Honourable Members of the County Assembly
Thank you for welcoming me to this Assembly and to the wonderful county of Laikipia.
In the short year I have enjoyed so far as British High Commissioner to Kenya I have had the pleasure of visiting this county many times, both on official duty and for leisure with my family. Each time has been a real pleasure. I hope to return many times more – indeed I firmly plan to do so.
This is a place to which I as the representative of the United Kingdom feel deeply connected.
The relationship between Kenya and the UK is based on deep respect and mutual interest.
We must live with and honour our shared history, with its moments of both great joy and deep pain. But we must recognise too that these experiences have woven a fabric of connection between our governments, our businesses and our people. Our present, and our future, are intertwined.
Nowhere in Kenya do I feel that connection as strongly as here in Laikipia. Of course here it is impossible not to start by recognising the strength of our relationship in the area of defence. I have spent time with many of the British soldiers who have trained here. This county holds a special place in all their hearts.
So I was delighted to witness the ratification, in September, of a new Defence Cooperation Agreement between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Kenya which will sustain that defence relationship for the next five years.
In October, I was pleased to be able to accompany Cabinet Secretary for Defence, Raychelle Omamo, to BATUK to watch Kenyan and UK troops on joint exercises – the first time our forces have trained together for some years, and the start of a further expansion of our important defence relationship.
This is a partnership which benefits not just our defence forces but the wananchi of this County. The presence of BATUK contributes some 5.5 billion Kenyan Shillings to the local economy, to health, and to other forms of community development. BATUK employs over 400 contracted and 3000 casual workers per year in Laikipia and neighbouring Samburu counties.
In your communities in Laikipia, British personnel rent land for training and for living; spend money in your shops and restaurants; and take out a number of local contracts for services. So their presence sustains a strong local economy.
We have graded around 3,000 kilometres of roads and tracks in the last year. We build boreholes, bridges and boda boda shelters used by local communities.
Our 15 Health Outreach Clinics treat around 3,500 Kenyans per year. And, in conjunction with the Kenyan Ministry of Health, the Kenyan Ministry of Defence and the Red Cross, we provide health education for around 12,000 Kenyans per year.
And I am proud to say that we have refurbished six schools and one orphanage in the local community this year. We are already planning work on two more schools in Dol Dol in the New Year.
All that forms part of a relationship in which the United Kingdom is deeply committed to Kenya’s development.
Every year my country spends over 40 billion Kenyan Shillings in our development programme in Kenya. We concentrate on improving health, increasing the quality of education, reducing vulnerability among Kenya’s most disadvantaged, and catalysing private sector growth to create more jobs for young people.
Here in Laikipia County, our Kenya Market Assistance Programme helps poor people to benefit from better functioning markets. Across Kenya by 2018, this programme will increase the household incomes of nearly 150,000 small scale farmers and entrepreneurs - of whom 33% are women - by an average of over 20%. We also hope it will create 36,000 jobs for women and 73,000 for men and male youth.
Meanwhile our programmes on the environment, also active in this County, are helping Kenya scale up private sector innovation and investment in low carbon, clean energy, sustainable agriculture, water management and weather forecasting. Our aim is to help over 800,000 people cope with the effects of climate change and give over 17,000 improved access to clean energy.
Lastly, I know the importance of attracting private investment. So I was pleased to host earlier this year, with His Excellency the Governor, an event at my Residence in Nairobi aimed at linking British investors with the plans and ambitions of this County and its Administration. I stand ready to support the County further in this area when that may be useful.
I have followed with deep concern the violence which has erupted recently around land invasions in Laikipia County. I have regularly raised with the Government of Kenya in Nairobi my concerns about these events. I do so not as a supporter of one set of interests, but as a friend of Kenya – a friend who cares deeply about this country and about the peaceful environment which is so vital to its development.
Where the security of legally-acquired land tenure is called into question, investors hear a clear message: that they should take their business elsewhere. Tourists contemplating a holiday in this beautiful place may start to reconsider their options.
But most of all, it is the ordinary wananchi who suffer. Those who have least depend most on law and order to protect what they have. And they suffer most when law and order breaks down.
So let me urge everyone in this County and its neighbourhood to focus on resolving disputes through peaceful dialogue. Let me call on all political actors, as next year’s elections approach, to refrain from any acts or speech that may inflame tensions, and to campaign peacefully based on the issues that matter most to the people of this County.
Let me call on political parties to refrain from nominating for office any members who have engaged in hate speech or in the provocation of violence or disorder for political ends.
And let me call on every citizen of Laikipia to do what they can to contribute to the peaceful development of this County and to building a better future together.
I thank you again for granting me the great privilege of addressing this Assembly. I hope that in my time in Kenya, I can continue to promote further the deep and friendly relations that exist between your county and my country.
And may God bless the people of Laikipia County.