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March 27, 2014

Kenya President Tackles Security, Corruption in National Address

by Gabe Joselow

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has pledged to address insecurity in the country by boosting police forces and committing to operations in neighboring Somalia, following recent terrorist attacks and threats.  In a state of the nation address Thursday the president also vowed to fight corruption and waste within the government. 

Speaking at a special session of parliament, President Uhuru Kenyatta underscored his administration's focus on combating terrorism by recalling the attack on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall in September by the Somali militant group al-Shabab.

“As we learned last year, insecurity anywhere in our region is a promise of insecurity everywhere.  If we do not help our neighbors to achieve the peace freedom and prosperity they deserve, then our own freedom and prosperity is threatened,” Kenyatta explained.

Kenyan troops have been involved in operations against al-Shabab in Somalia as part of the African Union peacekeeping force AMISOM.  Al-Shabab has vowed to continue to carry out attacks in Kenya in retaliation.

Kenyatta also said he would increase the number of police to address insecurity within the country.

In his first state of the nation address since taking office last year, President Kenyatta also acknowledged the need to clean up government. “It is a hard truth that some of our public services are rife with waste and corruption.  That waste threatens the productivity we have so painfully begun to build,” he said.

To reduce government expenditures, Kenyatta said his cabinet had agreed to take a 10 percent pay cut, while he and the deputy president will take a 20 percent cut.

Kenyans have voiced frustration with the comparatively high salaries paid to public servants in a country with a 40 percent unemployment rate.  

The president made no mention of the charges he faces at the International Criminal Court.  The court has accused both him and Deputy President William Ruto of organizing deadly ethnic violence after the 2007 presidential election.

Ruto's trial began last year.  The president's trial has been delayed as prosecutors attempt to collect more evidence.