To all Kenyans citizens,
I take this opportunity to salute the Kenyan people as they come together at the respective County Forums to dialogue and examine their role in ensuring that our country remains peaceful before, during and after the forthcoming General Elections. These forums have drawn participation from a broad cross section of citizens in the counties and reflect our county’s rich economic and socio-cultural diversity.
They also cut across our political parties, hence have a non-partisan approach to the matters ahead of us.
The County Forums on peaceful elections provide Kenyans an opportunity to debate the collective shared future of our Country. There is no Kenyan who would wish a repeat of the upheavals experienced in early 2008. The government has therefore, organized these County Forums to widen the space for dialogue by involving a wide array of stakeholders and actors to generate short term, medium term and long term strategies to nurture and entrench national cohesion and integration.
The 2008 post election violence taught us the virtue of political stability and the need for our leaders to inculcate a sense of nationhood and belonging amongst the citizenry. This is the only way to ensure that Kenyans benefit from the expanded economy. Political instability has a serious bearing on our economic fortunes.
The County Forums are therefore important as they will provide a platform for all of us to dialogue on the significance of peaceful elections chart out modalities of creating a conducive environment for sustainable peace, social progress and development even after the elections.
Kenya has for long been a shining example of a peaceful nation in Africa. We have began the journey of reclaiming our position as a haven of peace. A peaceful election and smooth transition in 2013 will send a clear message to the world that we are the beacon of peace in the region and Africa.
One of the greatest reforms we have undertaken is the strengthening of institutions charged with overseeing the election.
The Government fully supports the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) as it undertakes its mandate of implementing the legal provisions on electoral offences. We expect firm and decisive action in deterring and eradicating electoral malpractices. All Kenyans must however offer the IEBC full support and cooperation to further restore confidence and integrity in the electoral process.
We call upon all Kenyans to preserve and protect our national interests that are key to our survival as a country. This will translate into a better, enabling and secure environment for both the State and Kenyans in general to undertake activities geared towards the achievement of our collective aspirations as enshrined in the Kenya Vision 2030. Political interests of the various players should always be subordinate to the national interests. A free, fair and peaceful general election is a prerequisite to the democratic environment required to preserve our national interests.
While the Government will play its role, we urge all political leaders and their supporters to be at the forefront in the promotion of free, fair and peaceful elections. We urge all to preach peace and to conduct themselves in a manner that promotes unity in our county. Specifically we urge political competitors across the country to refrain from campaigning on the platform of ethnic and regional politics. Let us always remember that Kenya is a unitary state. We must jealously guard against forces that will seek to divide us along clan, ethnic, religious, colour, creed or regional lines. The path to devolved governments at every county must never be used as an excuse to divide our country. Devolution means sharing responsibilities of governance and resources, but we are still one Kenya.
To give effect to the new legal dispensation and entrench the rule of law, the Judiciary has carried out major reforms. An impartial, fair and efficient judicial system is a key component for peace and stability in any country. We are pleased that the Judiciary has begun putting in place mechanisms to deal with electoral offences and disputes. Indeed, a fair and expeditious hearing in the event of an election dispute is a key pillar of any democratic process. Let us be confident in the knowledge that a reformed judiciary will offer any Kenyan the necessary recourse in the event of an electoral dispute.
Elections are very instrumental in a democratic process as they provide a legitimate forum for citizens of a country to set the national agenda and put in place leadership that can execute their socio-economic and political aspirations and interests. It is our responsibility as Kenyans residing in every county to ensure that the electioneering process is not only credible but also free, fair and peaceful to guarantee every citizen an opportunity to make sound and reasonable choices and judgments.
Let us appreciate our diverse political idealogies and different party manifestos. Let us also subject them to a rigorous process of presenting, promoting, and defending them before the citizens and allow the voters to make an informed decision. In all this the IEBC shall act as the referee that will announce the outcome, while the Judiciary will arbitrate in case of any petitions.
The centrality of peaceful elections in rebuilding economic, social and cultural relations cannot be overstated for several reasons. First peace is an essential element and a critical measure of democracy and development. Secondly peaceful elections are an indicator of the level of social cohesion and integration. Thirdly they will also contribute towards reconciliation, reconstruction and restoration of social and cultural relations that are necessary for harmonious co-existence.
We would like to underscore the importance of the media in ensuring that we have peaceful elections. The media is the platform through which various candidates propagate their messages. We appeal to the media and all other stakeholders to help develop an issue oriented campaign where ideas are deliberated and not personalities or ethnic groups. Indeed, the media can define the level of hope or fear, risk and opportunity in our country. The Media should be choosy in what they print or broadcast because not every statement or action by political leaders or their supporters is worth communicating to the wider audience.
We take this opportunity to reassure Kenyans that the Government is committed to ensuring that every Kenyan who wishes to exercise his democratic right to vote will do so in an atmosphere of utmost peace and security. We are optimistic that the reforms being undertaken within the police service and in the broader criminal justice system will make a positive contribution towards the realization of peaceful elections.
Finally, we call upon all Kenyans to play their individual and collective roles in ensuring the realization of peaceful elections. We believe that through these forums, we shall truly be committed to ensuring that our forthcoming historic elections are peaceful, free and fair. We wish all Kenyans fruitful deliberations as we wait to converge at the National Conference.
Thank you and God bless Kenya.
(This is a message by President Kibaki and PM Raila Odinga on the county forums on peaceful elections)