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Events and personalities that shaped 2018 in Kenya

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By MILLICENT MWOLOLO
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Kenya entered the year 2018 against the backdrop of crucial events, some that posed a great threat to national peace and economic growth while others aimed at promoting progress. We have outlined them below.

UHURU-RAILA HANDSHAKE
Hate it or love it, the peace deal between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga became the defining moment.

The truce reached on March 9 ended the political tension that was caused by the contentious August 8 General Election, which saw tens of people killed and property destroyed in various parts of the country.

The ‘handshake’ helped rally Kenyans as it received acclamation from citizens and leaders. Nevertheless, it has put a strain on the President’s Jubilee Party – because Deputy President William Ruto’s supporters believe Mr Odinga wants to sabotage his presidential ambitions.

ECONOMY
Despite a slump in GDP growth – from 5.8 percent in 2016 to 4.8 percent in 2017 – Kenya’s economy still has a bright future.

According to a 2018 World Bank data on poverty rates, at least 17.3 million Kenyans still live on less than Sh92.4 per day. “The moderately robust GDP growth over the past decade has not generated consummate increases in household consumption,” the report says.

This year has been occasioned by high food, medical and energy costs.

As per the Kenya Economic update, the country’s poverty incidence is amongst the lowest in East Africa and is lower than the Sub-Saharan African regional average.

Also, the public debt is soaring, forcing the government to roll back development expenditure. The debt now stands at Sh4.8 trillion as unemployment continues to nag the national government.

Auditor–General Edward Ouko warned in June: “If we don’t watch out, corruption will engulf us.” As major scandals persist, Mr Kenyatta is waging a war on the scam.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and Directorate of Criminal Investigations have prosecuted individuals accused of corruption.

They include staff from the National Cereals and Produce Board, Government Advertising Agency, National Hospital Insurance Fund, Kenya Pipeline Company, Kenya Railways Corporation, Kenya Ports Authority, National Youth Service and Kenya Power.

In July 2018, EACC director of field services Vincent Okong’o said corruption had raised the cost of doing business in Kenya.

BIG FOUR AGENDA
Kenya’s socio-economic blueprint launched by Mr Kenyatta has bought Kenyans hope as it seeks to improve food insecurity, housing, manufacturing sector and healthcare.

The National Housing Corporation says the cumulative housing deficit has been caused by rapid population growth. To cater to the bulging number, the government is planning to build one million homes in the next five years.

It has already launched the pilot project of the Universal Healthcare Coverage that aims to provide quality and affordable services to citizens. The pilot project that targets residents of Kisumu, Nyeri, Machakos and Isiolo counties was rolled out this month.

Patients have been complaining of high cost of services that have caused the death of some.

YOUTH
About 75 percent of Kenyans are under 30 years of age, with a majority being unemployed. Experts have advised the government to tap into the potential of this group to shore up socio-economic growth.

The World Bank estimates that approximately 800,000 Kenyans join the labour market each year, and only 50,000 succeed in getting jobs in the formal sector.

Nonetheless, the government has made attempts to improve the youths’ financial stability by establishing schemes such as Uwezo Fund, through which they can get loans to start businesses.

The government has in the 2018/2019 budget allocated Sh444.1 billion towards education, with a focus on expansion of Technical and Vocation, Education and Training (TVET) infrastructure.

More synergy is needed through partnerships between learning institutions and employers so that the transfer of skills and knowledge is backed by job-market dynamics.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers partnered with Germany Technical Cooperation to promote demand-driven education.

PERSONALITIES
Raila Odinga
Raila Odinga has continued to shape and shake Kenya’s politics. After the 2017 elections which he termed a sham, he swore himself in as the ‘president’ at Uhuru Park in January. This caused tension in the National Super Alliance, which he co-leads with Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula; after they failed to take part in the occasion.

Then came the falling-out with lawyer Miguna Miguna, who is living in Canada following his deportation.

After the peace deal, he was appointed African Union’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development.

In the statement, the AU said Mr Odinga brought with him a rich political experience and strong commitment to the ideals of Pan-Africanism and African integration, as well as deep knowledge of infrastructure development.

Prof Kivutha Kibwana
The Makueni governor has come out as a model leader in both governance and socio-economic development.

The ‘governor of the year’ has redefined the role of devolution in Kenya, as his colleagues try to emulate his leadership style that places public participation at the pinnacle of governance.

He has promoted road infrastructure, manufacturing sector and healthcare. For example, he set up fruit and milk processing plants to empower smallholder farmers.

George Kinoti and Noordin Haji
This was the year that both Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti and Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji stood out as the champions in the fight against corruption.

The have prosecuted influential individuals such as MPs and former ministers accused of graft. Some of the casualties are National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri, Agriculture Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe, NHIF CEO Geoffrey Mwangi and Joe Sang, former Kenya Power managing-director.

Their zeal contrasts with that of their predecessors. To ensure success of the war, they have urged the Judiciary to not to compromise.

Ekuru Aukot
The Thirdway Alliance party leader and former presidential contender is still grabbing headlines. Mr Aukot is calling for constitutional referendum though the ‘Punguza Mizigo’ campaign. They intend to reduce the number of MPs from 416 to 147.

So far, the party has collected 690,000 signatures and is targeting to surpass the one million mark by April 2019.

Under the proposed system, the 47 counties will be turned into constituencies, with each electing a male and female representative to Parliament.

Each constituency will also elect a male and female representative to the Senate. Additionally, six members will be nominated to Parliament to represent special interest groups.

“Kenya is currently overrepresented. A referendum will reduce the cost of running Parliament from Sh36.8 billion to Sh5 billion annually,” the party’s Secretary-General, Mr Fredrick Okango, said.

Okoth Obado
The Migori governor made headlines for one-and-a-half months following the brutal murder of his girlfriend Sharon Otieno.

The body of Ms Otieno, who was seven months pregnant, was found near Kodera forest in Homa Bay on September 4.

Mr Obado, his personal assistant Michael Oyamo and Migori County Assembly Clerk Casper Obiero were later arrested and charged with the crime. The governor spent most of the time shuttling to and fro Industrial Area Remand Prison and Milimani Law Courts.

Mr Oyamo and Mr Obiero are still in police custody. They all denied the charge.

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