The Star (Nairobi)

26 November 2012

Kenya: Peter Kenneth - Kenyan Problems Need Kenyan Solutions

Peter Kenneth is the Member of Parliament for Gatanga and an Assistant Minister State for Planning, National Development and Vision 2030. He believes he has what it takes to fix Kenya's two main challenges - unemployment and food security, he spoke to Star Reporter Solomon Kirimi

Where did you acquire your distinctive discipline attribute that make you stand out?

I was brought up by a very strict mother and then the high standards of discipline at Starehe Boys Centre where I went to high school before studying Law at the University of Nairobi is what shaped my character.

Who is Peter Kenneth at a glance and where did he come from?

That story of my life is for another day, but I can tell you I am a self-made person from a very challenging background and hence the choice of my political campaign clarion call that is "Tunawesmake". Meaning we can all make it, because I am proof of that, and it is just a matter of choice.

How do you intend to convince Kenyans that you can deliver to the country like you have done to your constituency?

The biggest mistake we make as leaders is giving promises of a quick fix to all our problems. By trying to do everything at the same time, we mess everything up. Mine is a medium and long term plan. I have made it public and I am counting on my previous record in various private and public positions to form the basis of voting for me.

Please share some few examples:

I worked in the financial sector as a banker at management level. Then I moved to the Kenya Reinsurance Company where I initiated the international arm of its business after realizing we had exhausted the local. Now Kenya re has business across Africa. Let me say to the youth that during my chairmanship at Kenya Football Federation, (1996-2000) everything worked right because we had audits, proper records and updated accounts. All expenditure was transparently accounted for. Given a chance as president we would initiate academies where children as young as five would sharpen their sporting abilities.

How will you implement your plan to fix the many problems in the country?

In management, you must set goals and aim to achieve them realistically, led by a person with the ability to combine vision, with passion and love for the country. That is what we did in Gatanga. We will do the same as a country.

Who do you mean when you say we?

The ability to co-opt the right team to do the work is key to delivery of the desires of people. It will take time to re-engineer a turnaround of sectors that have suffered neglect, and that needs a serious honest team.

How long would it take for a real impact of your plans to be felt?

It would take four to five years to complete the first phase of the plan, within which security, rule of law, and infrastructure, jelled well enough to form the basis for economic take off.

Would that mean more jobs will be created?

Opportunities yes, but governments do not create jobs, only the right environment for all its citizens to make their living easily. That's our goal. Currently a large section of our 41 million people go hungry. In the next ten years we will be 53 million. Therefore health and support agricultural production is one of our priorities alongside agro-processing and manufacturing for export.

How would you deal with insecurity in the country?

We will immediately equip the police with the right technologies and tools, pay them well and build them houses to motivate them. The corrupt ones will be sacked and dedicated officers rewarded. To end cattle rustling the plan is to develop their areas with roads, water, schools, healthcare, electricity and civic education while disarming criminals in those areas. This can be done in the medium term without causing disruption of their other cultural norms.

How will you finance those grand plans without borrowing too much which would hurt the country in future?

First cut out extravagant government spending, which I already know can save us billions of shillings for immediate financing of the urgent matters like security. I want to hear that local and foreign tourists have been having fun around Lake Turkana which has 800 kilometres of shoreline compared to the combined 500 kilometres for both our coast line and Lake Victoria. Only then will we know that we are secure enough to attract large investments to every part of the country and the multiple job creation effect that comes with it.

Your vision is perceived as hard to understand by the common voter because you have not excited them the Kenya-style with hilarious speeches and dances. How do you hope to endear yourself to them?

If you Kenya is looking for a break from the past, then I represent that. But I have no plans to drop my principles of civil mannerisms, because I believe want Kenya needs is a strong focused leader. The history of the world shows all countries that emerged from poverty had one leader strong enough to make the hard decisions to move their countries forward. That is what I believe I am.

Peter Kenneth was born on November 27, 1965. He comes from the Mbari ya Muhuni family of Kirwara Sub-location of Gatanga Contituency in Murang'a County. He attended Bahati Primary School for his certificate of primary education. He then joined Starehe Boys Center for his 'O' and 'A' levels.

He did his undergraduate degree at the University of Nairobi, and then went to the Executive Programme International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland. Kenneth has also done a number of banking and insurance courses.

In 1985, he worked at the Nationwide Finance Company up to 1986 and the same year joined Prudential Finance and Bank where he worked for 11 years rising to the position of a Manager.

In 1997 he joined the Kenya Reinsurance company and he worked there until 2002, when was he elected Gatanga Member of Parliament.

When he first came into the political limelight a few years ago, Peter Kenneth was branded 'muthungu', slang to mean "white man", it was meant as a derogatory term in reference to his bi-racial heritage.

It was meant to make people look at him as "unwelcome outsider". The people, who called him 'Muthungu', thought it would hurt his chances of being elected Member of Parliament for Gatanga.

He was elected, and then owned the 'muthungu' nickname, this time by right. He earned it through timely execution of his duties, time keeping, and delivery of his promises and believing in hard work. All attributes associated with the white people who ever ventured in those areas.

The old folks who could not pronounce any of his two names, none of them Kikuyu names, would ask the polling clerks to tick for the 'muthungu' as their choice during elections.

His strict and orderly lifestyle backed up by meticulous delivery of his duties has since been widely credited for developing Gatanga constituency to such high acclaim that others use it as case study for a success story.

Under the leadership of Peter Kenneth, Gatanga was declared the constituency which had best utilised its Constituency Development Fund money for last few years.

The 46-year-old lawyer cum banker launched his bid for presidency early this month and caused quite a stir on social media. He is the first Kenyan presidential aspirant with no African name.

He has interests in Farming, Insurance, Real Estate and Manufacturing. He also has a lot of interest in sports, having been the chairman of Kenya Football Federation from 1996 to 2000 and FIFA Committee Member (FUTSAL) from 1998 to 2000.

Kenneth was a goalkeeper when he was still in school and he even went on to play for former Kenya Premier League side Reunion FC. He was later forced to retire from football after suffering a fracture on his right arm. His favourite food is pounded cowpeas which he says helps to clean his body system.

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