President Uhuru Kenyatta leaves Parliament after his State Of The Nation Address on November 12, 2020.
President Uhuru Kenyatta leaves Parliament after his State Of The Nation Address on November 12, 2020/Courtesy

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday laid out key projects and initiatives that will form part of his legacy, less than two years before he exits office.

Atop Uhuru’s legacy planks is passage of the Building Bridges Initiative report, which is currently being processed for a referendum.

In his nationally televised State of  the Nation address, Uhuru called on Kenyans to consider the recommendations of the report and not let go of “the constitutional moment”.

“As we progress to the next phase of implementing the recommendations from the task force, I urge all Kenyans to, constructively and objectively, consider the recommendations therein,” Uhuru said.

He addressed a joint sitting of the Senate and the National Assembly.

“More importantly, let us engage in positive discourse with a view to effecting far-reaching changes that will address the perennial challenges we have faced as a nation – negative ethnicity, exclusion, equitable development and our fight against corruption.”

The BBI document has turned into the new political battlefront between Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

While Ruto has called for further amendments to ensure a non-contested referendum, Raila’s camp has said the document is not open for new ideas but minor editorial works.

As if reading from Raila’s script, Uhuru said the report has extensively evaluated “our national challenges and makes robust and comprehensive practical recommendations to address them”.

He said he is determined to place Kenya on the path to greater national unity, inclusivity, peace and reconciliation, adding that the country is bigger than any individual.

Like Moses in the Bible who sat at the top of Mount Nebo and saw the future that the people of Israel were about to cross into the Promised Land, I too have seen our future,” the President said.

He added, “This is what our future looks like: A Kenya where no one will ascend to a high public office on account of their tribe; a Kenya where no capable person will wallow in poverty because of poor governance; a Kenya where our potential as a people will be exploited for the greatness of our nation; a Kenya where we will all share equitably in the prosperity of our nation. The future is bright. The future is beckoning.

Ruto, Raila, former vice presidents Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi watched from the Speaker’s Gallery as the President delivered his speech.

Also in the gallery were Council of Governors’ chairman Wycliffe Oparanya and Nairobi county boss Mike Sonko.

Article 132 of the Constitution and House Standing Orders oblige the President to address a joint sitting of the Houses on matters that touch on national values.

Traditionally the President always gives his address between March and May but this had to be delayed due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus .

The country’s first case of the virus was reported on March 13.

Uhuru’s speech stressed the progress his administration has made in various sectors of the economy such as education, health, security and on containing Covid-19. 

He highlighted the public health measures his administration undertook to combat the spread of the coronavirus and cushion millions of Kenyans and businesses. 

Cumulatively, Uhuru said, the country gave up taxes amounting to Sh176 billion so Kenyans can get some respite.

The measures included tax relief, a nationwide curfew, restriction of movement in and outside most affected counties, ban on public gatherings and limits on the number of passengers in public service vehicles.

He gave special recognition to healthcare and frontline workers who he noted have gone beyond the call of duty to save Kenya from the pandemic.

The President announced that all learners will resume face-to-face classes in January next year amid the uncertainty of the pandemic.

“As a parent and a grandparent, I share in the pain and frustration of most parents in having our children home for nearly an entire year. However, as a responsible government, we put the health and safety of the children as the paramount consideration,” he said. 

Uhuru further sought to cool the uncertainty of the more than 2.8 million learners who already have reported back to schools. He assured that the schools are being monitored to ensure their safety.

Some 1.9 million children were registered to sit for the national exams in this academic year with 1.2 million scheduled for the KCPE exam and over 750,000 to take the KCSE test.

KCPE examinations will start on March 22, and end on March 24. Form 4 candidates will write their exams from March 25 to April 16. 

In his address, the President pledged to decongest schools within 24 months.

“Public day and boarding schools are overstretched  and as a result, the learners are congested in classes and boarding,” Uhuru said.

The President aims to construct at least 12,500 classrooms and related school facilities under new cost-effective guidelines to be developed jointly by the Education ministry and that of Transport.

He appealed to MPs to also chip in using NG-CDF funds to address the various gaps within the education sector.

“Currently there is an urgent need for construction and equipping of more classes, dormitories and other amenities to further facilitate ease of learning of our children,” he said.

The President also lauded his administration’s efforts to reduce the textbook shortage.

“Effective 2019 calendar year, my administration had achieved a textbook to pupil ratio of 1:1 from Grade 1-3,” he said. 

 “The journey to replace the 8-4-4 curriculum with the new fit-for-purpose curriculum is well underway and refinements are being undertaken in the course of implementation.”

Alarmed by the rise in mental health challenges as a result of the pandemic, Uhuru issued an executive order establishing East Africa’s Mental Health Facility and upgrading Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital to semi-autonomous status.  

Uhuru said he is in the process of digitising all land records. His administration has issued 4.5 million titles since 2013, he said. From 1963 to 2013, only six million land title deeds had been issued.

On the Last Mile Connectivity initiative, the President noted that the programme has crossed the 7.2 million household connections mark.

The programme is progressing towards the aspiration of universal electricity access by 2022. 

To ensure food security, the President said, his government is implementing a transformative agricultural sector strategy