I am pleased to join all of you in celebrating this year's Kenyatta Day. We commemorate this occasion every year because it reminds us of the importance of the spirit of self-sacrifice in the building of our nation.
This spirit began with our national heroes of the pre-independence generation. Although they hailed from different parts of the country, they shared one dream that one day their children, and indeed all future generations of Kenyans would live in peace and in a free, democratic and independent country.
And for the sake of that dream, the founders of our nation sacrificed their own freedoms. Some of them were jailed in far away places and some even lost their lives. But they never gave up. And because of their determination, we are today proud citizens of a beautiful country that is respected across the world.
The founders of our nation also shared the belief that it was possible to build a country devoid of poverty, ignorance, and disease, and where all the citizens have the opportunity to earn a decent living through hard work from farming, business, or wage employment. This day therefore offers us an opportunity to look back at the path we have travelled as a nation, and to plan for the new emerging challenges.
In all my travels across the country, and in my meetings with fellow Kenyans from various communities and social backgrounds, I find that the foremost desire of our people is to live in a country where everyone is treated equally, irrespective of their backgrounds. Kenyans yearn for an inclusive society which provides social and economic opportunities for all, and in which individuals and communities have the opportunity to live decent lives and earn decent livelihoods throughout the country. Looking back at where we started 45 years ago, I can testify that we have made substantial progress. But we cannot afford to slow down. We must work harder, and be more innovative and resourceful. This is because the challenges we are facing are greater now than they were 45 years ago.
These challenges include, a rapidly changing political, economic, and social environment, both nationally as well as globally. For instance, we now have four times as many Kenyans to feed, educate, shelter, and to find work for. We also have millions of unemployed and underemployed youth, many of whom are fairly well educated, and are full of ambition. We have seen how noble that ambition can be from the world-class performance of our athletes at the recent Beijing Olympics and Paralympics games, and in many other global and regional sporting events. We have seen how resourceful and innovative the youth are in music, arts, culture, I.C.T., and other sectors. But we have also seen how easily the energy of our youth can be taken advantage of by those who will want to recruit them into criminal gangs and ethnic militias.
My first appeal to all fellow Kenyans today therefore is that we should all re-dedicate ourselves to finding solutions to the demands of our youthful population. Engaging our youth will go a long way in tackling some of the challenges of urban and rural crime. As government, we are sparing no effort or time in finding appropriate solutions to these challenges. In this respect, the Ministry of Youth and Sports is finalizing proposals on programmes whose implementation will enable us to employ many young people in public works, impart skills, and entrench a business culture. If we succeed in implementing these proposals, we will have secured the future of our youth and that of the country.
On my part, I have no doubt that we must succeed. That is why I recently directed the relevant Government agencies and the National Economic and Social Council to provide us with strategies that will create sufficient wage and self-employment opportunities capable of absorbing the majority of our school and college leavers. For instance, it is estimated that up to 800,000 young people are entering the job market each year. We must ensure that these have access to decent jobs and self-employment opportunities. Towards this end, we are implementing measures to create a 24-hour economy. In addition, we are developing innovative ways of mobilizing public and private financing for expanding our national infrastructure. Moreover, the huge investments we are making in sectors such as energy, roads, housing, transport, education, health, agriculture, industry, I.C.T., and tourism are all geared towards boosting our economic performance, and generating as many jobs for the youth as possible.
As a member of the global community, our country is currently facing problems caused by rising global food and energy prices, and the volatile world financial markets. Indeed, I know that many of you are anxious about the food situation in the country, about the cost of energy on home and industrial production budgets, and on what the financial crisis means in terms of future credit access and performance of the stock market.
With regard to the food crisis, I have ordered the Ministries of Agriculture, Special Programmes and Finance to import maize and purchase grain from our farmers so that we have enough stocks. This maize will be distributed to National Cereals and Produce Board depots in the badly affected areas and sold at affordable prices or distributed as relief to the worst affected communities, so that all Kenyans will have enough to eat. However, even as we take these preventive measures, we must turn our efforts to increasing the productivity of our farmers in food production in order to enhance the food security of all our people. Towards this end, the Government is mobilizing resources to purchase sufficient quantities of fertilizer that will be availed to farmers at affordable prices. We shall also ensure availability of good seed as well as credit facilities to small farmers for the next season. Further, we are investing substantial resources in the livestock sub-sector through implementation of disease control measures, and aggressive search for better markets for our livestock and livestock products.
With regard to the energy crisis, we do appreciate that in the last few months the global oil prices have shown a downward trend. Nevertheless, the current prices are still more than double what they were, three years ago. This situation has impacted negatively on transport and energy costs, and is cutting deeply into household budgets. I have therefore directed the Ministries of Finance and Energy to reduce some taxes on energy production so as to minimize the effects of the high oil prices on domestic and industrial consumers. The Government is also developing a comprehensive energy security strategy to ensure that we will have sufficient quantities of affordable energy. Nevertheless, I must appeal to oil companies in the country to extend the benefits of the reduced international crude oil prices to the Kenyan consumers.
With regard to the global financial crisis, I am aware that it will inevitably affect our economy. I have therefore constituted an economic task force comprising officials from the Ministries of Finance, Planning and the Central Bank. The task force will draw up a strategy that will ensure continued access to affordable credit by individuals, small business owners, farmers and industries. I also expect the taskforce to provide recommendations that will enable us to strengthen our capital markets and guard against manipulation of prices of equities and bonds on the stock market to the detriment of the ordinary investor.
The utmost desire of the founders of our nation was to see that all Kenyans lived in freedom, and that our country is at peace with itself. We must never lose sight of this cherished goal. And I am happy that today, we in Kenya are free to think as we wish, speak as we wish, associate as we wish, and live and do business as we wish. However, we should always keep in mind that freedoms and liberties are not absolute - not in Kenya, or in any other country in the world. All societies are bound by rules and laws. Indeed, freedom is one side of a coin whose other side is responsibility.
Moreover, the pursuit of freedom and liberty without respect for institutions, law and order is a dangerous path for any country. When we deliberately erode the stature and authority of established institutions, use our freedom to tarnish their reputation, and our liberty to belittle those in authority, we are treading on a dangerous course. If institutions are weak, we should strengthen them. And if those managing them are not capable, we can change them. But, we must never adopt the practice of tearing down institutions without due regard to what will fill the vacuum they leave.
I have said these things, because I have no doubt in my mind that the ultimate desire of all of us is to build a better Kenya. And to do so, we must learn from our past, strengthen our governance and civic institutions and choose to use freedom and liberty in a positive and productive manner. In this regard, my Government will use the recommendations from the Kriegler Commission to strengthen our electoral system, and those from the Waki Commission to build a stable, cohesive and integrated society whose institutions protect the freedom and liberty of every citizen wherever they chose to live or work. These findings will no doubt be reflected in the new Constitution. I believe our new Constitution is within reach. The Grand Coalition Government together with the people of Kenya have the capacity and will to develop a political consensus on a win-win constitutional settlement. Indeed, I believe that this is an opportunity for the Grand Coalition Government to seal its place in our nations history by providing future generations with the legacy of a sound and durable constitutional and legal framework.
As I conclude my remarks, fellow Kenyans, our founding fathers knew that true freedom and liberty lead to political, social and economic justice. I am therefore calling on the nation of Kenya to order on this Kenyatta Day. I am calling on Kenyans to exercise every freedom and liberty they have, with due recognition and observation of the responsibilities, boundaries and obligations that go with them. Your freedom ends where the freedoms of your fellow citizens begin. I am aware that many Kenyans desire justice for past injustices. But let us also keep in mind that although the truth will set us free, justice must be tempered with forgiveness for reconciliation to take root. Let us therefore prepare as a nation to consider restitution and forgiveness as complementing truth and justice in order to give our nation a fresh start.
Finally, fellow Kenyans, on this day, when we remember the sacrifices made by our founding fathers during the struggle for independence, I want to call upon all Kenyans to forgive one another.
I urge you all to seize this moment and come together by fostering peace. Yes, let us all work together to give our children and youth a chance to have a better, peaceful and prosperous future.
Thank You God Bless You All.