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President Uhuru Kenyatta Speech @ Kenya 50th Independence Day Celebration

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President Uhuru Kenyatta at Safaricom Stadium Karasari President Uhuru Kenyatta at Safaricom Stadium Karasari

“We as Kenyans are proud that our freedom struggle provided inspiration to Nelson Mandela, one of history's greatest leaders. His life and monumental accomplishments testify to the necessity to fight for freedom. Indeed, we have been privileged to live during his time and learn so much from him,” said President Uhuru Kenyatta during the marking of 50 years of independence at Safaricom Sports Center at Kasarani, Nairobi, Kenya. 20 heads of states attended the ceremony that included dignitaries from all over the world as well as thousands of Kenyans who filled the stadium and celebrated across the country.

Full Speech

Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government, Friends of Kenya, Fellow Kenyans, Ladies and Gentlemen, You are all aware, last week on Thursday the former President of South Africa, Hon. Nelson Mandela, passed away. There is no doubt the late Mandela will remain, even in his death, an inspiration to all people of the World who care about humanity and freedom. In this regard, it is befitting, before I proceed any further with my remarks, we all observe a minute of silence to honour this truly African icon. We pray our Mighty God rests Mandela’s soul, in everlasting peace. 

As we celebrate this defining moment in our history, let us also remember all those pan-Africanists whose sacrifice and unity of purpose saw the liberation of our continent. Together with our founding president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Algeria’s founding President, Ahmed Ben Bella and of course Nelson Mandela, these were visionaries who saw a united Africa as the foundation of a truly prosperous continent. We are proud of these great sons of Africa, and acknowledge their sacrificial role, which continues to shape our continent.

Ladies and Gentlemen, We as Kenyans are proud that our freedom struggle provided inspiration to Nelson Mandela, one of history's greatest leaders. His life and monumental accomplishments testify to the necessity to fight for freedom. Indeed, we have been privileged to live during his time and learn so much from him. 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,  Today marks a historic, momentous and glorious day for our country, Kenya. It is with joy and pride that we celebrate 50 years of independence. Fifty years ago, on December 12, 1963 a new and hopeful nation, Kenya, was born with unlimited potential. We were now a free and sovereign people, and we began the journey of determining our own political, economic, and social destiny.

Our struggle for independence, which had gone on for many years, had finally borne fruit. But this independence did not come cheap. It was won by the brave, selfless, and visionary men and women who were willing to sacrifice even their own lives for the love of their country. And, indeed, thousands paid the ultimate price in the course of the struggle. This, they did, to guarantee that their children and children’s children would be free, living with dignity.

The freedom we enjoy today was earned by the blood of patriots and their sacrifices must never be in vain. As we recognize the important role that they played in our nation’s history, we must remember that the greatest honour that we can give them is to live by the high ideals that they envisioned for Kenya. Their passionate dreams for an equitable, free and just Kenya must be our driving force today and in the years to come.

Most importantly, the unity exhibited by the freedom fighters, regardless of their race, tribe, religion, or class should motivate our efforts to build a united, prosperous nation, devoid of ethnic or parochial divisions. We must remain, united as Kenyans, and, I underscore, it is not a matter of choice.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, At independence our founding president, identified three enemies that we were to fight from then on. These were poverty, ignorance, and disease. Over the last 50 years, we have made great strides in overcoming these problems. Fifty years ago, our economy was basically one producing primary commodities that were more meant to provide raw materials for our coloniser’s industries.

Today, the economic landscape is significantly different. There are thousands of successful local entrepreneurs who are engaged in a myriad of business activities that produce goods and services for domestic consumption as well as for export. Our Securities Exchange is thriving and is one of the leading bourses on the continent. We have a strong middle class that is growing by the day.

The service sector, especially ICT, has grown in leaps and bounds, driven by home-grown innovations and is now providing livelihood to millions of our people. Kenya is now a regional financial hub and numerous multinational companies have set up regional and continental offices in Nairobi. Most importantly, our agricultural sector, which is the backbone of our economy, has become increasingly modernized. Indeed, it is a source of income for our farmers.

We also have an enviable infrastructure network that facilitates trade across the country as well as the region. To increase our stock of infrastructure, I recently launched the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway and the new Jomo Kenyatta International Airport Greenfields Terminal. These projects will greatly enhance our competitiveness as Kenya and, indeed, for the Eastern Africa region as a whole.

They will also provide opportunities for employment of our youth, during construction and after completion. To further deepen our infrastructure development, my Government, in collaboration with our neighbours, has committed to undertake the Lamu Port, South Sudan, and Ethiopia

Transit (LAPSSET) project, which will open a second major corridor of development in this region.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Fifty years ago, millions of our people were illiterate and unschooled.

Today, over 90 percent of Kenyans are educated. We have a forward-looking, versatile and ambitious people able to support every industry in the modern economy. Today, Kenya boasts 22 public universities, dozens of private universities, thousands of colleges and institutes. The array of professions being developed is amazing. We are in the forefront in industrial and ICT training, not to mention traditional professions. As I speak, this month alone, some ten thousand Kenyans graduated from universities.

Fifty years ago, healthcare was inaccessible to most of our people. Health facilities were few, far between and thousands of our people died from treatable medical conditions. Today, the situation is remarkably different. Not only do we have thousands of health workers, but also services are much closer to the people as health facilities are now spread across all parts of the country. We have also achieved notable success in the areas of child and maternal health.

Fifty years ago electric lighting was only associated largely with the cities of Nairobi and Mombasa. Today we have, through a comprehensive rural electrification public investment programme, taken electric power to most parts of the country that were in the past viewed as remote. This is transforming our rural set-ups and empowering them.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, As we commemorate this historic Jamhuri Day, I call three things to your attention. First of all, I appeal to you to reflect on the sacrifices of our freedom fighters. At a dark time, these heroes and heroines – peasants, menial labourers, clerks, traders, the youth and other ordinary people – chose, at an enormous personal cost, to take the just path for their nation.

Secondly, let us consider the cost of freedom. Although human rights are fundamental and inalienable, they still need to be protected and defended.

Let us all reflect on the value of our freedom and sovereignty, and commit ourselves to always defend them.

Thirdly, I invite you to consider more deeply the responsibilities that come with freedom. Freedom is meaningful when citizens shoulder their obligations to one another and diligently discharge them. What are these obligations? To treat each other with respect, no matter our cultural differences.

To work hard and honestly; To refrain from corruption; To speak our truth; To represent ourselves and each other fairly; To educate ourselves and each other; To help people lift themselves out of poverty and disease; To work to develop our country in an equitable fashion; To respect laws and abide by them; And to do these things consistently.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, While we have made significant strides as a Nation, let’s face the reality. We are yet to reach the Promised Land. Over the last five decades, we have missed opportunities to be the best of the best in the world, with excellent economic plans and resources exported to build other nations. Our infrastructure has not been sufficient to meet our development needs.

Our social and political environment has been susceptible to manipulation and practices that have made it difficult to reduce inequality in a meaningful manner. This, in turn, led to disenchantment, insecurity and suffering. In addition, our competing ethnic and political interests connived to override the national interest, with serious repercussions.

This, tragically, has on occasion led to violence and loss of life and property.

But in 2010, we as a nation chose to renew the faith with our founding fathers. In 2010, we gave ourselves a Constitution that affirms the sovereignty of the people of Kenya, and puts our destiny in our hands. The charter instituted equality and devolution. We agreed on how we shall bake and share the national cake.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, The challenges we face will be overcome more significantly when devolution effectively works and the counties play their intended role in our development efforts. The counties are the new centres of growth, resources mobilization and utilization. The 47 counties must catalytically revamp our development as they embrace a strait of healthy competition in their development initiatives.

I am very impressed by some of the initiatives taken by county governments to attract investors and mobilize local investment in their counties. I encourage every Kenyan to take a key interest and invest in their home county. We should put money into trade and investment activities in the respective rural communities. This will ensure that our young people have meaningful work to do and thus have no energy left to engage in undesirable social activities. Men and women who have excelled in various fields should regularly visit their rural communities and engage with primary and secondary school students and serve as role models as well as mentors for our young people.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen; In the recent past, coal, oil and other mineral resources with commercial viability have been discovered in different parts of our country. This is an opportunity for Kenya to lift itself to the next level of development through the exploitation of these resources. The Government is working on policies to guide the exploitation of these minerals and help us avoid the pitfalls of other mineral rich countries where they have caused serious environmental degradation, conflict and social decay. The National Government will collaborate with County Governments where the minerals have been discovered to ensure that the benefits accruing from such minerals also reach the local population. We have, in this regard, developed a framework covering the mining, processing and sale of the minerals. And we are committed to strictly abiding with that framework.

I, however, wish to warn those inciting local population to violence in areas where these minerals have been discovered that the full force of the law will be used against them. Legitimate concerns and grievances should be resolved through peaceful means. Violence and chaos will not benefit anybody. Violence will only undermine the full exploitation of those resources and therefore delay the developmental benefits that we all should enjoy.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, The world over, it has been proved that national unity is critical to the socio-economic advancement of any society. National unity is one of my most passionate goals. I pledge to you today, fellow countrymen and women, that national unity and integration will be priority Number One of my Administration. We must all be ready to fight against negative ethnicity.

For too long our people have suffered from this disease but now it is time to say we are tired and we must eliminate it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I envision a Kenya where we will all be proud of our diverse heritage and cultures but where we unite around our common aspirations as Kenyans, as enshrined in the Constitution. We have to accept Kenya is our motherland; the land where Kenyans of all nationalities and of all religious faith can live together as brothers and sisters.

As we indicated in our Manifesto, the Jubilee Government believes in one Kenya; a Kenya where every citizen, whoever they are and wherever they live will have the opportunity to succeed and prosper, free of discrimination. Our shared aim is to end meaningless ethnic tensions and rivalry and to unite all our citizens. I am determined to provide leadership towards the attainment of this noble objective.

A united Kenya has tremendous potential for growth and development. Indeed, Kenya is not a collection of 42 tribes who have to live together. Kenya is one nation, assembled by divine providence and held together for the last 50 years by our common will and belief in a collective brighter future for our children, our future generations, and ourselves.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Africa has always stood by Kenya as we seek integration and growth, and we, in return, will always stand by Africa – which, is now at the centre of our economic policy. As I stated at my inauguration earlier this year and, and again when I addressed the African Union in my maiden speech, Kenya’s national interest is anchored on regional and continental integration.

This year, the African Union, like Kenya, is celebrating its 50th Anniversary. In 1963, when our pioneers established the OAU, their vision was to realise political, social and economic integration as a means of achieving prosperity, peace and growth. Considerable progress has been made towards regional and continental integration, but a lot still remains to be done.

In Eastern Africa, the EAC Partner States have committed to a customs union; achieving a monetary union; and eventually, our aim is to achieve a political federation. Concurrently the EAC in partnership with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) are negotiating a Tripartite Free Trade Area.

The high growth rate that Africa has attained was spurred by prudent macro-economic policies adopted by a large number of African states, the relative peace and security that prevails on most of the continent, the regional integration that engenders growing intra-African trade and buoyant commodity prices.

In order to sustain and enhance this momentum, it is absolutely necessary to accelerate the implementation of the continental integration agenda especially as relates to infrastructure development, food security, and the free movement of people, goods and services. To further deepen our commitments to the continent, today I announce five initiatives on our regional and continental agenda.

First, Kenya will contribute to a brigade to be part of the Rapid Response mechanism as part of the Africa Peace and Security Architecture agreed during the last Assembly of AU Heads of State and Government.

Second, Kenya will champion – with our African brothers and sisters – the free movement of persons on the continent. Today, we announce that any African passport will obtain a visa on arrival in Kenya based on a principle of reciprocity. Under these arrangements, any African visitor may stay for up to 6 months. The only exception to this rule will be when regional security could be compromised.

Third, to sustain and enhance the momentum, we in Africa have experienced in the past decade, deeper investment in intra-African trade. In this regard, Kenya is ready to partner with our sisterly countries in the southern, central, western and northern regions, to fast-track the implementation of the recently adopted Continental Free Trade Area. Kenya has also offered to provide technical support to the process.

Fourth, Kenya is ready to champion the fast tracking of the implementation of the African Infrastructure Programme within the Eastern Africa region.

Fifth, Kenya offers to work with fellow African countries to steer the implementation of an integrated air transport and African open skies policy in line with the Yamoussoukro decision. We believe these measures are important to add impetus to Africa’s growth efforts, and show our deep commitment to our continent.

Let me also acknowledge that day by day, Africa is taking greater responsibility for security on the continent. Africa’s peace building efforts in the Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are testimony to a new approach that will serve our continent well.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, As Africa grows, so Kenya grows. We are taking radical steps to help our country grow faster. My Government is committed to pursuing a new brand of politics. We are committed to fostering an open, tolerant and hardworking Kenya with modern institutions and adhering to good governance. To do this, all leaders must be ready to be held accountable for their actions.

It is the responsibility of Kenyans to scrutinize their leaders and question their performance and character.

My Government in collaboration with Kenyans will get tough with those who use their positions of power to acquire ill-gotten wealth. Therefore, the now fully constituted Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission must utilize its constitutionally given mandate to investigate and bring to book all those involved in corruption. In the meantime, I urge all Kenyans of goodwill not to give any bribes or otherwise participate in corrupt activities.

Ladies and Gentlemen, In building our nation and taking it to the level of development where we are today, I cannot forget to appreciate the support we have gotten from our development partners.

We are particularly grateful for the support that has gone into building our infrastructure that is critical in enhancing the competitiveness of our economy. We do believe we have more to cooperate with our international friends for the betterment not of Kenya alone but the world as a whole.

However, we have a message for them. It is important to recognise that Africa has come of age. Africa seeks constructive partnership.

We will embrace partnerships based on mutual respect and win-win scenarios. We will not accept partnerships that do not recognize we also have the intellectual capacity to engage on equal terms. Africa has a voice. Fifty years after independence, Africa demands that its voice must be heard.

In conclusion, I believe that Kenya is on the verge of becoming a middle income country with high standards of living as laid out in our Vision 2030.To achieve this desired objective, it is critical that political, religious and business leaders exercise responsible leadership and for all of us to respect the rule of law and work hard for the benefit of our country.

I want to give an equivocal commitment to the protection of lives and property of Kenyans; to the economic prosperity for all of us; to inclusivity and equitable growth that leaves no one behind; and to total adherence to the rule of law.

And you on your part as Kenyans, I expect you to remain united and to adhere to good governance as the key pillars on which to build a stronger prosperous and equitable Kenya. The culture of ‘mali ya uma lazima iishe kutoka sasa’.

Our forefathers succeeded in the struggle for our freedom because they were united and above all they were men and women of integrity.

They believed in sharing equally even one grain of maize, if that is all that was available.

Therefore, as we celebrate 50 years of independence, let each of us make a personal commitment to a just, cohesive, and caring nation.

This is what our forefathers fought for. This is what we owe them. This is what we owe the future generations and ourselves.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I Thank You; God Bless You; And God Bless Kenya.

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