Thank you all for joining us this evening to celebrate this day with us. We are indeed honoured by your presence and I extend to all of you a warm welcome. Today is exactly 53 years after Kenya attained independence - on 12 December 1963. On this day, we remember and honour thousands of our countrymen who sacrificed their lives in the freedom struggle to grant us sovereignty, liberties and freedoms we continue to enjoy. And so on this day, it behoves us to take stock of the journey we have travelled as a country, and assess how that journey has met the aspirations of the founders of our Nation - for a free and prosperous Kenya.
53 years is not a long time in the life of a Nation. However, in that period I’m proud to say our country has made remarkable strides. A lot of work has gone in overcoming poverty, education and health care provision. Growing the economy and enterprise development are at the center stage of government policy, as it the focus on the harnessing human resource capacities, the youth, as well initiatives to mainstream the participation of women in socio- economic development. The consequence is that today Kenya is a thriving economy driven chiefly by the private sector; it’s a choice investment destination with a globally competitive business environment; it’s also an open and vibrant democracy. All this has come on the back of extensive and sweeping sector wide reforms. Those who have followed our story know that the passage of a New Constitution in 2010 was a watershed moment. So far, its implementation has seen the overhauling of institutional and governance structures entrenching accountability and rule of law among other far reaching implications. It is on this trajectory thards of living by the year 2030. Still, this journey is not without challenges. They include acts of terrorism on our soil, corruption and negative ethnicity, all setbacks, but none the less surmountable. The fight against terrorism in particular is one area that the government has tackled zealously with significant progress. As you know Kenya is a favourite tourist destination and the security of our visitors is paramount. Perhaps before I forget, and because we are going to the holiday season, I should take this opportunity to assure those planning to spend their holidays in Kenya, that the country is safe and secure.
Kenya and Sudan share strong and longstanding bonds of friendship. Our bilateral relationship is not only based on the fact that we are neighbours, which means that our destinies are inextricably linked, but also on shared aspirations and objectives. These goals include of poverty reduction, economic growth and ensuring peace and stability in the region.
The two countries established a Joint Ministerial Commission in 1977 and to date it remains an important vehicle and anchor for bilateral cooperation. The Commission held its 9th session in December 2015 here in Khartoum and renewed the bilateral agenda, emphasizing economic and trade cooperation as a key focus area. Indeed, there is recognition of the fact that the level of bilateral trade both in terms of volume and diversity remains low, and is not in tandem with the close political dialogue that Kenya and Sudan have established thanks to regular interactions and exchange of visits between senior government officials.
When H.E President Uhuru Kenyatta visited Sudan last month, he also made it clear that there is need to deepen our cooperation into many other areas of comparative advantage. Indeed, during the visit, the President Kenyatta was very impressed by the remarkable progress Sudan has made in the areas of energy and mining. He was categorical that Kenya and Sudan possess invaluable capacities which they can share for the prosperity of their people.
In fact, it is the recognition of such potential that exists within Africa countries that’s has inspired H.E President Uhuru Kenyatta to lead a passionate drive for an afrocentric agenda as a key element of Kenya’s foreign policy. You see, it is a well known fact that it is only through deeper integration, connectivity and enhanced intra-Africa trade that Africa can leverage its competitive advantage and take its rightful place in global arena. President Kenyatta believes it’s now time to walk the talk.
In this spirit, Kenya and Sudan have worked closely and in concert on various matters of mutual concern at the regional and international level. You are conversant with the critical role played by the two countries in the ongoing efforts to bring peace and stability in South Sudan and Somalia. Counterterrorism efforts that I referred to above have achieved tremendous progress because of the close cooperation, sharing expertise and exchange of information among our countries; and Kenya is grateful to Sudan in this regard.
In the same vein, Kenya recognizes that Sudan occupies the strong position in our region and that a stronger Sudan reinforces our shared prosperity. In this regard, Kenya supports and lauds the efforts directed by H.E President Omar Bashir on the National Dialogue to coalesce Sudanese society into a unified inclusive Nation. It is our hope that the outcome and the implementation process leads to a stronger Sudanese Nation. It is also encouraging to note that there has been significant progress in the lifting of sanctions which curtailed trade and economic cooperation.
Among us in this room is a representation from the Kenyan student community in Sudan. I wish to take this opportunity to express appreciation to the Government of Sudan, and with the same gratitude, the International University of Africa, the Ahfad Women University and other Universities in Sudan for their continued support in providing opportunities to Kenyan young men and women to pursue higher education. Currently, we have several hundreds of Kenyan students many of whom are on scholarships, pursuing higher education in Sudan. This gesture of support is a long-term investment for Sudan as these young people have been good Ambassadors of Sudan on returning home. We therefore look forward to strengthening these kind of academic and professional exchanges in such a way that young people from Sudan can also benefit from similar opportunities in Kenya.
Finally, as I conclude I wish to inform you that in January 2017, the African Union Commission will elect a new office, including a new Chairperson to succeed H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma who is leaving office. Kenya remains a staunch supporter of the AU and would like to see the leadership of the organization remain in the strongest and most competent hands. In this regard, Kenya in recognition of the commitment and obligation to supporting the African agenda, has presented the candidature of Ambassador Amina Mohamed, the Foreign Minister of Kenya to vie for the position of Chairperson of the AU Commission. Ambassador Amina is an accomplished diplomat and brings to the position extraordinary experience and a distinguished service at national and international levels, having served in various elected positions to key International Organisations including WTO, UNEP and UNCTAD among others. Her strong interpersonal skills have individualised Amb. Amina as a skillful and effective negotiator. At this critical junction of Africa’s transition, Kenya believes Ambassador Amina’s credentials as a consensus builder and reformer, coupled with her international exposure and networks will serve the Commission well in driving the continents agenda. The GOK therefore appreciates the valuable support of member states for the candidature.
I wish to end my remarks here by wishing Good Health to H.E President Omar Hassan al Bashir, the President of the Republic of Sudan, and Prosperity and long lasting friendship between the People of Kenya and Sudan.
May God bless you all!
Asante sana! Shukran! Thank you very much.
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