Kenyans warned over ethnic hostility

February 15, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 15 – The National Cohesion and Integration Commission is now warning the two principles against taking positions that will jeopardise and undermine efforts to reconcile the country following the 2007/08 post election violence.

The commission’s chairman Mzalendo Kibunja on Monday said the public display of disagreements between the Prime Minister and President could create unwarranted ethnic anxiety.

Dr Kibunja who was speaking during an exclusive interview with Capital News also appealed to Kenyans to avoid getting hoodwinked and swayed into tribalism by the ongoing political impasse.

“This country was saved from the brink of destruction by the two principals agreeing together.  So how they relate to each other must send the right message. The clash may elicit ethnic tensions which we as a commission are trying to address to make sure that the ugly head of ethnicity does not destroy our country,” he said. 

He also added that the country’s integrity value was at risk and asked the two leaders to separate political issues from issues of corruption and impunity.

“The issue on hand is corruption; not one ethnic community against the other and if we are going to grow as a nation we must learn to separate real national issues from our relations. If it is corruption we should not be seeing it through the eyes of tribalism or through the eyes of regionalism,” he said. 

Dr Kibunja also said that the clash would also sabotage the realisation of the country’s constitutional agenda. He added that the clash would also frustrate the country’s national agenda saying Kenyans should focus on issue-based politics which would take the country forward.

“We are also asking Kenyans to avoid any altercations that may impede the constitutional process that we are going through. We are really at a crossroad and any act either in private or public must be geared towards making us a cohesive and integrated nation,” he said.

Commissioner Ahmed Yassin also called for political cohesion between the two principals saying the future of the country lay on the President’s and Premier’s hands.

“We are in a very fragile political environment and we believe as a commission that there would be no social cohesion without political cohesion. Any word they utter has a lot of meaning to Kenyans; if it is positive then we are happy but if it is negative then we are in a big problem,” he said.

Also present during the interview was Commissioner Fatuma Mohamed who added that Kenyans also had the responsibility of holding their leaders to account and ensuring the country maintained peace.

“I think Kenyans need to wake up so that we don’t resort into our tribal cocoons once something has been mentioned that ‘my tribesman has been fired, the whole clan has to come out and ask why.’ We should take political responsibility for whatever happens in this country,” she said.

Vice Chair Mary Onyango also cautioned the media against fueling the clashes saying it would incite Kenyans and create a volatile situation.

“The media tends to pick the negative things that are very exciting and then hype on that as opposed to downplaying the negative and pulling out the positive and you realise that a lot of our people depend on the media which is a very powerful tool,” she said.

Ms Onyango further added that the media had a huge responsibility in ensuring and facilitating national cohesion. She called on the media to play its leadership role saying it should not promote hateful speech.

“In terms of being able to guide the nation in a certain direction the media has a tremendous responsibility and if the fourth estate does not handle this responsibly it can actually lead us to the path of destruction. The media has a bigger platform than even our politicians and leaders,” she said.

Dr Kibunja also proposed the creation of a code of conduct for political parties saying it would facilitate the creation of their policies and hold all leaders accountable for their deeds and words.


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