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Fact-checked: Six claims by Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta in 2021 national day speech

In his last Heroes’ Day address as president, Kenyatta shone a light on his achievements in office.

  • Kenyatta cited statistics to back up claims of his administration’s achievements. We are awaiting the source of his data, requested from his office.
  • His claim that 5.3 million title deeds to land were issued in just eight years is mostly correct. But claims that police coverage of communities is the highest in Kenya’s history, and the economy was shielded from the global pandemic slowdown, are incorrect.
  • Claims about increased numbers of healthcare workers and hospital beds remain unproven until we receive the source of the president’s data.

In October 2021 Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta was in Kirinyaga county, about 100 kilometres northeast of the capital Nairobi, to mark Mashujaa – Heroes’ – Day

In his speech, Kenyatta highlighted his administration’s milestones since he took office in April 2013. Kenya holds elections in August 2022.

We fact-checked six claims he made, ranging from policing and economic growth to the health workforce and land ownership. 

We have asked State House for the data Kenyatta based his claims on and will update this report with their response. Government spokesperson Cyrus Oguna told Africa Check the information was from the national statistics bureau but did not give any more details.

Claim

Kenya’s “police to population ratio is at its highest level in our history and is higher than the United Nations prescribed standard”.

Verdict

Incorrect

The “transformation” of Kenya’s security sector was one of his notable achievements, Kenyatta said. He gave the country’s police-to-population ratio as evidence of this, saying it was “at its highest level” in history and even higher than the “UN prescribed standard”.

The police-population ratio indicates the number of police officers serving a community, relative to its size. For example, if a community has one police officer serving 100 people, the ratio is 1:100.

When Kenyatta came to power in 2013 there were 75,325 police officers in Kenya, according to the national police service. That year Kenya’s population was 41.8 million, official data shows. This made for a police-to-population ratio of one officer for every 555 people.

In 2016 the national police service commission said there were 90,442 police officers. The population was 45.4 million, for a ratio of 1:502. 

In 2017, Africa Check found that the president had incorrectly claimed that there was one police officer for every 390 people. The ratio was between 1:448 and 1:489.

And in 2018, there were 105,867 officers serving a population of 46.4 million, for a ratio of 1:439.

The most recent economic survey put the number of police officers at 100,481 in 2020. The estimated population was 48.7 million, for a police-to-population ratio of 1:485. The survey, published in September 2021, gave its source as the police service. Our efforts to contact the new police spokesperson have been unsuccessful.

The available data shows that while the ratio has improved during the president’s term, it was at its highest in 2018. We therefore rate his claim as incorrect.

No evidence UN has a recommended police ratio

Is the ratio higher than that “prescribed” by the United Nations? Africa Check has previously found that the UN has never recommended a ratio.

The often-used ratio of 1:450 was traced back to post-war US policing of occupied Germany in 1945, according to a 1995 paper. It has since been used as a “doctrinal template for international policing” but it is not a UN “recommendation”. 

Experts have told Africa Check that such a recommendation would have little meaning given countries’ significant differences in police functions and capabilities, and the security challenges they face. Instead, the quality of policing is a better indicator of policing effectiveness.

Claim

“While the global economy contracted by an average of 3.6% last year, we still managed to grow our economy by 0.3% over the same period”.

Verdict

Incorrect

Kenyatta said the “basket of stimulus instruments” his administration rolled out during the Covid-19 pandemic had shielded Kenya’s economy from the economic slowdown seen elsewhere.  

“While the global economy contracted by an average of 3.6% last year, we still managed to grow our economy by 0.3% over the same period,” he said

Benjamini Muchiri, a senior manager at the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, directed us to the most recent economic survey published in September 2021 for data on economic growth.  

The survey says the global economy contracted by 4.2% in 2020. Kenya’s also shrank, by 0.3%. World Bank data shows a contraction of 3.5% for the global economy, but the same negative growth of 0.3% for Kenya. 

Kenya’s economy posted negative growth in 2020. We therefore rate the claim incorrect.

Claim

Kenya has “increased our ICU capacity by an impressive 502% from 180 to 651 ICU ready beds”.

Verdict

Unproven

Kenya’s increased number of intensive care unit (ICU) beds was an “unintended benefit” of the Covid-19 pandemic, the president said. In his delivered speech, he said the rise was from 180 to 651 beds. But the text version gives it as from 108 beds.  

Dr Kahura Mundia is the deputy chairperson of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU). He told Africa Check that the council of governors would have the most recent data on ICU beds. 

The World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a global pandemic on 11 March 2020. On 1 April the governors’ council reported that there were 162 ICU beds in 24 of the country’s 47 counties. Twenty-two counties did not have any ICU beds, it said.

Two weeks later a senate report on the country’s handling of the pandemic said Kenya had 518 ICU beds “spread across 79 public and private health facilities”. It cited the health ministry.

A year later Africa Check looked into the numbers. The available data showed Kenya had at least 596 ICU beds – 390 in the counties and 206 in major Nairobi hospitals.

On 30 September 2021, the governors reported there were 570 ICU beds across all counties. The number was only for county-run health facilities, not private ones.

Therefore, according to the governors, county ICU beds increased from 162 to 570 in 18 months — a rise of 252%. 

The number of ICU beds in Kenya was not 108 or even 180 when the pandemic was declared. And we have not seen any data to support a national 502% increase in ICU bed numbers, despite searching widely.

We therefore rate the president’s claim as unproven.

Claim

“Similarly, our total hospital bed capacity as a country has increased by 47% from 56,069 in 2013 to the current figure of 82,291 hospital beds spread throughout the country.”

Verdict

Unproven

Kenyatta said the number of hospital beds had risen 47% since 2013.

We asked the KMPDU’s Kahura where we could find data on hospital beds. He directed us to the most recent economic survey from the national data agency. The data shows that hospital bed numbers increased from 64,844 in 2016 to 82,091 in 2020. 

The statistics bureau cites a master list of the country’s health facilities, compiled by the health ministry, as the source of its data.  

Hospital beds in Kenya 2016 to 2020

Year

Hospital beds

Increase

2016

64,844

-

2017

67,195

2,351

2018

71,601

4,406

2019

74,868

3,267

2020

82,091

7,223

                                      Source: Kenya National Bureau of Statistics

The economic survey was released in September 2021, a month before the president’s speech. 

We scoured for data for 2013 but came up empty. 

The number of hospital beds rose by an average of over 4,000 each year from 2016 to 2020. This makes it plausible that, over nine years, the beds could have increased by as much as Kenyatta claimed.

But without the 2013 data, we cannot verify this. We have asked State House for more information and will update this report with their response. Until then, we rate the claim as unproven.

Claim

The government “has progressively recruited an additional 36,900 healthcare workers in the last nine years, nearly a 100% increment in the country’s total public health workforce which currently stands at nearly 75,000 workers”.

Verdict

Unproven

The president claimed his administration had nearly doubled the number of healthcare workers in the nearly nine years he has been in office. He did not say what the number was in 2013 but his claim would put it at about 38,000.

The World Health Organization defines health workers as “all those engaged in action whose primary intent is health”. They fall, it says, broadly into “dentistry, pharmacy, laboratory, environment and public health, community and traditional health, health management and support, and all other health workforce categories”.     

A 2013 Kenyan health ministry report lists nearly 40 “cadres” of health workers, including doctors, nurses, clinical officers, social workers, pharmacists and pharmaceutical technologists.

The KMPDU’s Kahura told Africa Check that the national statistics agency compiles data on registered healthcare workers. But data on the public health workforce was difficult to find, he said.

Numbers contradictory and difficult to come by 

In 2013 the government mapped out its health capacity. It found that there were 67,075 health workers in all public, private and faith-based health facilities, but did not break the number down further. 

The health ministry was more specific in its human resources strategy for 2014 to 2018, dated December 2014. It said that in 2012, there were 58,532 medical personnel, 47,895 of them employed by the government.  

The health strategy report for 2018 to 2023 says that “as at November 2018, Kenya had 68,085 health workers in the public sector and 10,626 in the private sector, totalling 78,711”. 

We were unable to get the source of the president’s claim that there were 75,000 public health workers in October 2021. 

Using all the available data, a jump from 47,895 in 2012 to 75,000 in 2021 – assuming the president’s number is correct – is an additional 27,105 workers, or 57%. It’s not 36,900 or “nearly 100%”, as he claimed.  

But again, without clarity from Kenyatta’s office, we rate the claim as “unproven”.

Claim

The Kenyatta administration “has already issued 5.3 million title deeds under this manual registry in only 8 years”.

Verdict

Mostly Correct

According to the ministry of lands and physical planning, 5.1 million title deeds to land were issued between 2013 and 2021. 

From 2013 to April 2020, the ministry says, over 4.4 million titles were issued. 

Only the ministry can confirm the number of deeds it has issued, the Kenya Land Alliance, a not-for-profit organisation that advocates for land reform in the country, told Africa Check.

Africa Check previously asked the lands minister if the 5.1 million figure was the latest data on title deeds issued since 2013, but we have not yet received a response. She had given us figures up to June 2019.

Based on the available data, Kenyatta’s claim that his administration has issued 5.3 million title deeds in eight years is mostly correct.

Africa Check holds public figures accountable for what they say. Help us hold leaders accountable.

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