Leaders must lead peace efforts ahead of polls – Kibaki

Honourable Members,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to preside over the opening of this forum on Peaceful Elections. In this gathering, we will deliberate on our individual and collective roles, in ensuring that Kenya remains peaceful before, during and after the forthcoming general elections.

In the light of past experience that has seen the eruption of violence during the election cycle, the subject before us is immensely important. I, therefore, call upon us all, to engage constructively and frankly in order to come up with practical commitments on how to break this cycle of violence and ensure peace.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As will be recalled, after the events of the post-election violence, we undertook to implement a wide range of reforms. Among the measures we have taken is the creation of specialized commissions aimed at addressing the possible causes of violence. Among these Commissions were the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission. These commissions have helped to bring matters of national reconciliation and integration at the center of our national discourse.

We also established the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission which is fully operational. The commission should now put in place, structures and systems that will ensure the conduct of free, fair and peaceful general elections in a cost effective manner.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In addition to these commissions, Parliament has passed into law numerous bills designed to promote peace. These include the Elections Act and Political Parties Act. Above all, we are fully implementing the constitution promulgated in August, 2010, which among other things, aims at ensuring that our national peace, stability and prosperity are guaranteed.

To give effect to the new legal dispensation and entrench the rule of law, the Judiciary is being reformed. As will be appreciated, an impartial, fair and efficient judicial system is a key component for peace and stability in any country. I am 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. This should be utilized in any such eventuality.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we approach the elections, the Government will provide security and promote peace building and conflict prevention initiatives throughout the country. In this regard, the Government will hold various gatherings with leaders and wananchi across the country to mobilize national support for peaceful elections.

As the Government does its part, I urge political leaders and their supporters to play a leading role in facilitating the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections. I urge you to preach peace and to conduct yourselves in a manner that promotes unity in our country. In particular, I urge political leaders 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 or regional lines.

Before I conclude my remarks, I wish to underscore the importance of the media in ensuring that we have peaceful elections. We all recognize that the media is the platform through which various candidates propagate their messages. I appeal to the media and other professionals to help frame an issue oriented campaign where ideas are deliberated. 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 by political leaders or their supporters is worth communicating to the wider audience.

I have a few examples of screaming headlines that are too common in our media nowadays.

1. “Battle for State House”
2. “Politicians fight it out”
3. “War of words between candidates”
4. “Rising tension ahead of elections”

Such headlines give a bad name to what may otherwise be a healthy political competition. This kind of reporting creates fear among our people who start looking at elections as a period of hatred and despondency.

Leaders must also stop using hate speech through the numerous vernacular and regional radio stations. We are aware of incidences where leaders and ordinary citizens use these local stations to stir up ethnic emotions. Owners of such media outlets must guard against attempts to arouse such emotions that plant the seed of hatred among the people. In this regard the Media Council of Kenya must accept responsibility and take steps and ensure that the Kenyan media plays its role in ensuring that we engage in peaceful campaigns and elections.

We also expect that professional bodies, the civil society and religious leaders will be partners as we seek peaceful elections. In this regard I thank the private sector for the initiatives taken under the MKENYA DAIMA campaign to promote peace in the country.

Kenya belongs to all of us. When we are at peace with ourselves and our neighbours we will reap the peace dividend of economic prosperity that translates to more jobs and opportunities for our young people. We must never take for guaranteed the benefits of peace. Let us guard against those who may seek to disrupt it, before, during and after elections.

Finally, I call upon all Kenyans to remain vigilant and do all they can to ensure that peace and stability is maintained at all times. We the leaders must also be a good example worth emulating. We should be fully aware that elections produce winners and losers but ultimately we must defend the peace, unity and liberty of our nation.

With these remarks, it is now my pleasure to declare this Forum officially open.
Thank you and God bless you all.

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