History came home to roost yesterday when at 12.35 local time Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s founding father, was sworn in as the country’s fourth President. He has now returned to the place of his youth where he spent his early years as a young lad at State House in Nairobi, as he follows in the footsteps of his late father to lead Kenya into a hopefully bright and prosperous future.
More than 20 heads of state, heads of government and heads of delegations from across Africa were present to witness the colourful ceremony, testament of Kenya’s peaceful transition of power and generational change.
The country’s tourism industry took heart when the newly sworn in Deputy President William Ruto set out part of the new government’s agenda, with the tourism industry clearly at the very heart of things to come. It was clear that the new leadership of Kenya knew very well what potential tourism had and how it could be developed yet further with the right supporting policies and measures, turning it into a true locomotive of growth. The new President Uhuru Kenyatta at one time served as chairman of the Kenya Tourism Board, giving the sector now an added advantage that the highest level of government has a close relationship and full understanding of the tourism industry.
The country had suffered significant setbacks as part of a negative campaign, in part at least fueled by Western governments and international media speculating openly over pre- and post-election violence, none of which in the end happened. Last minute anti travel advisories by Nairobi based High Commissions and Embassies also ruffled feathers with the new leadership, as it impacted heavily on Easter Holiday travel, again found baseless in the end and now subject to intense speculation over the hidden motives of such actions.
Conservation, a matter of grave concern to the tourism and conservation fraternity, was addressed too by President Uhuru Kenyatta in his inaugural address, as one of the crimes – alongside drug trafficking, cattle rustling and terrorism – to be tackled head on and the culprits to be hunted down and brought to book.
A new cabinet will see the position of Tourism and Wildlife joined together with Environment and there is intense speculation that former tourism supremo Najib Balala may return as Cabinet Secretary for this portfolio. Besides sorting out the mess made by the outgoing tourism minister one of the first key activities for the new holder of the portfolio will be to move an amendment to the wildlife act, introducing financially crippling fines and long prison sentences for anyone found connected with poaching. The other area will be to operationalize the new tourism agencies created under the tourism act passed by the last parliament and facilitate the Kenya Tourism Board with adequate funding to run a global marketing campaign to aid the recovery of the sector.
Best wishes to the new President and Deputy President who clearly hit the ground running, and running fast by the look of it, and as the saying goes, watch this space for the breaking news of who will be appointed as Cabinet Secretary for Tourism, as and when available.