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Embrace reforms, says Kibaki

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 12 – Kenyans should embrace and internalise competitive issue based politics devoid of political intolerance and ethnic incitement and embrace reforms needed in the electoral process, President Mwai Kibaki has said.

The President said it was critical that the country entrenched reforms to ensure that the next general elections will be held in a peaceful and tolerant environment.

“Let us discuss freely what needs to be done before the next elections. But let us also not focus too much on the past but on the future and what needs to be done before we hold another general election,” President Kibaki said.

Speaking during the official opening of the National Conference on Electoral reforms at Kenyatta International Conference Centre today, President Kibaki said that Kenyans must enjoy the freedom to seek any office in the land and elect office bearers without intimidation or unethical manipulations.

The Head of State termed the conference an exceptional occasion for all stakeholders in the country and invited international experts to share and develop consensus on the best way to strength the country’s electoral process and its institutions.

The President noted that the task ahead of the nation is enormous and urged the experts from India, Canada, Ghana and South Africa attending the forum to share their valuable experiences from their countries in managing elections as Kenya seeks to consolidate its democracy.

The President said: “This conference marks a milestone in our journey to strengthen our political process, especially our electoral system, including the electoral institutions and processes. The objective being to   enhance  public confidence and trust, and thereby guarantee public acceptability of electoral outcome even when they are far from favorable to a particular group or persons.

President Kibaki termed the atmosphere in which the last general elections were conducted as polluted with political intolerance, ethnicity sensational media coverage as well as irresponsible and inciting utterances by political leaders.

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He said: “In this regard, my Government is committed to strengthening the existing institutions including the Electoral Commission of Kenya and the Judiciary to enhance their capacity to arbitrate fairly and professionally and timely on any issue.”

The Head of State asserted that since disagreements are bound to occur during the electioneering periods such differences should never form the basis of wreaking havoc in society.

“Even as we strive to build a just and equitable society, we also recognize that conflicts will always be there. However, as a society, we must always endeavour to resolve these conflicts without resorting to violence,” affirmed the President.

President Kibaki affirmed the commitment of the Grand Coalition Government in undertaking far reaching reforms with the intention of creating a stable, democratic and prosperous nation.

He reiterated that the Government was devoted to the conclusion of the comprehensive review of the constitution in order to achieve modern institutions of governance as well as to create checks and balances among organs of the government.

Said the Head of State: “A good constitution will also strengthen our judiciary and also empower our people to be part of the decision-making process through devolution of power.”

The President noted that among the sectors that the Grand Coalition Government had prioritized for reforms are constitutional, legal and institutional, combating poverty and unemployment, consolidating national cohesion and unity, land reforms, ending impunity and promotion of transparency and accountability.

He particularly commended the progress made with regard to electoral reforms adding that the Government has facilitated the creation of several bodies to spearhead the envisaged restructuring.

Among the established bodies include, the Committee of Experts on the Constitutional Review Process, the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, the Interim Independent Electoral Commission and the Interim Independent Boundaries Commission.

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The President expressed confidence that the country would achieve its vision of becoming an industrialized society by 2030 if leaders committed to building a stable and prosperous nation devoid of ethnic polarization and political exclusion.

He further assured the participants that the Government appreciated their insightful contributions and was keen on adopting recommendations proposed during the forum.

Addressing the same Conference, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said that the forum provided an occasion to make the electoral process of the country work better.

The Prime Minister called for the creation of a truly independent electoral body both financially and functionally in order to create a firm foundation for a stable and democratic nation.

In his address the Vice-President asserted that the forum gave the country an opportunity to say farewell to electoral malpractices adding that the current leadership was capable of fixing the challenges so that the country can reclaim its glory and become a democracy giant in the continent.

Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo asserted that the forum whose theme is “Setting the Electoral Reform Agenda for Kenya” was intended to ensure the country achieved a remarkable electoral process comparable to the developed societies.

In attendance were Cabinet Ministers, parliamentarians, chairmen of various Constitutional Committees and Commissions, senior government officials, members of the diplomatic corps and representatives of the civil society groups.

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