Peter Kenneth, his profile, manifesto and presidential outlook
Peter Kenneth is on course to becoming the first Kenyan president who does not use any African names, but this is not the only thing that sets him leagues apart from the rest of the pack. He is also the only assistant minister fully immersed in the campaign for the country’s top job. Talk of a one man army trying to take the world by storm and to his credit, his sail is largely without dirty baggage.
Kenneth is a relative newcomer to politics having first joined it in the year 2002 as the Member of Parliament for Gatanga constituency. According to him, his life has not always been easy and he has had to compete for everything he has and so far the winning streak goes on.
“I come from a humble background having been born and raised in Bahati (Nairobi) and educated through charity at the Starehe Boys’ Centre…I am not a career politician; I have been in the field for less than 10 years. Short enough to avoid the corrupting influences of power but long enough to know that Kenya’s problems can be solved and how they can be solved,” says Kenneth on his website.
At 48, he brings youth and a visionary outlook to the leadership of the country if his ability to articulate issues is anything to go by. He is a straight shooting politician who has already identified two flagship areas of concern he will focus on once elected president, unemployment and food security.
However, if his entire manifesto was to be thoroughly interrogated with regard to how realistic the goals are, it would still be a long shot to refer to it as miraculously achievable. Yet he believes he should be given the opportunity to prove to the world that he can deliver.
For instance, he plans to increase employment in Kenya by improving the environment for investment in the country. To do this he will ensure maximum internal security and shift focus of employment creation away from Government Offices and the capital intensive segments of the economy to the service sector through policy reform.
The weak ground of his whole employment plan is his strategy to sustain a GDP growth of 10% yearly to leverage employment opportunities from a fast growing economy. Given that today the economy is growing at a rate of 3.5%, way below the government target of 5.2% for the last quarter of the year, achieving this remarkable growth will be a tricky affair.
But he argues that he will be able to achieve that through the pursuit of sound economic policies relating to security, energy, water, agriculture, infrastructural development, health, education, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and environment.
“We need to cut down on the recurrent expenditures to have money that can go to infrastructure and security. That way you create opportunities for investors, and the economy grows,” says Kenneth on his website.
On Manufacturing, he introduces something completely off the books through creativity and exploitation of the county system of governance.
“My major policy (Concerning manufacturing) will be devolution of industries to the grassroots through the establishment of a rural enterprise industrial program by implementing constituency industrial development centers under the county governments,” he says.
Kenneth, who is the flag-barer of the Kenya National Congress party, not only outlines his policies but provides practical ways of ensuring they are implemented. One has to visit his website to interact with his ideas, which overflow in a totally different vein compared with his competitors who mostly have general ideas in mind.
Suffice it to say, the Gatanga MP is one of the least popular candidates for the presidency in Kenya today. He rarely speaks out on issues in parliament and is consequently less popular not because he doesn’t possess the necessary leadership skills but probably due to the fact that few actually know who he really is in public. He is a member of the Speaker’s committee in the house nonetheless.
There are several ways of reaching Kenneth since his presence is largely concentrated in cyberspace. He responds to questions posed on his website (NB: This used to be interactive before a revamp. Ironically now, the new version is not) and always indicates his activities in his vibrant Facebook and twitter accounts. He also provides a round the clock premium number for anyone wishing to connect with him personally.
Despite his law background, he has consistently occupied positions both in his former employment history and in government as a policy maker. He is currently the Assistant Minister of State for Planning, National Development and Vision 2030.
Between December 2005 and 2007 he served as the Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Finance,
a position he assumed after serving as the Assistant Minister, Ministry of Cooperative Development and Marketing between 2003 and 2005. He succeeded in these portfolios probably because his academic resume includes the fact that he has undertaken numerous Banking and Insurance courses as well.
Kenneth has been a vocal proponent of the idea that MPs should only be eligible for election to parliament if they possess a university degree qualification, a position that was not so popular among conservative Kenyans. A bill which sought to enshrine this requirement in the constitution was turned down by President Mwai Kibaki, whose assenting signature would have made it legally binding.
Peter Kenneth should have won the top prize if the race was determined by how impressive manifestos were. However, since he is largely untested in political leadership, it becomes difficult to determine whether his is only an academic genius or a sign of political salvation for Kenyans.