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Cablegate: Kenya President Reopens Parliament: Focuses On

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UNCLAS NAIROBI 001318

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KDEM PGOV ASEC PTER KE
SUBJECT: KENYA PRESIDENT REOPENS PARLIAMENT: FOCUSES ON
DEVELOPMENT


This message is sensitive but unclassified. Please handle
accordingly.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Opening the final session of Parliament
before December's general elections, President Kibaki on
March 20 delivered a speech strongly focused on his
government's development accomplishments. While he noted
that the government will reintroduce the anti-money
laundering bill and highlighted the urgent need for improved
security in the country, Kibaki avoided making any specific
commitment to constitutional or electoral reform. END
SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) On March 20, President Kibaki presided over the
opening of Parliament delivering what has become the
government's re-election refrain: "look what we've done for
you." Kibaki's remarks mirrored a publication released on
February 22 detailing what the government of Kenya has
accomplished for its citizens. The annual address is
traditionally an opportunity for the president to set the
government's policy and legislative agenda for the coming
year. For 2007, Kibaki announced ambitious development
goals, especially in marginalized regions, while
acknowledging areas where more attention is required, such as
insecurity, the judicial system, and transparency.

Poverty, Development and the Economy
------------------------------------

3. (U) The bulk of Kibaki's speech was devoted to
highlighting the government's development accomplishments, in
particular its well-regarded free primary education program.
Kibaki also noted successes in rural electrification and
agricultural production, and announced the government's
intention to improve the socio-economic status of women
through a women's enterprise development fund. Included in
the list of government successes were initiatives for
national inclusivity. Kibaki noted his administration's
gains in development in northern and coastal Kenya (two
historically neglected regions). The president added that
the government is developing an "Economic Recovery Program"
for all of Coast Province. (NOTE: Coast Province is one of
the more politically contested provinces. END NOTE.)

4. (U) In support of his government's development record,
Kibaki highlighted a number of economic indicators. With
lower interest rates, a stable exchange rate, and
"relatively" stable inflation "confidence is at an all-time
high among local and international investors," Kibaki
declared. The president cited growth in several sectors,
including tourism, which he said earned Kenya 56 billion
shillings (approximately USD 800 million), and
communications, with over 7 million cellphone subscribers.
Kibaki announced that the government is developing "Vision
Twenty Thirty," a strategy for the country to sustain 10
percent average growth over the next 25 years.

Troublesome Issues
------------------

5. (SBU) Kibaki addressed a number of contentious issues,
including corruption, the judiciary, insecurity, and
constitutional reform.

-- To eliminate the "perception of corruption," the President
pledged to introduce amendments to make officials' wealth
declarations public. Kibaki also acknowledged the strong
performance of "watchdog committees," a reference to the
Public Accounts Committee's investigation into the massive
Anglo Leasing corruption scandal and the successful tabling
in parliament of the subsequent report. (NOTE: The debating
of the report in parliament despite protest from some members
of government was a victory for checks and balances. END
NOTE.)

-- The president stated that the government would propose a
bill for improved judicial autonomy. In addition, to
increase the judiciary's capacity, he announced an increase
in the number of judges from 60 to 200, of which 100 will be
in the High Court (bringing to total to 150). (COMMENT:
While the addition of 140 more judges would help relieve the
stifling judicial backlog and prison congestion, without a
corresponding increase in the number of courthouses and

prosecutors, it is meaningless. END COMMENT.)

-- Kibaki acknowledged the serious problem of insecurity,
commenting that "Kenya is yet to become a 24-hour economy,
largely because of concerns about security."

-- Despite optimistic media reports the morning of the speech
that the President would announce a constitutional reform
plan in response to opposition demands, he simply repeated
the anodyne promise to "facilitate a dialogue on the...way
forward." (COMMENT: With most Kenyans fatigued of
constitutional reform after years of false starts, Kibaki's
dance around the issue only provoked the attention of the
political class and civil society. END COMMENT.)

Legislative Agenda
------------------

6. (SBU) Among the government's legislative priorities this
session, Kibaki specifically pledged to re-introduce the
long-awaited anti-money laundering bill (a top U.S. Mission
CT priority) and table a political parties bill. (NOTE: The
draft bill is yet to be published but is likely to contain
provisions for party financing and an increased number of
nominated parliamentary seats for women. END NOTE.) The
president stated that the government will formalize the
creation of 62 new districts. (COMMENT: Which will include,
consequently, the appointment of 62 new District
Commissioners - a useful patronage opportunity as the
election approaches. END COMMENT.)

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Kibaki has proposed an ambitious agenda
for this session of parliament during which politicians on
all sides are sure to be distracted by election campaigns.
Although forthright in acknowledging some of the challenges
his government faces from insecurity and regional inequities,
Kibaki avoided making any specific commitment to
constitutional reform. With respect to Mission priorities,
we can be pleased that Kibaki made explicit mention of
anti-money laundering legislation (a top U.S. Mission
counter-terrorism priority), raising its profile with Kenyan
parliamentarians and giving us an open door through which to
lend our support. END COMMENT.
RANNEBERGER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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