Politics and policy

Uhuru Kenyatta puts economy and unity top of his government agenda

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Uhuru Kenyatta takes oath of office as Kenya's fourth president on April 9, 2013. Photo/AFP

Kenya’s 4th President Uhuru Kenyatta is sworn into office on April 9, 2013 in Nairobi by Chief Registrar Gladys Sholei (left) as his wife Margaret (right) looks on. Mr Kenyatta was sworn into office amid cheers and applause from tens of thousands of supporters. Photo/TONY KARUMBA  AFP

By JOHN KAMAU

Posted  Tuesday, April 9  2013 at  21:27

In Summary

  • It is Uhuru Kenyatta's agenda, both at the national and international level, that was the central theme of his speech choosing to spice his bid day with sub-themes on sovereignty, nationalism, and economic growth.
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President Uhuru Kenyatta’s inaugural speech was a delicate affair — invoking the spirit of sovereignty and nationalism while reaching out to development partners even as he rooted for unity among Kenyans.

Although the speech lacked memorable sound-bites — unlike Kibaki’s December 2002 lyrical — “I looked far into the horizon and the beauty of what I saw around me stirred my soul” – Mr Kenyatta sought to adopt a more laidback approach that avoided rhetoric and adopted his father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s baritone voice and eloquence to deliver his five-year agenda to the nation.

Symbolically too, he came close to adopting his father’s presidential standard picking navy blue as opposed to Old Jomo’s dark blue flag with a yellow cockerel.

In between Mr Kenyatta paraphrased the Saint Francis of Assisi prayer as he made his promises without wagging his finger, a podium habit he had picked since he entered competitive politics in 1997.

Unlike his father, who took power in 1963 with the backing of Western nations to implement his economic policies and land transfer, and Moi who took power in 1978 with tacit approval of Western capitals, Mr Kenyatta has taken over at a time when most are diplomatically lukewarm towards Kenya.

But it is his agenda, both at the national and international level, that was the central theme of his speech choosing to spice his bid day with sub-themes on sovereignty, nationalism, and economic growth.

The presence of many African heads of States at the occasion was symbolic and Mr Kenyatta chose to start his speech by thanking them for keeping the “pan-african agenda alive”, a term that is used to rally African nations to stand in solidarity with each other.

READ: Eleven presidents witness Kenya’s change of guard
That Mr Kenyatta chose to connect with the fathers of independence struggle – he talked of African renaissance and thanked the pioneers – in his speech was a pointer to the fact that a new generation was taking over. Former President Kibaki said as much in his farewell speech.

With Mr Kenyatta facing charges against humanity at the International Criminal Court, which Uganda’s President Museveni described as “blackmail” (He said the ICC’s mission was distorted by opinionated and arrogant actors), the arrival of many African heads of State and government must have buoyed his place.

Although he evaded the ICC issue, Mr Kenyatta promised to respect “international treaties” but warned: “No one country or group of countries should have control or monopoly of international institutions or the interpretation of international treaties.”

His choice of words did not betray his recent dalliance with diplomacy but Mr Kenyatta will not be an easy shove and talked of “mutual respect” and “reciprocity” as his approach towards Kenya’s foreign policy.

“While each state has a right to its own view, it must respect the fact that it holds just one view amongst many in the community of nations,” he said.

That Mr Kenyatta said he will “continue” cultivating the relationships Kenya has with “our traditional partners” means that there will be no clear break in foreign policy adopted over the years and opened doors to those who want to invest and trade.

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