, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 3 – The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) will in July hold a pre-referendum conference in partnership with the Committee of Experts, the Interim Independent Electoral Commission and the Kenya Law Reform Commission to promote peace and unity as the country gears up for the referendum.
NCIC Chairman Mzalendo Kibunjia said on Monday that the forum which will be the first of its kind in Africa would educate Kenyans on the process and also prevent the polarisation that marked the 2005 referendum.
Dr Kibunjia who was speaking during a convention marking the World Press Freedom Day added that the discussions would bring together African leaders of repute.
“We are not discussing the content; for us it is more of the process. We are planning to invite some of the presidents of the African countries who symbolise unity but we are still discussing who those nominees will be. So far we are looking at Ghana with John Kufuor as a good example and Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete. We want to learn about the best practices,” he said.
He also said the roundtable would help Kenyans accept and peacefully live with the referendum’s outcome as well as facilitate a transition from the electioneering mood to normalcy.
“One of the questions that we will be asking is, if we have a Yes campaign do we also have a Yes campaign committee that will cascade all the way to the region or do we only have it at national level? We also want to figure out how we will carry the campaigns for the referendum bearing in mind that it is not a political campaign where we have losers and winners,” he said.
The NCIC Chair further asked Kenyans to stop spreading rumours on the census results as it was creating speculation which could undermine the country’s harmony. He implored upon the government to put in place measures to ensure the results were not doctored in any way.
“We have seen census results in a number of countries which have been causes of disunity or trouble. As a commission we would wish that the government takes as long as possible to check these figures and make sure that they are correct and well updated,” he said.
He also said the cohesion commission would embark on a sensitisation campaign to help Kenyans accept the survey’s findings and also empower them to sideline politicians who would use the results as a campaigning tool in seeking political mileage.
“In this country we use ethnicity as political mobilisation tools and the bigger the number (in terms of ethnicity) a politician has, the more the politician thinks he will gain power. We want to tell Kenyans to be an issue based society,” he said.
The Chair also expressed confidence in the Kenya Bureau of Statistics (the institution that conducted the population survey) saying that Kenyans should not second-guess them when they were released.
Dr Kibunjia further asked the media to exercise self censorship and ignore remarks made by leaders that would divide Kenyans along tribal lines. This, he said, would go a long way in preventing a repeat of the violence that marred Kenya’s last general election.