BY RAILA ODINGA
SINCE the bloody uprising that shattered our image as a nation of peace and tranquility following a disputed election at the end of 2007, Kenya has regained much ground, thanks to our ability to make compromises and look forward.
I believe all of us have made compromises. Your President, Mwai Kibaki did. Your Prime Minister, Raila Odinga did.
The supporters of the main parties to the conflict, ODM and PNU, compromised too. Only the compromises have enabled us to move this far.
Only with the understanding of our supporters have we, the Two Principals to the Grand Coalition, been able to take the nation this far.
As we set on the path of governing through coalition, we had no precedence to borrow from.
Under the guidance of President Kibaki and myself, we simply set on this path trusting that the people of Kenya, and the luck of history would be on our side. The President and I trusted that we were acting in the best interest of the nation
In many ways, and despite many set backs, luck, history and our people have been on our side.
Two years into the Coalition, we, the people of Kenya, endorsed a new political system, embodied in our globally acclaimed new constitution.
In a short span, we recovered our breath, lifted and dusted ourselves and decided to forge ahead as the region’s economic motor and diplomatic nerve-centre.
We have done so much in five years. We have so much to lose should we get reckless again. We have so much to do in the next five years and beyond.
Think about the crime and insecurity that continue to keep our people down.
Think of the traffic jams in Nairobi that make us waste valuable time on the road instead of getting to places of work in record time and build our nation.
Think of the close to 60 per cent of Kenyans living in squalid slums. Think of the millions of our young people looking for working and finding nothing.
Think also of our strengths that we could easily make better and leave competitors far behind and move ahead as the nation for the rest of Africa to look up to.
We have the best banks, hotels and services in the region.
We have the biggest road-building projects in the region.
Our mobile-phone penetration is the highest in the region.
Our money-transfer services have attained worldwide acclaim.
Nairobi is the region’s air-traffic hub. It has also become the place in Africa where people come to make global diplomatic decisions. Only Johannesburg and Pretoria beat us.
We have attained much of these because of the decisive step we took in 2002 to go for change peacefully through the ballot.
All these gains and more could continue and get better or they could be reversed, depending on how we conduct our next elections.
I believe that we are moving ahead, sadder but wiser, determined never to repeat the mistakes that took us to the precipice and back in 2007-2008 period.
Today, we begin another process that should ensure our future gets brighter and more secure.
Today, the Government, led by President Mwai Kibaki launches the voter registration exercise.
From here on, it will be upon each one of us, as citizens, to ensure we register to vote.
It is a civic, patriotic duty of a magnitude none of us can take for granted.
This registration will take us to a historic election next year. So much is at stake in this election.
The March 2013 election will determine whether we rebrand, reinvent and renovate our nation or we continue with business as usual.
At worst, and God forbid, that election will also determine whether we sink back to the same shame of the 2007-2008 chaos that put us, shamefully, at the mercy of neighbours and friends.
Kenya cannot take chances again. One thing looks certain to me. One more false step, one backsliding 2007 style and all our neighbours will overtake us, and all our friends and supporters will give up on us.
The 2013 election must pass off peacefully. There is no way to ensure that other than by all of us registering to vote and making a vow that only the vote, and not the force of crude weapons, the cruel tongue of politicians and vote manipulation will count.
This is my appeal to my people, the citizens of Kenya. It is my pledge to my beloved country. Fellow Kenyans, let us go out and register to vote. Let us ensure our friends and neighbours do too. We owe it to ourselves and to the country our parents and grand parents bequeathed us.