President Uhuru Kenyatta’s State of the National Address to Parliament

On Thursday President Uhuru Kenyatta presented his annual report to the joint session of Parliament. You can find the text of the speech here and the youtube clip here.

Key achievements of his administration over the last three years include (i) rural electrification (nearly all primary schools have been connected to the grid — THIS IS PRETTY BIG DEAL); (ii) the construction of a new railway line (the project is a corruption boondoggle, but the speed with which it is being carried out is stunning); and (iii) power generation.

Below is a word cloud showing some of the issues the president focused on. Corruption, health (hospital), security, and general service provision were the main policy areas that the president chose to focus on.

I was surprised by the failure of “agriculture”, “land”, “education”, and “infrastructure” to make the top twenty. “Road” had a respectable show. There was also a lot of politics — mainly directed at the opposition and civil society.

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Perhaps in reaction to David Ndii’s provocative article on the failure of the Kenya Project, the president’s speech was particularly nationalist. The words “Covenant” and “Nationalist” appeared 27 and 22 times, respectively, well ahead of key policy-related terms.

I am personally worried that the word “development” outperformed “economic/economy.” I hope this is not a signal that the government views the running of the economy as a massive “development project.” We all know how those usually turn out.


in defense of swahili

Update: the ministry of education has disowned the directive discussed here. Apparently there are still a few sane people under Prof. Ongeri’s docket. Now if only they could also tell us where they took the free primary education money…

When it comes to Swahili I suddenly go nationalist. I think there is something to be said about a people having their own language through which they can package their historical and cultural experiences over time. Kenya has 42 languages and many more dialects. As a nation we can’t use all of them to store our collective experiences. However, unlike most other African states, we are lucky to have a Bantu language that is widely used and that we have appropriated to be our national language. Through Swahili and effective government we can make everyone who speaks Pokot, Sabaot, Kikuyu, Luo or Maragoli Kenyan by creating an imagined community of shared experiences.

The reason I bring this up is that the busy bodies at the Ministry of Education have decided to make Swahili optional at KCPE level. Pupils will be given the option of taking Swahili or sign language. This is madness. I am not against people learning sign language. My concern is that those who will readily place out of Swahili are the very pupils who ought to be learning and speaking more of the language. My conjecture is that the only schools that will afford good sign language teachers will be the pricier ones in the urban areas. These schools have students who can barely speak Swahili because English is the only language they can truly claim to speak. This is a shame.

While we continue trying to Kenyanize people in West Pokot, Suba, Mogotio, Maragua and Garsen, we should not forget the youngsters in Nairobi. They need to be educated in Swahili too. In fact I think it is time we had subjects like religious and social studies (at the primary school level) taught in Swahili – along with English, Math and the Sciences which would obviously still be taught in English for practical reasons.

celebrating kenyatta day

Macharia Gaitho has a rather hard hitting editorial piece in the Daily Nation today. His rather utopian idealization of the revolutionary Kenyan peasantry aside (they are very complicit in the creation of the mess that is Kenya today), I think he raises some serious questions that the country – and especially the ruling class – needs to revisit as it celebrates Kenyatta Day.

Happy Kenyatta Day!!