In his closing address on a national holiday on June 1, 2022, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta checked what he said were his most significant accomplishments in office.
Kenyatta will step down after the August elections, having served the constitutional maximum of two terms.
The development of infrastructure was one of the main objectives of his administration, and on June 1 he returned to a favorite topic of conversation: road construction.
Kenyatta said his predecessor, Mwai Kibaki, had built 2,000 kilometers of roads but his government had “accelerated its realization by building more than 11,000 kilometers”.
“In fact, truth be told, we have built more roads in nine years than previous administrations combined, including the British, have built in 123 years. Wapende wasipende hiyo ndio ukweli wa mambo,” he said. said. The last sentence, in Kiswahili, translates to: “That’s the truth of the matter, whether they like it or not.”
Kibaki, in post between December 2002 and April 2013, is greeted to transform the economyincluding his Infrastructure. Kenyatta said it had set the bar “even higher” with “world-class infrastructure ranging from elevated highways to floating bridges”. He was referring to Nairobi Expressway in the Kenyan capital and the bridge in Likoni is popular.
Did Kibaki build 2,000 km of paved roads in 10 years?
In 2003, there were 8,940 kilometers (km) of paved roads, according the official statistics agency. Data from the Ministry of Planning supported this, at 8,937 kilometers. (Note: In Kenya, the terms bitumen and bitumen are used interchangeably.)
The agency gave the length of the asphalt road as 11,230 kilometers in 2013. The administration of Kibaki has therefore constructed at least 2,293 km of paved road.
And has Kenyatta traveled 11,000 km in nine years?
Kenyatta took office in April 2013. In his nation state address three years later, he informed Parliament of the progress made.
“Over the past three years, my administration has paved about 3,000 kilometers – an average rate of 1,000 kilometers per year,” he said on March 31, 2016, according Hansard, official transcript of Parliament.
The 2016 edition of the official data agency’s flagship annual economic survey showed that the bitumen network was 13,900 km in 2015, an increase of 2,670 km, so Kenyatta’s figures so far greatly add up.
But from this point, the data is a tower of Babel.
- A year later, on March 15, 2017, Kenyatta returned to parliament with a revised figure of 1,950 kilometers of roads completed during his first term. He promised that “another 7,000 kilometres” were being built. These same figures were repeated two weeks later by his then finance minister, Henry Rotich, in a budget speech in parliament.
- Just ten days after Rotich’s figures, Roads Minister James Macharia kept roads under construction at 7,000km but inflated the number built under Kenyatta at 2,500 km. Kenyatta’s government was set to build 9,500 km, Macharia said. (Note: the President’s manifesto promised to cover even more – 13,000 kilometers – in five years.)
- In June 2017, Kenyatta spear his re-election manifesto ahead of that year’s election. This checked in that his administration had built “a record 1,950 kilometers of new roads”.
The second term brought further confusion
The contradictions continued during Kenyatta’s second term.
- In his state of the nation address to parliament on May 2, 2018, the president said that five years into his term, his government had tarred 3,000 km and another 5,000 were under construction.
- But the 2018 economic survey show more roads – 3,300 km – had been built in a shorter period of four years – from 11,200 km in 2013 to 14,500 km in 2016.
- The survey also found that by June 2017paved roads completed reached 20,600 km, 9,400 km more than in 2013. A analysis of road funding by this researcher did not find corroborating evidence of such a large increase.
For months, Africa Check has been trying to get reliable road data to assess road construction under Kenyatta. We wrote to Kenya Roads Board which provides data to the statistics agency. They referred us to the Department of Transportation, where we had already run into a brick wall.
We put in a access to information request as provided by the constitution in August 2018. At the time of writing, this has been pending in the ministry for almost four years.
We have not been successful with further efforts to obtain data, including on a road map set up by the council to track progress since 2013. The data informing the map is closed to the public.
8,000 kilometers of new roads in Kenyatta’s second term?
Kenyatta’s second term started in November 2017. The data remained shocking.
- Speaking to UK think tank Chatham House in February 2019Vice President William Ruto said the government had “constructed 7,000 kilometers of tar in the last five years”.
- Nine months later, in November 2019, the official data agency released data who showed paved roads had increased by 5,800 km since 2013, to 17,033 km.
- But the agency gave paved roads at 21,295 km in 2019, in its 2021 economic study, i.e. 11,000 km since 2013.
- On June 1, 2020, the President claims his government had built 1,000 km of new roads every year. For the seven years between 2013 and 2018, that would be 7,000 km.
- November 30, 2021, Kenyatta said in parliament his administration had built 10,500 km of new roads since 2013.
- In May 2022, the statistics agency published its latest report economic survey. This estimated the road network at the end of 2021 at 21,826 kilometers. Using it, the increase over 2013 would be approximately 11,500 km of new paved roads.
But just a month later, in his last speech on a national holiday, the president claims his administration had “completed nearly 8,000 kilometers of new roads” during his second term and “more than 6,600 kilometers of paved roads” were under construction.
However, road board data shows the increase between 2018 and 2021 – the bulk of his second term – was 3,171 kilometres.
Conclusion: Available road infrastructure data is crystal clear
The president has repeatedly given conflicting data on the roads.
In 2016 he claimed his government had built 3,000 km of tarred roads during his first term, only to turn around before his re-election in 2017 and say it was just 1,950 km.
Interestingly, data from the state statistics agency showed that paved roads until 2017 increased significantly – 5,800 km.
For his second term, the agency data shows paved roads increased by 3,171 km, but Kenyatta claimed 8,000 km. The agency derives its data from the Roads Board which reports to the ministry of transport and infrastructure. The Minister reports directly to the President.
Without detailed and consistent ministry data, which Africa Check has sought for years on the assumption that it is public data, it is almost impossible to verify delivery on such a key piece of Kenyatta’s legacy. We are all poorer.