through infrastructure that gives Somalis a stake in achieving a better future.
We must also intensify regional and international diplomacy that will deny fuel to the anti-western sentiments that power insurgency in Somalia.
We want the government to table before Kenyans a comprehensive plan to protect the nation from terrorism. We have only heard promises and more threats.
We want to see the government’s plan to build a military, a police force and an intelligence gathering system that will be second to none. Kenyans are dying because we lack ability to collect timely and reliable intelligence to keep us safe at home.
Even as the government proceeds with the ill-conceived laptops project, we are yet to address the issue of cost of education.
It is now more than ten years since fees were abolished in public schools. But we know fees exist and are keeping many children out of school. Parents buy uniforms, text books, desks, school buses, pay motivation fees, and much more. We feel the government must climb the education tree from the bottom. Is education free or not? If it is, why are these many levies being imposed and when will they stop?
We continue to caution the government against the extravagant laptops project. It is not realistic. It is not sustainable and it is not a priority. We support IT in learning and we laud the government for championing it. But we advocate for computer labs in all schools instead of laptops for every child at this stage.
The cost and built in room for corruption in the acquisition of laptops aside, a bigger question is whether the laptops will actually improve learning. Will reading skills improve because the children have laptops instead of text books? Will children perform better in math and science? Will parents afford the cost of repairs and maintenance? Who will replace crashed or lost and stolen laptops?
We are concerned about the corruption roulette in government, which Jubilee calls war on corruption. The government admits that thieves have invaded no higher place than the Office of the President.
But to date, there have been no sackings, no prosecutions, no naming of names. We have been treated to the drama of members of government publicly campaigning for a chance to fix contracts for grand infrastructure projects in return for bribes.
As we pay lip service and issue warnings at rallies and church functions, corruption is eating into government coffers, paying ghost workers and paying for services not rendered or way above market rates.
Yet today, the battle on wages is rated much more urgent by the Jubilee government than the war against corruption. The Jubilee government has now resolved to pay the so-called Anglo-Leasing debts, an outright conduit for corrupt deals. Warnings have run their course. We need action.
RULE OF LAW:
We must protect the Constitution and its promises. We must safeguard the rule of law, the media and civil liberties. All these are threatened today. Judges have been called names. Laws have been signed to curb the free media. There have been attempts to limit foreign funding for NGOs.
Jubilee government has failed to discontinue extrajudicial killings thus undermining the right to life. As we speak, there is an arbitrary shoot-to-kill order against terrorists as well as other criminals. The country has seen an alarming rise in religious intolerance and religious bigotry which the government has not in any way attempted to manage.
One year of Jubilee Government has landed us in very uncertain times. How long they times last depends on the government. We want to assure Kenyans that when we believe the Government is on the right track, we will not allow partisan interests stand in the way of what’s good for the country. We will be first in line to work with the Government. As at now, we repeat; a Government can do better. Kenyans deserve better.
We are losing patience with politics of tribalism, nepotism, favoritism, cronyism and rule by fiat. We are tired of incompetence and dishonesty in government.
HON PROF. ANYANG NYONGO
Ag. PARTY LEADER
MARCH 28, 2014.