, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 7 – Kenya’s new Constitution champions and offers a credible guideline to enable the country deal with modern day realities, President Mwai Kibaki had said.
The Head of State reiterated that the enactment of the new Constitution heralded a new beginning for the country while implementation of wide ranging reforms outlined in the Agenda Four of the National Accord enabled Kenya to overcome challenges that threatened nationhood.
“I am confident that we shall overcome any challenges we may face in implementing the new Constitution. This is because the government and people of this great republic are committed to ushering in the new Constitutional order that offers much promise of national renewal,” stated the President.
The President made the remarks on Friday during the official opening of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU)/Panaf International Tripartite Conference on Conflict Management and Resolution at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre.
President Kibaki hailed COTU for being at the frontline in the campaigns to educate Kenyans on the need to vote for and support a new constitutional dispensation.
Noting that the conference was an important forum to exchange ideas on how to build stable nations and strong economies, President Kibaki asserted that only modern ideas could help people move to the next level.
He noted that Africa was changing its situation and urged trade unions to partner with governments and other stakeholders in addressing modern day challenges.
The President noted that modern day trade unions should focus on partnering with other stakeholders in building strong economies for their people in tandem with contemporary realities in the society.
The President said: “Modern day trade unions are focusing on how to develop economies and improve the welfare of its members and general population.”
During the occasion President Kibaki said that trade unions were better placed to resolve disputes because they transcend subjective considerations raised by parties to a conflict that hinder peaceful resolutions of disagreements.
President Kibaki noted that trade unions rise above religious, ethnic and other social cleavages which oftenly limit the capacity of other organisations involved in dispute resolution.
The Head of State affirmed that trade union’s experiences and expertise in mediation, negotiation and arbitration give them an edge over many other groups involved in dispute resolution.
He called upon trade union leaders in Africa to play an even greater role in conflict management and to foster peace through promotion of democratic principles and improved living standards of citizens.
In this regard, President Kibaki hailed the important mediation role played by COTU during the 2008 post election skirmishes in the country as well as its contribution towards the realisation of the new Constitution.
The President also commended the role of employers in tripartite agreements and termed them as important partners of trade unions and facilitators of socio-economic development.
He said: “In Kenya we are encouraged by the role that the Central Union of Trade Unions (COTU) played during the post election violence. COTU played a part in mediating between the two political groupings. COTU has also played a key role in sensitising Kenyans on the implementation of Agenda 4 of the National Cohesion and Reconciliation Accord.
The Head of State also advocated for the strengthening of existing regional and sub-regional institutions even as societies continued to promote the role of trade unions in conflict management.
President Kibaki affirmed that strengthening of key areas of conflict management would break the vicious cycle of violence, poverty and underdevelopment apart from guaranteeing peace, security and stability which act as prerequisites of development.
He noted that conflicts have caused far-reaching environmental, socio-economic and political consequences that have slowed growth especially in many developing countries.
“According to research carried-out by Oxfam International and the International Action Network on Small Arms, the cost of conflict on African development was approximately 300 billion US Dollars between 1990 and 2005. This was equal to the amount of money received in international aid during the same period,” remarked the Head of State.
The Head of State acknowledged that due to the massive human, material and financial cost implications, it was imperative to develop effective strategies of conflict prevention, management and resolution.
President Kibaki said: “Armed conflicts have remained one of the key challenges facing many countries especially in the developing world. Between 1980 and 1990, for example, there were 30 to 40 major armed conflicts in progress worldwide. In Africa alone, 23 countries were involved in armed conflicts between 1990 and 2005. These conflicts were either intra-state or inter-state disputes over Government or territory.”
Speaking during the same occasion, Labour Minister John Munyes noted that trade unions act as important tools for conflict management.
Mr Munyes said conflicts produce devastating strife that disrupts social harmony and economies and advocated for dialogue in all conflict situations as exemplified by trade unions.
On his part COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli stated that the consequences of conflicts are extremely painful hence the need to urgently establish mechanisms for early interventions in conflict situations.
He said that conflicts entrench a vicious cycle of political instability, poverty and underdevelopment noting that Kenya’s experience is an example because the post election violence eroded all economic gains that had been achieved especially the 7.1 percent economic growth rate.
Mr Atwoli commended President Kibaki for his wise leadership and for showing extraordinary vitality in steering the country during critical moments as demonstrated during the campaigns to realize a new constitution.
Others who addressed the conference included the Director, Federation of Kenya Employers, Jacqueline Mugo and the Deputy Secretary General of African Trade Unions Unity, Michael Besha.
In attendance were Internal Security Minister Prof George Saitoti, Public Health Minister Beth Mugo and other senior government officials.